By David Hunter
Valence 6.5km Prologue
The race begins with a fast prologue around the streets of Valence.
The route is mostly flat, but the final kilometre does rise at 2%. Looking at the map, you can see we don’t have many corners, this is one for the power men of the peloton.
Not all the riders will have the same conditions. The stage starts at 1200CET and the early starters will benefit from dry roads. The forecast is for rain after 1500CET, which is when the stage ends. If the rain comes a little earlier, it will end the hopes of the late starters. The wind is to strengthen throughout the day and it is coming from the south-west. This means the early starters will get an advantage.
Geraint Thomas – the former team pursuit star is very strong over this type of distance. He was 6th in the recent Romandie prologue, but he would expect to do better in this race. The course looks very good for him and Sky will hope to have a number of riders inside the top 10.
Michal Kwiatkowski – the former world champion has won three prologues in his career. He is a very strong TT rider, especially over a shorter distance. Without some of the big TT riders in the world, I think he’ll fancy his chances of winning the stage.
Jonathan Castroviejo – he’ll make the top 10, but the shorter distance isn’t ideal for him. On a good day, he could trouble the podium.
Paddy Bevin – the Kiwi has been in fine form. He was meant to be part of the BMC Giro squad, but after impressing, they switched him into their Tour de France team. His TT performances have seen a huge improvement in 2018, he was 8th in Abu Dhabi, 14th in Tirreno, 2nd in Itzulia and 2nd in California. After going very close to a landmark win, he’ll be gunning for the the top step.
Julian Alaphilippe – racing on home soil always seems to bring the best out in Alaphilippe. He has the power to contend with his rivals, especially over this distance. After a successful opening half to his season, he’ll be confident of starting this race with a bang.
Bob Jungels – gives QuickStep a brilliant second option. Jungels used to be a TT beast, but his focus on becoming a GC rider has been to the detriment of his TT ability. He should make the top 10, but a win would be a surprise.
Jos Van Emden – the only of the big TT riders to be at the Dauphiné. His TT form has been good in 2018, but he’s yet to take a win. He’ll be delighted that his nemesis, Rohan Dennis, is not at this race, it means that the Dutchman should really start as the favourite. He would have preferred a couple more kilometres, but 6.5km is still long enough for him to take advantage of his power.
Tom Bohli – the Swiss youngster was the surprise winner of the Romandie prologue, but he just missed out on the win. He is one of those riders who is starting to look like a prologue specialist. BMC are always competing for the win in TTs and he’ll be keen to prove that his performance in Romandie wasn’t a once off.
Victor Campenaerts – went close to winning the opening TT in the Giro, but then disappointed in the longer TT. He then quit the race, something that I have huge issues with. I think his decision was extremely poor and the team shouldn’t have agreed to it. If you sign up for a grand tour, you should try and complete it. I’m sure a number of his teammates who missed out on selection would have been annoyed at this move. Looking ahead to this race, he has to start as one of the favourites. As I have pointed out in previous previews, he just doesn’t win enough. Despite his undoubted talent, he only has one TT win in a stage race, that was back in the 2017 edition of Ruta Del Sol. After his actions in the Giro, he owes his team a big result.
This should be a day for Jos Van Emden. He is the best in this field, but it will be very close.
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