By David Hunter
Sherford > Exeter 184km
In terms of climbing, this is the hardest stage in the race.
The bunch have to negotiate 3500m of climbing, including three categorised climbs, this is a tough stage. Riders will look at the elevation gain and wonder if this stage will turn into a GC day, I think it could. The second half of the stage contains a lot of this climbing, if the bunch race it hard we could see a big selection.
Cloudy sun, and the temperatures will be nice. The wind will be cross/headwind for the final 60km.
The Rundlestone climb is 8.7km at 4%, but that includes some descending. There are two steep ramps in this climb, this is where teams will look to start the selection.
Despite being 2.1km at 6.4% this climb is unclassified, it’s actually harder than the final cat 2 effort. The crest comes with just 25km to go.
Steep kicker alert! 800m at 7.6%, with a maximum of 14%. Once this one is dealt with there is just 17km to go.
Another unclassified climb, this time it is 1.4km at 6.6%, with a maximum close to 15%. From the top there is just 14km remaining.
There are a couple of rises in the final 5km, but nothing too serious.
What do Deceuninck – Quick Step want to happen? I’ll let you into a secret, this is always my first thought when I start to analyse a stage. The second half of the stage is tough, I expect this to be a selective day, but it also could see a surprise or two. Most of the big teams have a couple of options, if the right move gets up the road it could stay away until the end.
As this race isn’t a big target for the likes of Alaphilippe and Van Aert, they won’t be bothered if they miss the move, as long as they have a teammate in it. Lying in wait for Deceuninck is the brilliant, Mikkel Honoré, and his current form is very good. The second option for Jumbo-Visma would be Pascal Eenkhoorn, a rider who should like the look of this stage. Movistar have Serrano and Jorgenson, ISUN have Woods and Martin and Ineos have Hayter and Kwiatkowski. With all the big teams having two options this could get very tactical, especially as the big hitters don’t give a shit about winning the Tour of Britain, it’s all about the rainbow jersey for them.
Van Aert is obviously the big favourite for the stage, as I mentioned in my last preview, he’s flying just now. Jumbo-Visma have a good team, but they are no one’s fools. If teams try to lean on them, they can send someone up the road and get others to chase. I see this as a likely scenario, it’s a great day to be the second-best rider on a top team.
Wout Van Aert – if the race is held together, he wins. If he arrives in small group, he wins. If he arrives solo, he wins! Safe to say that Wout has all the bases covered.
Ethan Hayter – Ineos have a strong team, and they want to do well on home roads. Hayter is enjoying a great run of form, but he won’t beat Van Aert in a sprint. Ineos need to play this one clever and try to outnumber the Belgian champion, but that won’t be easy either. They do have the strength in depth, expect to see Ineos up the pace in the final 100km. They’ll ensure it’s a selective day.
Mikkel Honoré – he was brilliant in Plouay, which followed up his second place in Druivenkoers – Overijse. The Dane is really starting to find his feet at this level, his performances this season have been very encouraging. This is a good stage for him, he goes well on steep climbs. Deceuninck – Quick Step will approach this stage like a classics race, and we all know how good they are at them. Expect to see Cavendish, Declercq, Ballerini and Lampaert all sacrifice themselves for Alaphilippe and Honoré, we’ll then see how the cards land.
Matteo Jorgenson – I’m excited to see what he can do in this stage. Matteo was recently going well in the German Tour, he’s a rider who loves to attack. The roads in this part of the world suit his style, we should see plenty of him in this stage. Movistar have a good team at the race, they should be interested in making this a tough stage.
Connor Swift – he’s got some legs just now has big Connor! After the Tour de France he took a holiday. That holiday involved breaking the record for cycling the West Highland Way, not my idea of a good time! He then returned to racing with 5th place in Plouay and he followed that up by winning the Tour Poitou – Charentes, he’s flying just now. Arkéa aren’t one of the strongest teams in the race, but Swift is a real contender for this stage.
Xandro Meurisse – the punchy Belgian rider loves a hilly stage. He’s not had many opportunities to ride for himself in 2021, he’ll be motivated to seize this opportunity. Alpecin-Fenix have punched above their weight this year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Meurisse go well in this stage.
Michał Kwaitkowski – a great second option for Ineos. With the worlds just around the corner, you can bet his current shape is good. Not only that, but he’s tactical astute, which makes him a big threat in this type of stage.
Shall I be boring and go with Van Aert? I’ll live on the dangerous side and take a win for Mikkel Honoré.
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