A weird stage that ended with the expected sprint, but only just. The pace was high from the gun and the peloton was strung out for the first 40km or so, with the likes of GVA attacking. In the end a trio escaped including blog pick for the day, Greipel. An odd move from him but hey ho!
The peloton brought the trio back just at the start of the final lap which saw a counter attack from Dowsett and Smith with roughly 12km left. They were brought back at around 4km or so left, and Lampaert quickly countered. It looked as if he was going to hold on for the win but he was overhauled at 150m out.
Theuns delivered his first World Tour win after a great lead-out from Stuyven.
Kump and Merlier rounded out the podium, with a lot of the “big name” sprinters missing out.
No bonus seconds for Sagan certainly makes the title fight an interesting race. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.
The GC battle begins in earnest as we travel through Amstel Gold territory.
There are no overly tough climbs, but the road is constantly up or down almost all day which could tire the bunch out.
It is a stage that screams out to be attacked and I think we could see some very aggressive racing, or at least I hope!
I feel I don’t need to go over the climbs in too much detail as the great guys at Lasterketa Burua have all the lengths and gradients on the profile above.
Depending on the attitude of the teams, a strong move could feasibly escape before the half-way point of the stage. However, I think we might see our first meaningful move come the first time up the Schatsberg with just over 50km to go.
From there, who really knows what will happen!
By the looks of things, the Golden Kilometre starts just after the second summit of Schatsberg. It will certainly entice some attacks and could be the catalyst for the winning move. Conversely, a strong attack after the race regroups once we’re through the km could also be very successful.
If we do get a reasonably large group come to the line it could be manic.
Four 90-degree turns in the final kilometre is pretty dangerous and asking for trouble!
Finishing at the Tom Dumoulin bike park, I wonder if the Dutchman will manage to take the victory?
The weather forecast isn’t looking too promising for the riders either. Well, I’m sure some of them will view it as very promising, it depends who you ask I guess.
We’re set to get most of the rain in the morning, but there are apparently some showers around in the afternoon which will no doubt be temperamental.
It will probably be a bone dry race after all!
How the race might pan out…
Normally I’m fairly bullish with my prediction as to how the race will pan out but I really have no idea as to what will happen tomorrow. As I said above, we feasibly could see a move go at any point of the race if it contains the right riders and teams.
Most likely though we’ll see a whittling down of the pack throughout the day; which will be made quicker if the conditions are poor.
It is then a case of when the favourites launch their attacks. The issue with it all though is, that Sagan should be able to follow almost all of the moves. In any kind of reduced sprint he is obviously the favourite and gifting him 10 bonus seconds isn’t the wisest manoeuvre for anyone targeting the title.
Bora have been great so far this race, but tomorrow is the acid test. If Sagan is isolated early, he’ll have a tough day chasing every move. I do expect Pöstlberger to have a big ride. Will it be enough? I don’t think so.
Everyone’s unwillingness to work with Sagan will see a small group of 6 riders from various teams escape in the final 20km and contest the stage. It might not be the end of the GC battle though!
Here’s my best attempt at guessing who might be in that move.
Another year, another disappointing classics season hampered by bad luck yet again for the Cannondale man. He “won” the sprint stage of the Hammer Series at the beginning of June, but it is his results since the Belgian Championships, where he finished second, that have really impressed. In the Tour of Austria he took five top 5 places, following that up with a 4th place at Ride London. This is the type of race he can win overall, but at 33 seconds back already, he’ll need to be aggressive. Tomorrow’s rolling stage looks good for the strong man and with a relatively fast kick from a small bunch, he’ll be happy to go to the line with some riders. He just needs some luck for once and the win could be there for the taking!
I’m a big fan of the Orica man, so much so I’ve come up with my own Kirby-esque nickname for him; the Keukie-monster. It was great to see him finally take a couple of wins last year after being on a 3-season drought. He’s continued that this year with a second place in Gent Wevelgem and winning the Belgian Tour overall. More importantly though, he was exceptionally strong at the recent Euro Championships; driving the peloton for a lot of the day but also attacking at the end. Like Vanmarcke, he sits roughly 30 seconds down on GC so will need to attack and I think he’ll do just that. Another rider packing a fast sprint from a small group, we could be in for an exciting finale!
Super strong in the final kilometre to help reel in Lampaert at the end of today’s stage, he will be given a free role tomorrow. Almost an ever-present rider at the front of the peloton in tough races like this, he will hope to put his power to good use. Strong enough to hold off a charging peloton, see his Kuurne win last year, he also packs a tidy sprint too. A rider who can win in a variety of ways, much like the other two, he is a big danger if he gets into the move.
I like all three of the riders, but I’ll side with my favourite, Keukeleire to win!
0.5pt WIN on them all;
Keukeleire @ 33/1
Stuyven @ 33/1
Vanmarcke @ 50/1
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.