By David Hunter
Doha – Doha 135km
The organisers have decided to use this stage as their test event for the World Championships. The road race course is very similar to this, although not identical. We head out of the city and up the coast, before turing back and heading back south. Once back in Doha, the riders complete 4 laps of the circuit. As the circuit goes around the Pearl, it is incredibly technical. The approach to the finish line is actually the easiest part of the circuit, the rest is a nightmare.
The weather forecast is nice and the wind isn’t expected to be too bad. We are expecting 22km/h wind, coming from the north-east. That will mean a headwind on the way out of town and a tailwind back. Not great news if you want to see echelons. The race could break up on the circuit, but I can’t see that happening.
The other bad news for the breakaway riders is the length of the stage. At just 135km, it significantly reduces the chances of any type of move succeeding. This is as certain a sprint stage as you can ever get in Qatar!
Mark Cavendish – Today was a great result for Cav. After his troubles in Dubai, this was a big boost to his confidence. He did nothing fancy, get on Kristoff’s wheel and power past him. He’ll have much better support in the finale of this stage, with Renshaw, EBH and Farrar sure to be a big help.
Alexander Kristoff – Was in great position today but faded poorly. He managed 1240 watts for 10 seconds, during the sprint. To put that into some context, the top sprinters can manage 1600 for 10 seconds. In his defence, it was his first sprint of the year and he should be better because of it. He will hope that Guarnieri is there to lead him out.
Sacha Modolo – Looked very fast today. Of all the sprinters, the circuit suits him the best. He has exceptional bike handling skills and can look after himself, when others start to panic. His form was good in Dubai and he stepped up again today. If all the teams are present, his lack of a proper lead-out might hamper him. However, as I have mentioned, if he finds the right wheel, he doesn’t get shoved off.
Andrea Guardini – Still not quite on top form, but I get the feeling it isn’t too far away. Another sprinter that is suffering from not having a top quality lead-out man. Sprinting from 6th wheel is much harder than 2nd wheel.
Sam Bennett – Like Kristoff, today was his first sprint of the season. It wasn’t really a big surprise to see both of them beaten by men that raced in Dubai. If he is going to win a stage, he needs Shane Archbold by his side. He should have this here!
Looking at all the other sprinters, Moreno Hofland, is the only one that really could threaten to win the stage. He has the speed required and Jumbo can put him in a decent position. I’m a big fan of the Dutchman and think he has what it takes to step up in the sprinting ranks.
No break. The wind isn’t in the best direction for it and the stage is too short. We’ll get a big sprint finish. That means it’s Katusha v Dimension Data v Bora Argon. I love the look of this Katusha train, but Renshaw has the speed to hit the front at 500m. In fact, Guarnieri rarely hits the front, he’s not that type of lead-out man. Renshaw to Cavendish and another stage for the wee man!
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