By David Hunter
Le Chambon Sur Lignon – Tullins 184km
Another stage for the sprinters.
We do have four categorised climbs, but nothing to worry anyone in the bunch. This will be a big sprint!
The race to control the front of the bunch will begin with 5km remaining. First of all, we have a tight corner, before a roundabout just outside 2km to go. Both sides of the roundabout will be open, but the left side seems the shortest way round. This will cause panic!
The road is then narrowed as we approach the flamme rouge. This time, only one side of the roundabout will be open, making positioning very important. Once through this point, it will be very difficult to move up the bunch.
The advice is to hit the front with 3km remaining, it doesn’t matter if you burn a few riders, positioning is key.
There is a threat of rain for the whole stage, but that’s not the problem, the wind is. We should get 30km/h wind coming from the north-west. That means we have plenty of opportunities for crosswind action.
It remains to be seen if any of the GC teams want to try and split things up, but I would be worried if I was Richie Porte! Even if the race does split up, we saw in Paris-Nice that it is very hard to drop Kristoff and Demare.
Arnaud Demare – that was a seriously good sprint today. He was put into a wonderful position by Jacopo Guarnieri, but Demare finished it off with some style. We have already seen, in Paris-Nice, that FDJ are happy in crosswinds. They can throw all their resources behind their sprinter, that must fill him with confidence. The technical nature of the finish is good news for teams with a long sprint train, FDJ are one of them. He will start as the favourite to repeat his win today.
Nacer Bouhanni – looked like he missed Laporte today. He was stuck a few wheels back and even though he managed to follow Demare through the pack, he didn’t have the kick to challenge. This was his first sprint since his crash in Yorkshire, expect much better legs tomorrow. Today, it was Julien Simon acting as his last man, he needs much more from Soupe and Van Genechten, if he is to challenge for the win.
Alexander Kristoff – his team did a very good job today, Demare was just faster. With Michael Morkov dropped earlier in the stage, it was left to Rick Zabel to be the final man. Looking at the finish, the German wasn’t fast enough in that position. He delivered Kristoff to victory in Eschborn-Frankfurt, but the level is much higher here. Finishing 2nd was a boost to Kristoff’s confidence, as he picked up a cold just a couple of days ago.
Bryan Coquard – his team just went too early today. The lead out was looking good, but Adrien Petit needed to show some patience. If he had waited another 200m, it could well have been a day for his leader. I still think he has what it takes to win a world tour sprint, but his team need to do better. Do not write him off.
Sonny Colbrelli – his team quickly ran out of men today. He was left with just Grega Bole, with more than one kilometre remaining. The flat sprint is not wonderful for him, there are faster sprinters here. If we get a tough day in the saddle, with wind playing havoc, he will stand a better chance of winning the sprint.
Due to the technicality of the closing kilometres, having the best sprint train is very important. Looking at the riders in each squad, this honour is a fight between Katusha and FDJ. This should put Kristoff and Demare into the best possible position. I doubt any of the sprinters here have the power to come from behind these two, they aren’t fast enough.
With today’s win giving him confidence, it’s going to be very hard to beat Arnaud Demare.
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