Well that was messy!
It looked as if QuickStep had everything under control but they got swamped at roughly 2km to go. They then reasserted their dominance going under the Flamme Rouge and looked to have Viviani in prime position. However, Jumbo delivered Groenewegen at just the right time and caught Viviani napping. The Dutchman held his line well, tactically using the barriers to block the QS rider off. He didn’t have it all his own way though, as Cort Nielsen pushed him all the way to the line and the finish was much closer than I originally thought given the camera’s focus on the Groenewegen/Viviani battle.
In the end, Groenewegen won it with a bike lunge, beating Cort Nielsen into second, with Viviani trailing home in third.
Everyone else was a mile behind all things considered but it will be interesting to se if we have the same top 3 tomorrow.
Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
Flat, again, but what do you expect?
Another day that will all be about the battle in the final 10kms.
The exact same finish as last year, the first big battle will be to the left hand turn at 1.5km to go. It sweeps around enough that the peloton should be stretched out once they exit and head towards the flamme rouge.
There is enough time here for teams further back to come up, but they need to do it fairly fast as at roughly 800m to go there is a roundabout which stretches things out again.
Being in the first 15 riders here is important for a good stage result.
After that, the road bends around to the right, with the shortest line obviously being the inside hogging the barriers. Or you could just do what Kittel did last year and power down the middle!
What Can We Take From Stage 1?
- Groenewegen’s short but sharp train that delivered him to the front at exactly the right moment. Roosen did a great job to weave through the QS bunch, which Groenewegen then followed up with a great bit of tactical sprinting, giving Viviani just enough room on the barriers for it to be safe, but not too much so that he had a chance of coming round.
- QuickStep as a whole looked great and seemed to be in control of the closing kilometres. They only lost that control at two points; ~2km out and 750m to go. Unfortunately, that gave Jumbo the opportunity to come through and put Viviani in difficulty. If they do the same as today in stage 2, then Viviani has every chance of going better.
- Cort Nielsen’s solo escapades. After more than half his team was taken down by a crash, the Dane had to fly solo in the closing kilometres and it seemed to serve him well. He took advantage of Jumbo’s jump to the front, but was impeeded when Roosen pulled over. MCN swerved to the side (a bit dramatically I hasten to add) and it might have been that swerve that cost him the stage.
- Kittel’s chain. It looked as if the German was in a good position but in swerving to avoid MCN, he seemed to jump his chain and that completely ruined his chances. Katusha were a bit over the place in the lead in, but I was impressed with Haller who found Kittel again to deliver him back near the head of the race.
- Cavendish losing his team-mates wheel. An amateur mistake from the experienced rider who couldn’t hold the back wheel of Renshaw in the run closing kilometre after being outmuscled by what looked like Adam Blythe. Possibly a confidence issue for the Manxman after his Tour crash?
- The spill at over 3km to go which made an already nervous peloton even more twitchy.
- All of the argy-bargy in the bunch in the closing kilometres, but I guess that is what you would expect when the roads are so wide and we have so many world class sprinters here trying to move around.
The first two riders on the podium today were strong, but I get the feeling we only saw Viviani sprinting at 90% as he was hindered by Groenewegen. He appeared as if he was itching to get past the Dutchman but he just couldn’t find the road to do it.
Furthermore, Kittel can’t be discounted as he was in a prime position to strike today but was just unlucky with his mechanical.
Therefore, I actually think it will be a Viviani v Kittel showdown, despite what we saw today.
QS have the better train and after messing up today, Viviani will want to put things right tomorrow, especially when you consider it is his birthday. He’s shown in the Tour Down Under and Cadel’s Race the raw speed that he has; it’s just about him being able to put it into practice.
Yet, of the brief glimpse we saw of Kittel today I just have a hunch he’s going very well at the moment. He was powerful enough to effectively give himself a mechanical after all! That won’t happen happen tomorrow though, and he’ll storm horm for the win, just pipping his old team to the line, with Groenewegen coming home in third.
A complete blowout today which is not ideal. Viviani at least took some bonus seconds for the GC hunt and he has looked strong.
Going back in with a H2H double though;
3pts on Kittel ov Cav & Viviani ov Groenewegen @ 1.64/1 with Bet365
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a similar front three to the opening stage or will some other names appear at the top of the order. As for my stage 3 preview, I’m unsure what it will comprise of. I’m away visiting my sister at Uni, so I won’t have too much time to do anything but I’ll try to get something out. If not, I’ll give some thoughts on Twitter and be back for the Hatta Dam stage! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.