That didn’t go to script, did it?
Somehow the early break managed to hold on for the win. That was an option I had completely ruled out! Pibernik was the rider who came out best in the sprint to the line, taking his first professional victory. Not too shabby that it came in the World Tour.
Not taking it away from Pibernik, but that stage was the dampest of squibs. Incredibly dull with nothing exciting happening at all. The less said about it the better! GC remains as it was moving ahead to the final stage tomorrow.
We’re treated to the queen stage on the final day of the race.
Now that’s a profile I like the look of! Credit once again goes to @LasterketaBurua for the image.
The first half of the stage is pretty benign but then it all kicks off in the second half.
We have a circuit that’s completed 3 times. In it, there is the Denderoordberg. Seven hundred metres of uphill cobbles at 8%. Followed by the famous Muur, another cobbled climb at 1.1km long, averaging 8.7%.
The last cobbled climb is the Bosberg. It’s an easier affair at only 6% on average for the kilometre. The circuit is concluded with a climb (not cobbled, the riders will be glad to hear) up the Onkerzelestraat. This is a much easier climb, at 1.5km long it averages only 3%.
It’s important to point out that the Golden Kilometre starts half-way up the Bosberg’s final passage, at 20.8km left in the race.
The riders once again climb the Denderoordberg at only 6km to go.
You can see on the image above that the run-in to the finish is technical once it gets into the town of Geraardsbergen itself. The most dangerous segment will be the downhill U-turn and the sweeping bends that follow it. Thankfully the dangerous turns within the last 500m are all uphill so speeds will be slow.
That 500m dash to the line averages 6.8% with some ramps of above 9%. It’s also lightly cobbled too!
A tasty end to the day.
To spice things up a bit more, it appears we might get our first day of bad weather tomorrow.
The riders might just avoid the rain as it looks to be worse later in the evening but that could quickly change.
How will the stage pan out?
I’m willing to make a fool of myself again and say that the break has no chance. There should be enough incentive behind to bring it back and gain the bonus seconds, but you never know. I’ll give it a 5% chance just to err on the side of caution!
BMC will obviously control the break if there is anyone dangerous in it, but I expect Tinkoff to take the reins early on to keep the move in check.
The peloton will be softened up on the first lap of the circuit but I would imagine some moves are made on the second passage if they haven’t already started. We’ll get a group of 30 riders at most finishing that second lap together. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some riders up the road by then. It’s (hopefully) going to be chaos!
Numbers are obviously important, so once again I’ll point to BMC and Etixx with their 4 men each within 40 seconds of the lead. Jumbo have 3, but they aren’t known for their cobbles prowess, likewise are Movistar’s 4. A team with a couple of riders who could go well are IAM; Naesen, Elmiger and Devenyns will fancy their chances.
However, numbers are irrelevant if you’re number one – Sagan.
The peloton will fear what he can do on a stage like this. The way he’s riding, a repeat performance like Flanders is on the cards.
“It’s very hard to work with other guys, because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody, I think,” (Sagan after Flanders win)
So to counteract Sagan, riders and teams will have to go early. To do this though, you can’t be too close on GC. For example, we may see Devenyns, Boom, Thomas and Benoot try to distance those ahead of them on GC before the final lap.
I hope to see Etixx attempt and light the race up. Stybar and Trentin will be their early cards to play and they have to isolate the four BMC riders that are high up on GC. Oss will be a key rider for the Swiss outfit tomorrow.
Of course what BMC could do is send riders on the attack themselves. If I was the DS I would definitely be adopting that approach. If they don’t, and just play it defensively then there will be no one left to control the race in the final 20km. As I suggested yesterday, GVA and his shiny bike is their trump card and should be let off to attack while Phinney and Quinziato stay with Dennis. Van Avermaet is in sensational form and is one of the few riders here who can go toe-to-toe with Sagan.
Saying all of that, the stage will greatly be shaped by two factors; who’s made the move on the first lap or two of the circuit; and when Sagan decides to attack.
If we get a compliant group of riders who BMC and Etixx are happy with, i.e. if they have one rider each in it, then that could make it all the way to the finish because there probably won’t be enough firepower behind to pull it back. Remember I’m assuming we have a peloton of 40 riders at tops going into that second lap.
If Sagan attacks late, I think we could see a group stay away to the finish ahead of him, but if he goes early then they have no chance. Unless they have a concerted chase behind to bring him to heel, or if some riders can sit in his wheel and attack on the final climb.
Like yesterday’s preview, no-one will want to tow him to the line, but the parcours today was tough for an individual to make gaps on. That’s most definitely not the case tomorrow and a strong rider can really put the hurt on others. That applies to anyone on a good day, not just Sagan!
Sagan should be the clear favourite for this stage and because of that, I’m not backing him. I do love an outsider!
Instead, I think there is an opportunity for a small group attack from far out (30-40km to go) sticking to the end. As everyone behind looks/marks each other. Obviously the right teams need to be represented! A BMC and Etixx rider have to be in that move, having a Movistar and IAM rider in there will help too.
However, I go for no-one from those teams and suggest that Geraint Thomas will win the stage!
He did a lot of work for team-mates in Canada but showed solid form, and he was attentive at the front of the bunch today. That highlights to me that he’s feeling better and keen to go on the attack. At over a minute down, he won’t be an immediate concern for those at the pointy end of the GC but he’ll probably need to be in a move with others to build a gap. He can then use his great all-round abilities to attack and solo to the finish line! If it does rain that’s even better for him, he loves the tough conditions.
Another day of eggs in several baskets. (All prices B365 – only bookmaker priced up by 21:15)
Thomas 0.5pt @ 40/1
Devenyns 0.2pt @ 100/1
Van Baarle 0.2pt @ 150/1
Rowe 0.1pt @400/1 (if we do get an early break succeeding. Been poor recently but has bags of quality in this type of terrain)
Thanks again for reading! How do you think tomorrow will play out? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.