By David Hunter
Bolsward – Bolsward 184.7km
The race starts up in Holland, right on the coast. Some will immediately hope for echelons, but conditions look good. We only have a small wind coming from the north, not enough to split the race up. This stage is all about the finish.
The peloton complete two laps of a 17.3km circuit, which also features the golden kilometre. The circuit is very easy, with hardly any corners. One slight problem is the width of the roads, they are quite narrow considering the amount of sprinters at the race.
A straight run for home can often present the peloton with many problems. We will see team after team come to the front and try to stay there. Last year, this resulted in an incredibly messy sprint, won by Elia Viviani. With the Worlds just around the corner, most top sprinters are at this race.
Sprinters and Trains
Lotto – Sieberg, Roelandts, Debusschere, Greipel.
That looks nice and strong to me. Only missing Henderson, something they need to get used to, the Belgians have one of the best trains here. In Sieberg and Roelandts, they have two of the best in the business. As usual, the problem for Greipel is following the wheel. He is a sprinter that can be pushed from his line. The Gorilla lacks a bit of ruthlessness, he’s just too damn nice.
Dimension Data – Eisel, Farrar, Boasson Hagen, Renshaw.
Cavendish was ill throughout the Tour of Britain and clearly hasn’t recovered. That leaves DD with the option of Renshaw or EBH. A shame for Cav, as he could have done with some racing this week.
Etixx – Tony Martin, Stybar, Boonen, Trentin, Kittel.
The Etixx boys look strong. Kittel returned to form with a win in GP de Fourmies, but had to abandon on Friday, after being sick during the race. That doesn’t sound like the ideal preparation for this race, but we’ll just have to wait and see how he has recovered. He needs some big performances, if he wants to lead the Germans in Qatar.
Tinkoff – Gatto, Sagan.
Not much help here, but Sagan doesn’t need it. After having raced today, in the brutal Euro Champs, Sagan will surely be tired. However, it is Sagan!
Sky – Rowe, Fenn, Swift, Van Poppel.
At last, Sky seem to have found a sprint train for their Italian, such a shame that Viviani is sick! That means Danny Van Poppel will get another chance to impress, something he’s been doing a lot of recently.
Trek – Alafaci, Bonifazio, Stuyven, Van Poppel, Nizzolo.
Nizzolo is enjoying his best ever season, with 5 wins to his name. A lot of that is due to the outstanding work of Boy Van Poppel, he’s one of the best in the business. Nizzolo often struggles when he comes up against the best sprinters in the world, I think that will continue here.
Jumbo – Roosen, Wagner, Groenewegen.
The Dutchman has been one of the sensations of 2016. Such a fast sprinter, he really has been impressive. Taking 9 wins in your debut season, in the world tour, is an outstanding return. He’s fresh from a win in the Tour of Britain, so confidence will be high.
Katusha – Porsev, Haller, Morkov, Kristoff.
Kristoff’s form has gradually been improving since a disappointing Tour de France. Three stages and the overall title in Tour des Fjords will have boosted his confidence, but does he really believe he can beat the best in the world? The Norwegian has not won a world tour race or stage yet in 2016. Not a great statistic for him.
Giant – Curvers, Andersen, Timmer, Sinkeldam, Degenkolb.
It’s so good to see the big German back winning races. His pre-season horror crash ruined most of 2016, but not all of it! Giant still possess a top sprint train, but not quite as good as they used to be.
Orica – Hayman, Edmondson, Mezgec, Ewan.
A very strong train and a sprinter in top form. A win in Hamburg, was followed by success in London. Ewan is a fast young sprinter, and is great in messy finishes. That makes him ideal for this stage. Orica won’t get involved too early either, they will wait until the final 3km, then come to the front. They know they have the speed to stay at the front, inside the closing kilometres.
Lampre – Arashiro, Kump, Ferrari, Modolo.
Sacha seems to have lost his way. He has really struggled without Richeze, no surprise there. I don’t see him turning around his recent form here.
Astana – Tleubayev, Guardini.
Poor season for the Italian, it will continue here.
IAM – Naesen, Kluge, Van Genechten.
Confidence will be up after a win in the Vuelta. The importance of confidence cannot be underestimated, it is a vital part of every sprinter. Even with that, I can’t see Van Genechten challenging here.
FDJ – Konovalovas, Hoelgaard, Sarreau, Demare.
After a brilliant early part of 2016, the Frenchman has struggled to hit the heights again. Second place marked a return to form in Brussels and his train continues to function well.
Cofidis – Bozic, Soupe, Laporte, Bouhanni.
The Cofidis lads have punched above their weight all season long. They seem to be the only outfit capable of challenging the big sprint teams. That is due to an outstanding signing policy. The addition of Bozic, has enabled them to hit the front inside the final 2km. Once there, teams struggle to get past Soupe and Laporte. They are fearsome competitors, sometimes stepping over the mark, but I’d rather my riders were like that. What Bouhanni possesses is an ability to beat the best in the world. He wins world tour races, something his rivals fail to do. He has a confidence that others are scared of, he fears no one.
It’s a nailed on sprint, expect plenty of teams happy to work to bring the break back. A fascinating side plot is the battle for bonus seconds. The ITT is on Tuesday, and GC riders always like to go out late. The finishing positions in this stage will determine the TT order. Any time bonuses will get you a late start time, so expect to see some riders attack the golden kilometre. Even just a bonus of a single second is important.
I see a dangerous and messy sprint, thanks to the long finishing straight and narrow road. It looks perfect for Cofidis and Bouhanni and I expect him to take another big win in 2016.
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