Well that was exciting! For a long time our pick Ludvigsson was sat in the hot seat, and opinion seemed to change throughout the day if he’d actually survive or not. It seemed over when riders such as Wellens went fastest at the intermediate check-point, but then they faded in the second half. A glimmer of hope and I thought I’d landed a major coup for the blog.
However, the dream was over just as Eurosport cut back from a commercial break and Primoz Roglic (of all people?!) trounced his time by 8 seconds. Only 2 more riders could beat big T, with Amador finishing 3rd (2 seconds ahead) and the favourite Tom Dumoulin edging Roglic by under half a second to take the stage win and in turn the Maglia Rosa which he’ll hope to defend, and most likely should, on tomorrow’s stage.
Flat. Pretty much.
There is the one KOM point so that the jersey can be presented at the end of the stage, but apart from that there is nothing major to note and the route shouldn’t be testing for the riders.
The finish itself isn’t very technical, with just one swooping right hand turn after the 1km to go sign. It is almost a 90 degree turn, but it’s curved so should be taken at about 80% speed.
Another beautiful day in the Netherlands, with it being incredibly unlikely that there will be any rainfall.
One thing that this part of the world is infamous for however, is the crosswinds that can cause havoc during a race. Stage 3 looks more likely at this moment in time to have them, but there is a chance tomorrow. The reason I say this is that according to Windfinder.com the wind is coming from a South-SouthEast direction near Nijmegen.
If you look at the route-map above, this could affect the section between Wijchen and Nijmegen, where the wind would be coming directly across the riders for several sections. The wind speed isn’t that high, but if one or two of the teams felt strong, they could certainly try to put others in difficulty. However, in a 3-week long GT then it’ll take a brave team to try something so early. Maybe one of the sprint teams or a strong GC team (I’m looking at you Astana).
If we don’t get any crosswind action then I reckon the race will be a pretty dull affair until we get to the final 20km and the main sprint teams come to the fore.
Marcel Kittel has to start as the outright favourite here for this stage and will be many people’s pick and I can’t fault their logic. He has his usual solid lead-out that his brought him success in the early part of the season and he is on amazing form. I’ll say this now, everyone else here is fighting for second-place.
The Best of the Rest
Below Kittel we have a whole host of riders who will fancy their chances here and the list is quite exhaustive. We have the old guard in the shape of Greipel; the Italian triple threat with Nizzolo, Modolo, Viviani; new kids on the block Ewan and Mareckzo; and the unclassified such as Pelucchi, Hofland, Demare, Ruffoni and Arndt.
Hofland (24th) and Nizzolo (27th) both put in good efforts in the TT today. Was that a show of strength? Or was Mareckzo’s approach of finishing last the best way to do it, conserving some energy for tomorrow.
I would have to go with the former. An 11-minute effort isn’t going to take much out of these guys so it’s nice to see some of these sprinters give it a go in a TT that was supposed to be too long for them. Tell that to Kittel!
I could focus a while going through all of the sprint trains here, but that would be long-winded and I guarantee there will be others who will do it better. So I’ll save the hassle to them and skip straight to the prediction.
As I said above, there will almost two races going on here. One will be an Etixx team effort to get Kittel to the front safely and for him to romp home and take the victory. The other will be the chaos that’s left in their wake, with riders battling it out for the podium spots.
Again, I can make arguments for a lot of these sprinters to come home in the top 3. But in the first road stage of a Grand Tour, where it’s usually a frenetic and chaotic affair, then fretting over small details doesn’t make that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. It’s sometimes just better to go with gut and there’s one rider who for some strange reason I’m drawn to: Moreno Hofland.
As I said in my points preview, I think he’s a very fast rider who’s just lost his way recently. His TT performance today was very good, and the Lotto Jumbo team are performing well. He doesn’t have the best of lead-outs in terms of a traditional sprint train, but as was proven today, they are all exceptionally good TTers and they should be able to bring him to the front safely. If the wind does kick up, then they are the perfect team to try and cause some havoc, because they’re local to the area and will know the roads exceptionally well. Furthermore, the team and Moreno himself will be incredibly motivated because of the Dutch start to the race. They won’t go down without a fight, and it would be a major coup for them to get a GT stage win in their home country. You never know, he might end up beating that fantastically-haired German!
As much as I think Kittel will win this stage, I never back a rider that is odds on (i.e. less than evens) because it’s too risky. He could crash or puncture right at the end etc, there are too many environmental variables that make it not worth it. Plus, to get a good return then you have to risk a lot. It’s weird, considering I would back a H2H that’s less than evens but that’s a story for another day!
It’s quite disappointing to see that Hofland isn’t priced up by all of the bookies. Although, at the time of writing this, not many of them have prices up. Only B365, SkyBet, PaddyPower, Ladbrokes, Coral and Betway do. From those sites B365 (20/1), PP (40/1) and Ladbrokes (22/1) have Hofland priced up. I would say the 40/1 is great EW value, but I wouldn’t go any lower than the 20/1 that Bet365 offer.
In a race where you’re pretty much betting on 2nd place and with it being the first sprint stage, I would again advise to keep the stakes relatively low!
If I see any H2H’s that I like then I’ll post them on my Twitter later this evening.
Congrats if you made it this far, again, any feedback would be appreciated 🙂 I’ll be back with a St3 preview tomorrow, let’s hope it’s on the back of a good result. Enjoy the racing wherever you are watching it from! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth
(P.S. If everyone could do a wind dance, then that’d be great!)