The People’s Choice Crit on Sunday whetted our appetite for the week ahead with Caleb Ewan taking a very convincing win.
Bennett and Sagan followed him home and all three riders will be looking to take the opening stage victory and thus the first Ochre Jersey of the Tour.
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them!
A relatively flat affair with a few bumps along the way, definitely one for the fast men. Expect a few Aussies to get into the break and go for the opening KOM jersey.
The three large laps around Lyndoch feature some steepish bumps but they’re only a couple of hundred metres at 7% or so. Nothing for the pros! The run-in itself will be fast as it’s a shallow descent for 5km towards the line with a few sweeping bends. At roughly 500m to go the riders will tackle a “left” turn (it’s pretty much straight on), so the pace shouldn’t be knocked back at all.
From there it will be a drag race to the line with the first WT win of the season up for grabs, it should be an exciting and frenetic affair!
Who’s going to be challenging then?
The Aussie pocket rocket Caleb Ewan has to start this stage as favourite and I think I would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with that statement. He’s in scintillating form at the moment picking up the national criterium title along with the aforementioned People’s Choice Crit (PCC). The Orica lead-out train seems to be working very well and Kluge has gelled with the rest of the team straight away. They’ll expect nothing less than victory here.
Bora team management will have to make a decision on who sprints; either Sagan or Bennett. Their effort at the PCC was a bit of a mess with both riders doing their own sprint after Bennett lost the wheel of the Slovak. If I was DS, I’d have the Irishman as their rider for this stage. His closing speed was very impressive and if he can follow Sagan then he has a very good springboard and chance to take the stage. Easier said than done though!
The rider who just missed the podium at the crit was Niccolo Bonifazio. Fourth place was a good result for him, but he was just kind of there and I wasn’t overly impressed. He’s the type of rider who is very hot or cold and without much team support I think he’ll struggle in the more structured sprint of Stage 1 and will finish further down the pecking order. Then again, my track record with bold statements last season wasn’t great 😂
Mark Renshaw is sure to be fired up to impress on home soil as he gets one of his very few changes throughout the year to lead Dimension Data. Not as quick as he once used to be, that disadvantage is overcome by his nationality as he always seems to pull a good result out of the bag here.
Sky rider Danny Van Poppel will hope to go better than his 16th place in the crit which must have been a disappointment. A strong sprinter on his day, he’ll have some strong riders to bring him to the front in the closing kilometres and drop him on Ewan/Sagan’s wheel. Can he deliver from there?
Vuelta “flop” Nikias Arndt will be under pressure to perform as Sunweb also have another young German sprinter by the name of Phil Bauhaus with them. I would expect the former to get the go ahead on stage 1, but does he have the legs to compete? I’m not so sure.
There are several other smaller sprinters here such as; Marko Kump, Carlos Barbero, Sean de Bie, Lorenzo Manzin and Baptiste Planckaert. Ultimately a top 10 would be a good result for them and a top 5 would be great!
*incoming fantasy team bias/clouded judgement warning*
One rider I think will go well on this opening stage is Edward Theuns.
With the PCC being his first race back after his injury at the Tour de France, he performed well to get up for 5th in what was a chaotic and potentially dangerous race. However, he was disappointed to lose the wheel of his lead-out-man (Koen De Kort) in the final few hundred metres. With this simpler run in, he should be delivered into a better position and from there he will fancy his chances. On his day he can match the best in the World, but can he do it tomorrow?
Going against tradition here…
Man on form + Best lead-out = an odds on favourite Ewan win. Simple!
With Theuns and whoever the Bora sprinter is rounding out the podium.
Ewan is too short to back IMO, something along the lines of 13/10 may have tempted me. So I’m going for my outside winner shot and the guy with a good chance of the podium:
0.5pt EW Theuns @ 15/1 with Bet365 or WillHill. Would take 14/1 too. Although he was technically 20/1 when I tweeted I’d back him the other day, I’m not going to be that guy and take that price!
As for a H2H double, I like;
Van Poppel v Arndt & Theuns v Planckaert @ 1.27/1 with WilliamHill. 3pts.
Thanks for reading as always! I’m looking forward to the first road stage of the year. Who do you think will take the Ochre jersey? Any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.