By David Hunter
Redon > Fougères 149.5km
Another sprint stage that’s harder than it looks.
Just 1650m of climbing in 150km of racing, which is easy for professional riders, but the final 40km is full of unclassified bumps. None of these climbs are hard, but I count 16 kickers, which is an awful lot. The stage should still end in a sprint, but we could see a team like Bora-hansgrohe come to the front and try to set a fast pace. After such a crazy start to the race, I hope today is without crashes.
More dark clouds are predicted, but this day should stay dry. The wind is coming from the north-west and will reach close to 20km/h at the end of the stage, which could cause a problem or two.
We have some crosswind sections early in the day, but the exposed sections are short, and I doubt teams will try anything.
The main worry for some GC riders will be when the bunch leave the town of Vitré with just 32km to go. At this point we have some longer exposed sections, but the wind will be a cross/headwind which is harder to cause splits. If the wind does edge up over 20km/h, I think we could see some attempts to cause echelons, especially as we have some narrow roads too. With 8km to go the road then heads west and into a headwind and it stays that way all the way to the line.
Lots of little kickers. No one will be getting dropped, but it makes moving up the bunch a little harder.
The hardest of the lumps tops out with 2.8km to go and leads straight into this roundabout, where the bunch turn left. This will help those who climb well to get the best position. The roadbook says that both sides of the roundabout are open, which seems strange to me as they turn left and don’t go straight on.
Roundabout with 1.9km to go. Both sides are open, the right-hand side is the best way round. Just after this the road rises again for 200m.
Right turn with 800m to go.
The road narrows with 600m to go as the bunch head left.
In the last 200m the road bends round to the right and starts to kick up, reaching 6% at the line. Given the incline and headwind riders cannot afford to launch too early. The finish is harder than it looks.
DS Cycling Mole
Time to polish up on my French as I head to the team bus of Groupama – FDJ.
Boys, this is a good day for us. We might be down a rider, but we have the power required to win this stage. In the final 3km I want King Küng on the front giving it big licks. The rest of you just hang a little back, Scotty, you hit the front under the flamme rouge. Remember the finish is uphill, we need to be patient and not launch too early. Jaco, get Arnaud to the front with 150 to go, then you launch. I’ll be watching on TV with Marc Madiot, we might get a little excited if you win. Allez!
Tim Merlier – his win today was the icing on the cake of an already brilliant season. Alpecin-Fenix were outstanding today, the lead out in the final 2km was exceptional. They will see this as another big chance, taking three wins in the opening four stages would be out of this world. Merlier has consistently shown this season he’s one of the fastest in the world, taking wins in his first Giro and Tour really is an amazing achievement. The uphill rise to the line is good for him, he has the power required to win this stage.
Arnaud Démare – he missed out today, but it didn’t look like he crashed. This is a big stage for the Frenchman, he’ll sense a big chance of taking a win especially now that Ewan is out of the race. His lead out isn’t as strong as usual, but it should still be good enough to get him into a good position for the sprint. Starting a few wheels back isn’t a bad idea with the rise and headwind.
Cees Bol – cast your mind back to last year’s 5th stage, his team dominated the hard approach to the finish line and Bol finished 2nd behind Van Aert. Then remind yourself about his win in this year’s Paris-Nice, the approach to the line was uphill and DSM again dominated proceedings. When the road goes up in the final 5km, DSM are among the very best. The likes of Benoot, Kragh, Pedersen and Eekhoff and stronger than most other lead out men when the road goes up. If they can dominate the final kilometre, Bol will fancy his chances as he loves uphill sprints.
Mark Cavendish – another one of the sprinters to miss out today, but he’ll be motivated to come fighting back in this one. His lead out might not be long, but I still expect Ballerini and Mørkøv to get things right and launch him from the front. This is the same finish he won back in 2015, where he beat Greipel to the line. This will fill him with confidence as he tries to win his 31st stage.
Peter Sagan – this is a good finish for the former world champion, but he would have liked the rise to the line to be a little longer. He came very close to winning the uphill sprint in last year’s Tour, he’ll sense a chance of taking what would be his 13th Tour de France stage win.
Mads Pedersen – we’ll have to see if he sprints. I think this finish is good for him and Stuyven, but I don’t think either will win.
Sonny Colbrelli – like Sagan, this is a better finish for him, but he’d also like it to be a little harder.
Wout Van Aert – the crash to Roglič should now allow the Belgian champion some freedom. This is a good sprint finish for him, he’d love to take some bonus seconds to boost his chances of taking yellow in the TT. He won’t have much help, but he’s shown before that he’s good at looking after himself in these finishes.
Good position in the final kilometre is essential, I think the Wolf Pack will do their thing and Mark Cavendish will take the win.
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