By David Hunter
Contres – Commentry 213.5km
After an epic stage 1, the second stage looks like being a quieter affair.
Again, it will be a cold day for the riders, with temperatures barely above zero. The wind looks to be lighter and shouldn’t offer as many opportunities for echelons, as it’s going to be a tailwind for most of the stage. This should be quite a fast day in the saddle.
The only categorised climb crests with 50km left in the race, so this is not a critical point of the stage. The late intermediate sprint point should present Michael Matthews with another opportunity to take 3 seconds on most of his GC rivals. Straight after this comes a little bump. It’s the highest point of the stage, but doesn’t look hard enough to drop the sprinters. It does present attackers with a great chance of escaping.
The late attackers also have a short descent to help them gain time on the peloton, before the final 4 kilometres, which gently rise. The last kilometre rises at 1.3%, making it quite a demanding sprint. Finishes like this can be hard to judge for sprinters, they must be patient and not launch their sprint until 150m.
The last 2.5km does offer up some challenges, with 3 roundabouts. The first roundabout has to be taken on the left, if you go right, the race is over. The 2nd roundabout will significantly reduce the speed of the bunch, especially with the sharp, right hand turn, straight after. The roundabouts aren’t done yet, the final one leaves a sprint of 500m. This is a demanding finish to the stage.
Looking at the profile, this has to be a big sprint. Time to talk sprinters.
Marcel Kittel – starts the race as the favourite. Lasted a long time into stage 1, but the final climb was just too hard for him. As mentioned in my stage 1 preview, he has Terpstra, Serry, Maes, Boonen and Sabatini all to lead him out. What a good bunch of riders and he’ll be keen to net his first big win for Etixx.
Andre Greipel – not got much support. Did survive the initial move today, but was distanced like Kittel. With Gallopin out of the GC picture, he’ll have one more rider to help him in the closing stages.
Alexander Kristoff – has 5 wins already in 2016, bad luck stopped him today. He has Bystrom, Lagutin, Kochetkov, Morkov and Guarnieri. That is one hell of a lead out train. Expect a massive battle between Katusha and Etixx. The uphill finish is great news for the Norwegian, but he would have preferred 3%, not 1.7%.
Michael Matthews – the uphill sprint, does bring him closer to the others. In Daryl Impey, he has one of the best lead-out men in the world. I expect the Aussie to go close in this stage.
Nacer Bouhanni – can’t see him doing it, against this quality.
Arnaud Demare – what a sprint today. He also likes an uphill kick and clearly has some good form. He will expect to challenge for the podium, but can’t start from too far back against Kittel and co. He got away with it today, this stage is a different story.
JJ Lobato – would like it a little steeper but does excel in finishes like this. He has Gorka Izagirre to help deliver him into a good position. Lobato was poor today but that was to be expected.
The likes of Wippert, Bonifazio, Kump, Petit and Van Genechten will all hope to be in the mix, but it will take some performance to make the podium. Wippert has the best chance, as Cannondale supported him well today. He was on Swift’s wheel, but finished outside the top 10. Welcome to the big races!
Kittel or Kristoff, that is the question. Has to be Marcel for me.
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