By David Hunter
Saint Chamond – Arlanc 171km
After an opening stage full of incident, the race should continue to excite with another tough day in the saddle.
The main problem is the middle section of the race, with three consecutive climbs. The cat 2 climb is 9km at 4.8% and that merges into the cat 3 climb, 6.2km at 4.9%. After a break of 10km, the final categorised climb is 2.9km at 5.6%.
Combining the cat 2 and 3 climb gives almost 23km at 4%, that sounds tough for some sprinters. One thing in their favour is that the peloton still have to travel another 80km before the finish, that makes it likely the bunch will ride tempo up the climb. Lotto Soudal will be more than happy to set a pace that gradually brings back the break.
Once into Arlanc, the riders cross the finishing line, before heading out for one lap of a circuit. The finishing line is positioned at the beginning of an uncategorised climb, that certainly looks interesting. After the line, the road rises for around 4km at 3%, but there are a few steeper sections in there.
Expect to see all the riders make it over the tough middle section, this stage should end with a big sprint.
The long, straight road makes positioning easier than usual, but the road does rise in the final 500m. The peloton will carry a lot of speed into this “bump”, negating most of the gradient, but a lot of power is still required.
Looks like being a sunny day for the peloton, with little wind to worry about.
Bryan Coquard – this finish reminds me of the stage 4 of the 2016 Tour de France, the day that Coquard just lost out to Kittel. The little man loves this type of finish, he seems to pack more power than most, in an uphill sprint. Could this be the day he eventually wins a world tour race?
Edvald Boasson Hagen – didn’t get his win today, but he was very impressive in defeat. Clearly in brilliant form, the Norwegian has a good chance in this stage. He isn’t as fast as some of his rivals, but the uphill finish is great news for him. That will give him an advantage over most and he’ll be looking for a big result.
Sonny Colbrelli – “won” the bunch sprint today for 6th place, clearly he is still in good climbing form. The fast Italian is a fan of tough finishes, but I think he would have liked the final ramp to be a little longer than just 500m. In Grega Bole, he has a rider capable of putting him into a good position for the closing kilometres, it will then be up to Colbrelli to see if he can take his 2nd world tour win of the season.
Arnaud Demare – sat up early today, clearly he is focused on the coming days. FDJ are not afraid to back their sprinter, expect to see plenty of them in the closing 50km. With only Gaudu here for GC, the other six riders are dedicated to helping Demare. The uphill kick is good news for him, but it seems that most of these sprinters also like an uphill sprint!
Nacer Bouhanni – the first of the sprinters to get in difficulty today. He certainly didn’t waste any energy, but I think it was more than him just sitting up. I looks like Bouhanni is lacking racing legs, but today would have been good for him. If 100%, this is a good finish for him, but he will miss Christophe Laporte.
Max Richeze – is he cooked after completing the Giro? I think he probably is.
Edward Theuns – if he has recovered from his recent crash, this is a good finish for Theuns. He is a fast sprinter, but even quicker when the road goes uphill. Lacking a sprint train, he’ll have to pray for some good luck in the closing kilometres.
Alexander Kristoff – one of the sprinters that sat up early today. No doubt he looked at the stage and made the decision it wasn’t for him, stage 2 is much better for the Norwegian. He seems to be at odds with his team, it doesn’t look like he’ll be there in 2018. Uncertainty is not something that most riders cope well with, we’ll have to see if Kristoff suffers because of it.
Samuel Dumoulin – top 10.
Phil Bauhaus – the young German completed 16 stages of the Giro, before stepping off his bike. Hoping to benefit from that racing, he will dream of big things in this stage. I think he is a sprinter with a big future ahead of him, but can’t see him beating the sprinters already listed. A top 5 would be a great result for him.
I picked him for stage 1 and I didn’t see anything to put me off. A sprint win for Edvald Boassan Hagen.
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