*Apologies, this preview is not up to my usual standards as I am terribly hungover and only have an hour to write it before a family meal. Should have written in advance, my bad!*
Last year saw an incredibly exciting race and Sagan showed his strength with a devastating attack out the peloton on the final lap. He wasn’t to be seen again!
Can he make it back to back wins? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them.
A jaunt around the desert followed by 7 laps of the Pearl Circuit.
Don’t expect any great scenery out on the course as they travel through the desert. We might see a few camels running beside the peloton!
There’s not really much more to say about the route, it is very dull to be honest. The only way this race doesn’t become a snoozefest if things get a spicy out in the desert. Speaking of which…
Fingers crossed for wind!
It looks like we will get some wind, but annoyingly just now it’s too much off a headwind (going out) to make a difference. Opposite direction on the way back. However, as we’ve seen over this past week, the wind can change direction and speed at will. With the barren landscape on offer, there will be nothing to protect the riders from the wind so they will have to be vigilant at all times. Even the smallest of changes in direction could split things up, and I’m sure there will be a few teams interested in doing so.
How will the race pan out?
No wind = snoozefest = sprint.
Wind = anything could happen.
I think (maybe wishfully) that the race will be split up in the desert, so I’ll be writing from that angle. Plus there will be plenty of other previews out there that will discuss the pure sprinters anyway!
So in my multiverse the wind reaps havoc on the peloton out in the Qatari desert. How much damage will it do? Well, that depends on how hard the teams with numbers go and the composition of the front group. It could be possible that the peloton maybe halves in size relatively early on into the race. However, that group is still far too big and it fractures again with 30 riders or so off the front. These riders then power on and those behind have no chance of returning. Depending who’s made it into that group, it could well go all the way to the line once we reach the circuit but this is unlikely. Instead, I would expect more attacks with either a solo rider getting away or a small group of 12-15 riders contesting the finish.
There will be enough teams and riders who won’t want to drag the best sprinters in the world to the line, so look to the Classics specialists.
Sagan is a safe option for both scenarios but he will probably want a harder race to get rid of some of the faster sprinters. Saying that, there are few who can match Sagan in a sprint after 250km so he will be confident of his chances either way!
Belgium will turn to Boonen as their all-weather guy, although they have a very strong team for this type of race, especially if the wind does pick up. Van Avermaet & Naesen provide great back options and should offer strength in numbers if there are echelons.
The Dutch have Groenewegen who has shown he can handle crosswinds and echelons, but they also could turn to the likes of Terpstra to make a late attack from a reduced bunch. Along with the Belgians, they are the most likely team to try to cause some havoc.
Another sprinter who enjoys riding in the crosswinds is Norwegian Alexander Kristoff, like Sagan, he should be there in both situations. He’s been a bit off the boil this year but that could be a good thing, saving himself for this race and going under the radar. He’ll want to get rid of the likes of Cavendish and Kittel, making his job a lot easier. Importantly for him, the Norwegian team is very strong for this type of parcours with a lot of big engines for flat riding.
Other sprinters who will enjoy tough conditions include Démare, Gaviria and one of the favourites, Greipel. It will be hard for these guys to win in the situation of a blown to bits peloton, as no one will want to drag them to the line.
For a potential late attacker, look to Tony Martin. He’s been in great form in Doha winning the TTT and the TT, why not add the road race title to that collection too? There will be very few riders capable of bringing him back if he does escape with around 20km to and those chasing will have to be going full gas to get close.
Not as strong as Martin, but someone who is also on good form is Stybar. He looked very strong in Binche and has the capabilities to win a small group sprint or attack with a kilometre to go.
However, I’m going for none of the above. I mean it wouldn’t be right if in my final preview of the year I didn’t stick to tradition and go with an outsider?!
Instead, I think Matteo Trentin will be the new World Champion. Left-field I know, but hear me out. He rides for Etixx as his trade team and is very good in tough, windy conditions but more often than not he has to work as a domestique. However, here I think he will be given more of a free role and the chance to look after himself if things do get wild. Finishing 4th in his last two races (both this month) show that he has some good form. He has the speed to win from a very reduced bunch but also the bravery to attack from that group too if there are faster riders. Forza Matteo!
And after saying all of that, Sagan will probably win.
It’s not a race I want to get heavily involved in and if we don’t get crosswinds, I won’t be watching until the last 10km. So a few outside shots to keep me interested
0.2pt WIN Trentin @ 150/1 with Coral (I’d take 100/1 that’s widely available)
0.1pt WIN Naesen @ 250/1 with Coral and Betfred
0.1pt WIN Stybar @ 200/1 with Bet365/Ladbrokes/Betvictor
0.1pt WIN Martin @ 250/1 with PaddyPower/Betfair/Coral
This is most likely my last preview of the year so a final thanks for reading and apologies again if this isn’t as succinct as normal, my brain isn’t functioning at 100%. I may have something for the Abu Dhabi Tour but I’m not promising anything. Working on a few ideas to keep this going through winter, any suggestions will be taken on board! As usual any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.