By David Hunter
The race starts with a long stage of 226km. It’s an easier affair with no major climbs and it gives the peloton the chance to have a gentle introduction to the week.The last 3km is very straightforward as the small bump in the profile is too short to have any impact.
The end of the stage is very easy. A u-turn with 1.5km remaining and a very long home straight. The only obstacle is the roundabout with 500 metres to go. The long straight means that even riders with poor positioning have time to be moved into the correct place.
As the first 4 stages are great for sprinters, we have a good number to choose from:
Appollonio, Bos, Hushovd, Gatto, Von Hoff, Haller, Bonifazio, Modolo, Ferrari, Debusschere, Lobato, Matthews, Swift, Arndt and Mezgec.
In my opinion, we have two riders faster than the rest: Modolo and Bos.
Sacha Modolo is a wonderful sprinter with 7 wins this season. He was forced to withdraw from the Tour during stage 2 and hasn’t raced since. There are big question marks over his form and fitness.
Theo Bos is an enigma!He is wonderfully quick but woefully inconsistent. He’s got 4 wins this season but they all came in the Tour de Langkawi, against weak opponents. He has, however, the fastest sprint in the race.
Lobato won a stage in the Tour de Wallonie, and seems to be gaining in form. He will be a danger.
Debusschere also won in Wallonie and Lotto have high hopes for the Belgian champion. Unusually, Lotto don’t have a strong train with them.
Gatto won 2 stages in the Tour of Austria, against Lobato. This was a surprise to many, but it shows he’s in form and sprinting well.
Matthews is coming back from injury and should take a few stages to find some form.
Mezgec is the other quality sprinter in the field. He’s not raced since his national championships but is fast. He has to be considered a big threat for the stage.
I’m playing with fire here but I’m going for Theo Bos. The long finishing straight is in his favour and with recent racing in his legs, he should be a level above the rest.
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