A tough, miserable day in the saddle for the riders in which horrid conditions made a hard course even more challenging.
We saw the expected push on over the Saint-Roch which split up the peloton and a strong group formed at the head of the race. Things regrouped though before another, more decisive split on the next classified climb. Sagan pushed on and only Wellens was able to follow. Unfortunately for the World Champion, he suffered a puncture which completely ruined his day.
Wellens pushed on and he was soon joined by Dumoulin who bridged from the group behind. They worked well together and managed to hold of a strong chasing quintet that included Van Avermaet, Naesen, Valgren, Stuyven and Benoot.
At the finish Wellens opened up the sprint on the climb but Dumoulin would never come past him, with the Lotto Soudal rider taking the stage win.
Whether that was because Dumoulin didn’t have the energy or didn’t want to after Wellens did a lot of the work, that’s for him to know!
Behind, Stuyven sprinted for third to keep himself somewhat in the GC fight.
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the final day of racing.
A day that is all about the closing 50km.
The first 135km of the day act as a build up for what is to come. With the wind and rain looking to have faded a bit by tomorrow, we probably won’t see any early action from the GC guys.
That could be good news for the breakaway riders.
As for the route itself, the riders will tackle the famous cobbled Muur twice, along with two passages of the Bosberg and three of the Denderoordberg.
All of the percentages and distances of the climbs are on the profile above so I don’t really want to go into too much detail about them.
There’s even an un-cobbled climb thrown in for good measure. It really is a tough parcours, especially when you consider it is all packed into the final quarter of the day!
The riders will face the final passage of the Denderoordberg at only 6km to go.
A launchpad for a late attack?
The finish into Geraardsbergen is up a short, slightly cobbled climb; averaging just over 6% for 500m. A fitting way to end a hard day in the saddle!
How will the race pan out?
Normally a stage like this would be a GC battle where the contenders battle for bonus seconds.
However, the opening 130km are relatively easy so no selection can be made there. Consequently, there is no point of any GC teams pushing on at all. Unless of course someone high up the overall gets into the move, then Sunweb will have to keep it in check for Dumoulin.
Given their showing today and the gaps to those behind, the GC battle should be a two-horse race. Therefore, I think Dumoulin will be more than happy to let the break go to take up the bonus seconds so all he has to do is stick to the wheels of a flying Wellens.
The one variable that could change everything though is Sagan.
He was arguably the strongest rider today, bar the stage winner, and it was only an untimely mechanical that ruined his chances at going for the victory. Do we see another case of Angry Sagan tomorrow, where he gets his team to control the break and go crazy from 50km out? Possibly.
Once today’s stage had initially finished that’s what I thought would happen tomorrow. However, after thinking about it a bit more, I don’t think Sagan gets his whole team to chase to set up the stage win. Instead, if the opportunity presents itself then he’ll go for it and he will win the stage.
Yet, I think the more likely outcome is that we will see a breakaway prevail tomorrow.
So here we are again, playing…
Wout van Aert.
After an untimely puncture on stage 5 took him out of contention, the cyclo-cross star lost some more time today. Was it a deliberate move, or is he just tired? I actually think it might be the former…maybe! Once he wasn’t able to follow the very best on the steep climbs, he’s conserved some energy to focus all his efforts on tomorrow. Now way out of the GC picture and no threat at all, he should be allowed the freedom to go in the early breakaway. Good on short, sharp climbs tomorrow’s profile looks great for him. It would be great to see him up the road in a World Tour race. With a fast finishing kick, he certainly has the speed to bring it home if he makes it to the finish line at the head of the race.
So strong today, the Belgian appears to be feeling the benefits of “Tour legs”! He was instrumental in helping Wellens push on in the closing part of the race and acted as a very good anchor in the group that was pursuing his team-mate. Lotto may want him to stay back and help Wellens if they think their leader needs to win the stage to take GC. However, I think they’ll instead send Benoot up the road as a foil to either go for the win himself, or drop back from the break to help Wellens later on. I hope it is the former! A rider with so much potential and shown ability, it is amazing that he still hasn’t won a professional race yet. Could that be tomorrow?
Benoot to win!
Which only means one thing…
1pt WIN on them both;
Benoot @ 18/1
WVA @ 33/1
Thanks as always for reading and apologies this is a bit more abrupt than normal! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Will the break manage to stay away, or will the GC guys battle it out? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.