By David Hunter
Stage 1 Recap
The opening stage turned out to be as mad as expected. High wind, rain and a nervous peloton meant we had many crashes. The final 20km was full of attacks, most noticeably from Hayman, Vanmarcke, Wellens, Dumoulin, Trentin, Dowsett and Oss. Once all had calmed down and the peloton was back together, a clever Lars Boom took a sprint point to gain 3 seconds, with Dowsett on 2 and Gilbert on 1. A nice bit of riding from the Dutchman. As we headed towards the finish, no team had control, so Tom Dumoulin tried a speculative attack. His teammates were on the front of the peloton, doing a good blocking job. He had a good lead with only 500 metres remaining, but the headwind killed him. From the mess of the peloton, it was Vanmarcke who sprinted first but just acted as a springboard for Guardini. The Italian took a big win, following up his 2 stages in Denmark. Second place was Gene of Europcar, with Cimolai in third.
Stage 2 Waalwijk – Heusden 175.8km
Another flat day with potential bad wind and rain. We are riding to the home area of Lars Boom. Last year, he was third in his hometown and claimed the yellow jersey. I’m sure he’ll be putting all his local knowledge to good use. It certainly gives him an extra edge over his competitors.
Various teams tried to control stage 1: Sky, Trek, Belkin, OPQS, Lotto and BMC. They tried to get splits but nothing major happened. I’m sure these teams will try again in this stage.
There is a 40% chance of rain, at the end of the stage and a strong crosswind for most of the stage. It means that all the GC contenders need to stay near the front of the race, increasing the chances of crashes.
The finish is fairly straightforward, but wet roads will make it much harder. Greipel won here in 2013, but he seems to be scared of the rain. The finishing straight is 600 metres long, so it’s important to be in the top 5, on leaving the corner. Last year, Greipel was third wheel.
Andrea Guardini, is clearly in great form. He didn’t have to sprint against any of the top sprinters today, so it’ll be interesting to see how he matches up in this stage.
If Greipel is feeling nervous and doesn’t fancy the sprint, all eyes should be on Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman, didn’t get going today, but this finish suits him well. He is very good in corners and holds his position well.
A big crash for Modolo and Goss will see them not challenging for a few days, at least.
Luca Mezgec is the only other sprinter who can match the big guns, but he was dominated by Bouhanni, in the Giro.
OPQS have two options: Boonen and Trentin. In these types of finishes I see them going to Trentin, but there isn’t much help for him, as they are focused on keeping their GC riders safe.
And what about Lars Boom? Riding into his home town will provide him with huge motivation. He tried to win from the sprint, in 2013, but could we see a late attack this year?
If it’s dry, Greipel should win, but if it’s wet I have my doubts. In that case, Nacer Bouhanni seems a good shout and should perform well in all conditions.
However, watch for Belkin trying to upset the sprinters and Lars Boom will have a go. It would be great to see him succeed.
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