*So I’ve just woken up from a nap after writing this out before the route-change. There is an amended section (in italics) at the bottom which takes into consideration the new route very briefly. However, unfortunately or hilariously, depending on how you look at it, I placed my bets just there before checking Twitter to see said route change. Erm, so yeah… 😂 The parts of the original preview that no longer apply are still in this, just with a strikethrough.*
A really weird stage that was both incredibly exciting and dull in equal measures. The “two-halves” cliché springs to mind! It ended with Degenkolb taking a very messy sprint ahead of Van Rensburg and Colbrelli.
The first half of the day saw the peloton shredded to bits out in the desert as the winds swirled up a Sandstorm.
Someone in the front group even got a bit Darude to Kittel in the ensuing chaos and an elbow connected to the Germans head. That rider, Grivko, has now been disqualified from the race! There seemed to be a rider-led neutralisation of the stage for a while to sort out the kerfuffle and this allowed the group behind to rejoin the front of the race and we once again had a full peloton. This happened to be when the international feed for Eurosport went live and from then it was another classic, boring Dubai sprint day. A real shame as it was a stage the promised a lot.
As for the blog punts, the neutralisation put an end to any surprise winner. Vliegen was up the road in the days breakaway, with Trentin and Moscon making the front split. So who knows how it could have played out! In the end, the regrouping did allow Fenn back in who beat De Kort in the matchbet, but with Vliegen being out in front all day he rolled home in 40th, whereas his team-mate Gerts finished 17 places ahead of him. Swings and roundabouts!
Oh well, moving onto tomorrow and the day that will shape the GC!
Facing the riders is the now classic finish up the Hatta Dam Wall. In a carbon copy of last year’s stage, the riders will traverse the desert, then a few testing ramps before the Dam Wall itself.
The finale tomorrow is as much about positioning as anything else. You need to really be within the first 5 riders as you make the turn to start the climb if you want any chance of winning.
Silvan Dillier holds the Strava effort for the climb at 32s which he attained during last years race. However, it is safe to assume that the winner on that day, Lobato, managed the effort in under 30 seconds given that he finished 4 seconds ahead of Dillier and they started in roughly the same position.
Lobato launched his sprint at the perfect time, getting out of the saddle just as the gradient kicked up, managing to maintain some of his approach speed. He’ll be hoping for similar this year!
With it being such a short effort, it is very possible for the “proper” sprinters to get involved, with Nizzolo and Kittel testament to that last year.
Unlike last year however, there might be a bit more action out on the road beforehand…
Wind Watch The winds tomorrow are forecast to be even stronger than they were today. This means that the similar exposed desert region could again be the scene of echelons. With a West -> East wind the riders could face cross-tail and crosswinds out on course in the middle third of the race. If we do get some crazy sandstorm again, I don’t think there will be any form of truce this time round. I expect it to be carnage out there again tomorrow with no favours being handed out! A combination of echelons followed by some draining climbs will see us consequently reach the bottom of Hatta with the smallest peloton ever, maybe around 20 riders at most. Of course, if things really split up out on course then a small group of 5, or even a solo rider may arrive at the bottom of the climb. But even I think that’s a stretch too far!
What can we take from today’s stage looking ahead to tomorrow? Well, Cavendish and his team never miss a beat as he and practically the whole Dimension Data team made it into the first split of the peloton. They certainly will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow and I don’t see why it can’t happen for them. Except this time round I don’t think they’ll pander to the needs of the leader’s jersey as much and will look to exploit Kittel if he’s in trouble. Leading on to the next point… Kittel looked weak-ish in the wind. It never has been a strong point of his. Disappointingly for him, his team wasn’t great either; with a lot of them being caught in that second group too. Unless of course they were 100% on protecting duty with him. The same can be said for Degenkolb and Groenewegen. But in Groenewegen’s case it looked like he was the only one day dreaming as a lot of his team made the front. Nonetheless, they were all there or thereabouts and I imagine that some, if not most, of them will make up the front split tomorrow. All it takes is for a couple of them to make the front with the majority of their team-mates then their group will be very tough to bring back. So…
Prediction Echelon chaos, with only 14 riders arriving at the bottom of Hatta together. Resulting in a surprise winner. I’ll go for a guy who’s already put in a few long sprints this week and hasn’t been outside the top 10 so far. Dylan Groenewegen to take a shock win. The sprinters have proven in the past that they can get up and compete on this terrain. The weather beforehand only levels the playing field even more in my opinion! Am I behind stupid? Probably, but hey it’s only fun!
Betting Happy to have a few fun punts on the 3 main sprinters as I certainly wouldn’t be backing the top 3 in the market with the conditions we might get; Groenewegen 0.2pt EW @200/1 with Various (would take 150/1) Kittel 0.15pt EW @ 100/1 with Betfair/PaddyPower (wouldn’t take less) Cavendish 0.15pt EW @ 200/1 with Various (would take 150/1) Kittel > Drucker @1/1 with Bet365 2pts.
*AMENDED SECTION *
Wind forecast for Hatta (not sure how much the local landscape will affect this);
It looks like the road does climb up and down a lot more. However, it only seems to change by 100m in elevation at most at one time, so I’m not entirely sure how tough the climbs will be. Might open it up to a Vliegen style rider. Who knows! The wind might still rip the race to shreds or the hills may protect them. Groenewegen to pull out a masterful display either way! 😉
With myself not being 100% confident in what the route is actually like, the blog changes from a few fun bets to keep you entertained, to a no bet. I’ll be sitting with my Kittel/Cav/Groenewegen tickets hoping for wind to split things up and the climbs not being so severe!
Thanks again for reading!
I imagine you won’t agree with me on this one, so who do you think will win? As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.