Well, I didn’t expect that, Cavendish wins again! I think I’ve been guilty over the past year of writing him off for bunch sprints but I won’t be making that mistake anymore. He showed a great turn of speed and an intuitive track lunge to pip Greipel on the line (via a photo finish). It’s been a great opening to the race for him, and it’s nice to see him back at his best.
Coquard came 3rd, with Sagan 4th. Not the best, but I expect more from them soon. Kittel/Etixx were disappointing, they seemed to get lost in the final 2km. His sprint was impressive but from too far back! Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage.
Another long transitional stage at 237.5km long, the longest in the race! Snoozeville pt 2 probably. As someone pointed out on Twitter to me…
But alas, only one KOM point on offer tomorrow. Great.
The KOM point even comes after the intermediate sprint. I’d hate to be the poor soul at one of the Pro-Conti teams who’s manager has told them to get in the break for exposure. However, I do think we could be in for a more exciting stage than today’s damp squib.
Firstly, the stage is deceptively harder than it looks. Mainly due to the slow, long climbing that happens in the second half of the race. The road constantly rises from 139km to 210km. If they’re going at a reasonable pace then that could potentially put some of the sprinters in trouble.
This profile by CyclingStage might give a better indication of the possible problems the riders could face out on the road.
Furthermore, this route goes through a similar area to where the race was blown to bits by crosswinds back in 2013. However, the forecast doesn’t look good in that sense and a lot of the roads are sheltered by trees, but you never know!
The run in at the end of the stage isn’t overly difficult.
There are a few roundabouts and sweeping turns but nothing that the peloton shouldn’t be able to cope with. The real test comes with the altimetry of he closing 10kms.
As you can see it’s relatively lumpy with a few steep-ish sections. This will probably stretch out the peloton as riders struggle with the change in gradients. However, the main difficulty is that 500m (going off of the profile) drag up to the finish line. It looks to rise at roughly 5% too.
This is a harder finish than today in my opinion. Although shorter and more explosive, the build up from the earlier part of the stage will have a big effect on the outcome here.
After not including him in the past few sprint stages, I guess I have to include Cavendish here. However, old habits die-hard, and I don’t really fancy him for this one. The stage itself is too lumpy for him considering his track preparation, and even if he makes it to the end the 5% ramp is not his cup of tea. Watch him go on to win now!
Greipel has a chance here too but I’m not convinced any of the “heavy” sprinters will make it up the ramp at the end in contention for the podium. That goes for Kittel who might not make it to the sprint with the peloton!
Sagan has to start as clear favourite for this stage. His dominant display on stage 2 shows that he’s climbing very well, and this steeper incline suits him even more than today. I would not be surprised if he went on to win. In fact, it will be the opposite. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make the top 3. But hey, sport is full of surprises!
Coquard will also fancy his chances here. As I said yesterday, uphill sprints like this are his bread and butter. He should go close.
Theuns will hope to top 5 again.
Matthews, Groenewegen & Kristoff will all hope to put in a solid effort here. However, they’ve been unconvincing so far.
A couple of “outsiders” who I’d like to highlight are as follows.
Julian Alaphilippe. As stated above, I’m not sure that Kittel makes it. Therefore Alaphilippe could do the sprint for Etixx. He has a fast kick and it was his inexperience that cost him against Sagan on stage 2. With some kind of lead-out here he could go very well!
Greg Van Avermaet has had a quiet start to the race, with an 8th place on Stage 2. Apart from that he’s not bothered with the bunch sprints. This type of finish reminds me of the two times he’s beaten Sagan this year; at Omloop and Tirreno. He could pull a surprise out of the bag!
EBH, if Cavendish isn’t feeling up for it (and Edvald has recovered fully from his crash on stage 1) then he could be Dimension Data’s chosen man here. Unbeatable on these type of finishes at the start of the season, it would be nice for him to get given free rein here.
One super joker I’d like to mention is Vakoc. He’s more than likely behind Kittel/Alaphilippe/Richeze for this type of finish. However, he could be a rider sent up the road near the bottom of the climb, or with around 5km to go so that the other teams have to chase and Etixx get an easier run in.
A tough one to call, I’d have Sagan and Coquard as favourites. However, I think we could get a “surprise” winner. Cav’s a nice lad. He’ll know when a stage is too tough for him and he’ll realise Edvald’s strengths. Boasson Hagen to boss the finish and take his first Tour win since 2011.
I can’t back Coquard and Sagan at the prices they’re at so going to back my 4 named riders again. Spread the load etc…
Alaphilippe 0.3pt EW @50/1 with Ladbrokes
GVA 0.4pt EW @66/1 with Betfair
EBH 0.45pt EW @ 100/1 with PP
Vakoc 0.1pt EW @400/1 with PP
If you enjoyed the preview, any feedback would be great as usual. Hopefully we’re in for a more exciting stage tomorrow! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.