Offredo made the break but was only joined by one other rider (Gesbert) so it was doomed from the outset really! At least my breakaway radar is working better than it has over the past few months.
Much to my bemusement though, several of the other sprint teams decided to help chase the two-man move all day. They even did all of the work in the closing kilometres. However, even that didn’t stop the inevitable and Kittel managed to take his 4th stage win of the race.
It’s just too easy for the fantastically haired German!
Degenkolb did very well to finish second and is showing good signs of recovery after the crash last week. Yet, all he did was follow Kittel’s wheel. He never looked like winning. Maybe that’s a good tactic for anyone hoping to finish on the podium in the next few sprint stages! Groenewegen finally came good to get his GT podium finish, and he actually hit the highest speed out of all the sprinters. But again, he was nowhere near the win. Will that change tomorrow?
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.
Another almost pan-flat day that looks ideal for the sprinters.
The riders travel almost directly south from Eymet to Pau, which would make it a stage that could be affected by crosswinds if the direction/strength of the wind is correct. We will get some 18-20km/h Westerly winds at points throughout the stage but a lot of the route is well protected by trees etc, so I can’t see it coming to anything substantial.
As for the end of the stage itself, the final few kilometres are ever so slightly downhill which should make for a fast finish.
It’s not exactly the easiest of run ins either…
Four roundabouts to contend with in the last 5km could make for a dicey stage. However, I don’t really expect the first two to have that much of an impact as they come too far out and there is a lot of straight road afterwards for teams to organise themselves again.
The roundabout that comes at just before 2km to go should see the riders funnelled around the left-hand side.
It’s quite a wide road so there shouldn’t be too many difficulties but you never know! The riders will then take a slight left kink in the road before charging towards the Flamme Rouge.
Just before the flag though, they’ll face a tough left-hand turn which will no doubt string things out.
The second roundabout you see on the profile above isn’t difficult at all as the riders are able to smooth out the corner, and should be able to go at full speed.
The turn onto Rue Michelet at ~600m to go is more difficult than it appears though, opposite to how the roundabout initially seems.
It’s almost an unsighted turn and is definitely greater than 90-degrees initially before it straightens back out again. A few riders could be caught out here. I guess it will all depend on where the barriers are placed in the car park as the road/run off from the turn can be made wider.
They’ll then face a 500m straight to the finish.
How will the stage pan out?
Another stage that looks like it will be a sprint, but surely the other sprint teams don’t help the QS chase at all?! They made it oh so easy for them today by happily putting a man up to share the work load and that got them nowhere. Lotto and Katusha were the ones most willing to chase and that got them 12th and 5th respectively. Not great!
Do they do the exact same tomorrow? Because if so, they pretty much hand Kittel another victory. I wouldn’t and in fact, I would be looking to put a rider in the breakaway to make QS work for it harder. Maybe that’s just me though.
I said in my stage 7 preview that we might see a breakaway survive on a sprint stage once Kittel has 5 wins to his name but I think there is a chance tomorrow could be that day.
For that to happen though, the break will need to be strong and certainly be more than just two riders like we had today. It also requires the sprint teams to “grow some balls” so to speak and let QS do all of the work at the head of the peloton. Katusha/Lotto/Cofidis etc aren’t winning stages while doing some work, so why is that going to suddenly change tomorrow if they do the exact same?
At this point I’m practically pleading with the sprint team’s DS to try to do something different and animate the race.
We always seem to have a breakaway winner in Pau!
However, it will need some strong rouleurs if it is to stay away so…
Guillaume van Keirsbulk.
A rider who I will always have a soft spot for after his win in Le Samyn earlier this year, the Belgian has already spent a day off the front of the race. Wanty are keen to animate these flat stages and he would be a suitable choice for tomorrow. A strong TTer with a decent kick, he can’t be underestimated.
Bit of a wildcard one this as it requires Lotto to play an aggressive stage. He’s not been great so far this Tour and expended a lot of energy on some of the breakaway days in the mountains all for nothing. Nonetheless, he would still be a good rider to have up the road and put some power down.
Vegard Stake Laengen.
The tall Norwegian has already made the break once before this race and UAE seem keen to try to get riders up the road. With Swift still not looking 100% they could well go for that tactic again and get some TV exposure. A good rider to have in the break if you are in the break yourself as he provides a nice wind break!
He’s not been as active in this Tour as I expected, only making one break of note so far. Direct Energie have no hope in the sprints but with a stage win already, the pressure is off for them at least. He might sense that the sprint teams don’t want to chase tomorrow and use his experience to seize an opportunity.
With that all being said, no doubt we’ll still see this man romp home to victory.
Oh how I’d love to be wrong!
No value in any of the sprinters, but considering I managed a profit today (albeit a measly 0.4pts) thanks to an in-play bet, I’m going to waste that on the breakers tomorrow.
0.1pt on them all to win, all with Bet365;
Van Keirsbulk @ 500/1
Wellens @ 400/1
Laengen @ 400/1
Chavanel @ 250/1.
Thanks as always for reading and as usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Can anyone stop Kittel? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.