I should never have doubted them, should I?!
BMC win yet another TTT, being the only team to best the 16 minute mark.
Dennis was the first man across the line so he is the first rider in the leader’s jersey of the race.
With a sprint finish likely tomorrow, there is a good chance he will hold onto it for a few days.
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
A flat jaunt along the Mediterranean coastline, with a little change of direction inland before turning back towards the sea for the finish in Gruissan.
In terms of altimetry, there is nothing much to talk about at all. The highest peak of the day is just over 40m above sea level…
It could be a fairly benign day, but the finish could cause a surprise or two.
They will tackle a roundabout at 2.5km to go, taking the sharp left.
Said sweeping roundabout. The riders will have to knock a little bit of speed through it and it will certainly stretch out the peloton.
Will a team then have enough firepower to keep the pace high over the next 2 kilometres? If not, there could be a lot of jostling for position with things getting scrappy.
Especially when the road narrows at ~1km to go as the riders head off the main road and towards the town.
The slip-road only lasts for 150m or so but it will certainly be a point some of the teams will be racing for. It is much more realistic for a team to control it from there to the finish with a few riders.
It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without some type of “challenge” in the final kilometre. Tomorrow’s is a roundabout with roughly 350m to go. It’s not too tight, but the riders won’t be able to smooth out the corner completely.
Having one man peeling off just out of the roundabout and leaving the “pilot fish” with the sprinter is the ideal tactic here. Can anyone pull it off?
We spend a lot of the day travelling parallel to the coast line so of course I have to mention the prospect of crosswinds.
Although oddly enough, the wind isn’t coming from the sea. Instead, it comes from in-land and pushing towards the coast.
That makes it less likely for echelons early on in the day but not improbable. There are some exposed sections as we head in land though, such as this part of the D-37 as we head towards Sérignan.
At around 80km to go, is it too early for a team to try to split it?
They will turn more into a cross-head-wind afterwards so a lot of the riders might not fancy it. But the wind direction is pretty organic, much like the teams attitudes towards crosswinds. If they sense a chance to push it, I’m sure some will try!
If we do see splits then those dropped will hope that the wind direction becomes more of a headwind to deter the teams pushing on. It will be a race to the 30km to go banner in that case as once the riders turn to home, they’ll have a stonkingly big tailwind for the remainder of the day. Anyone gapped will find it difficult to get back.
So do I think we’ll see echelons? I’m hopeful, but not overly confident.
We don’t exactly have a long list of guys here and a the majority of them don’t have much help. Things could be messy…
On paper he is the most experienced/best sprinter here but he hasn’t raced since the Tour. Rolling home today makes me think that he still might be finding his legs and tomorrow’s long stage could be a struggle for him this early on. Of course, he could have been conserving energy after giving his all in the first part of the TTT but the signs aren’t good.
If Degenkolb isn’t sprinting then Theuns will be Trek’s main man. Full of confidence after his first World Tour win at the BinckBank Tour, he looked lightning quick then. He is off to a new team so there could be some tension within his current squad but as professionals I wouldn’t expect that to play too big a part. With a lot of helpers for Contador, whoever sprints for Trek will most likely only be able to rely on De Koert and possibly Pantano. A late charge to the front à la Lampre of old?!
A double stage winner last year, he certainly enjoyed his first Grand Tour. Fast after a tough, long day, tomorrow’s stage looks good for him and I’m sure he’ll be hoping for crosswinds to reduce the bunch. Although maybe he won’t, as he is supposedly on team help duty before getting his own opportunity if the Orica GC riders are safe within the last 10km. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for him with no lead-out.
Modolo – Won a sprint in Poland but DNF’d that race. He is a really hit or miss rider so who knows how he’ll go tomorrow!
Trentin – He’ll more than likely be QS rider of choice for tomorrow. If they dedicate a lead-out to him then they have a fairly strong team with several strong rouleurs to push things on for him. Looking strong lately, I think he has a good chance of a result.
Blythe – The Brit will be hoping for echelons tomorrow to reduce his opposition. A good classics rider, he should make the first split if he’s being attentive and will fancy his chances in a reduced bunch. He could struggle in a big bunch gallop though, but with it being messy he could seize the opportunity.
Lobato – Seems to be finding form again but this pure flat sprint isn’t great for him. Almost guaranteed to be dropped if the wind picks up.
Van Genechten – Just a bit of a “meh” sprinter and typifies this field we have here. Will struggle to repeat his win from last season.
Debuscherre – Will be praying for echelons as he seems to have lost his way as a big bunch sprinter this year. That lack of confidence won’t help in the slightly sketchy finish.
Schwarzmann – Arguably has one of the strongest sprint lead-outs here in terms of pure power. Often a lead-out man himself, will he grasp his opportunity to shine?
Safe Pick – Cort.
It’s tough to choose a “safe” pick for this stage as anything could happen out on the road with possible echelons and a messy sprint. Not knowing which of the Trek riders will be sprinting, it is wise to avoid them, although I would lean towards Theuns. Cort should be sprinting and as one of the fastest here he should guarantee a top 5.
Wongshot Pick – Theuns.
On form he is arguably the fastest rider here, it just depends if he sprints or not. Hence why he is the wongshot.
Lanterne Rouge Pick – Zurlo.
Fell today so he might be tasked with doing some work early on for Modolo and roll home at the end of the day.
Trek to take advantage of Theuns is great form just now, letting him sprint, with the Belgian duly delivering!
1pt EW Theuns @ 22/1 with Bet365 (would take 14/1 lowest – others might actually price up higher later on)
Also for a bit of fun I’ve doubled that up Sam Bennett for the Cyclassics at 528/1…
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.