The end is nigh, a correct blog prediction and a full house at that!
Bouhanni wasn’t the one doing all of the fighting today, with his sprint train locking-heads with the Katusha boys. A bit too forceful some might say and to be honest I have to agree. Bouhanni himself put in few well-placed head nudges to Kristoff but still lost the battle for the wheel.
In the final few hundred metres, Kristoff got chopped off by Bennett who veered across him a little bit. Bouhanni then launched from behind the Irishman and he was never going to be beaten from there. Cruising home for the win.
Bennett held on for third, winning the match bet against Hofland. A good start to the road stages after hitting the post and crossbar in the prologue. Enough about today, let’s look ahead to tomorrow’s stage!
A lumpy rolling day with a hill-top finish.
This stage finale has all the ingredients for an exciting end to the day, with the first hill-top finish. A lot of riders will fancy themselves on this type of finish.
As per usual, a break can expected to get away early and be controlled by Tinkoff. We’ll then see some other teams offer one rider in support and the break will be caught either at the bottom or somewhere on the ascent of the final Cat 2 climb.
As you can see, these aren’t the toughest climbs in the world, with low average gradients and long false flats. There are a few steeper ramps but these never go above 9%. A lot of riders will fancy themselves to hold on. The only thing that will deter a few is that the final kilometre is the steepest. Once over the crest we get a few hundred metres of false-flat/shallow descent.
After having very pleasant conditions today, the riders will have a much worse day tomorrow with thunderstorms and showers predicted for the end of the stage.
How will the stage pan out?
As I’ve alluded to above, this stage should be very interesting due to the different possible outcomes. Will any of the sprinters survive? Will it be a sprint of Ardenne-specialists/punchy riders? Or will someone make a well-time attack in the finale?
As lots of riders will fancy their chances here, so I’m only going to name a few for each situation.
The first of these is a bit far-fetched, but stranger things have happened. Bouhanni has shown before that he can climb will. His 5th place on stage 13 of the 2014 Vuelta is a great example of that. If John Degenkolb was at full-fitness then this stage would suit him perfectly. I’m interested to see how Sondre Holst Enger goes here. He climbed exceptionally well at the Tour of Norway and packs a mean kick after a tough day. Has he been able to continue his form?
EBH, GVA and Gasparotto and co will all fancy their chances in a sprint up the final kicker. The only difficulty is that if these type of riders attack, I can’t see them distancing anyone. This is due to the climb not being severe enough in gradient to put their competitiors in difficulty. Therefore their best chance is that they get team-mates to mark attacks, hope that the proper fast men are dropped and compete in a reduced bunch sprint. I also like the look of Impey, he seems to be in better form than Gerrans. Although, I’d say EBH is the fastest of those who will be left in that case.
As much as saying above, that a late attack won’t work. It will from the correct rider. This could happen on the false flat before the final kicker, or on the ramp itself. For a rider to get away they’ll have to be from the right team, i.e. with a back-up plan behind, and strong enough to get away. They also have to be able to climb reasonably well to hold of the chasing pack. Look to riders who put in a relatively good TT. Coppel, Cummings and Dennis are examples. The Australian would be my pick! In fact, the whole of the BMC team put in great TT performances.
Watch out for Brent Bookwalter. He’s a favourite rider of mine, a super strong domestique who can sprint and TT. He might get let of the leash and not have to work for GVA.
After there being an obvious selection for today there isn’t one for tomorrow. To narrow it down to one rider is incredibly difficult but I’ll stick my neck out on the line. Rohan Dennis will be sent off as a move to bait out other teams to work so that GVA will have an arm-chair ride behind. A combination of disorganisation and Dennis’ strength will see him hold on for a memorable win!
If you all could listen to this, then that’d be great 😉
A day for small stakes. Sit back and enjoy the action unfold. I’m covering a few options here!
Dennis 0.2pt EW @ 150/1 with Betfair
Holst Enger 0.1pt EW 125/1 with Betfair.
Coppel 0.1pt EW 250/1 with Paddy Power.
Hope you enjoyed the preview as usual and enjoy the stage wherever you’re watching it from tomorrow! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.