By David Hunter
Le Puy En Velay – Riom 177km
A stage the sprinters will be delighted to see.
The race started with two demanding days for most riders, things now settle down a little. The sprinters will be fully aware that chances are limited in this edition of the race, they’ll be keen on seizing this opportunity and it looks very likely we’ll get a full bunch sprint.
The final 5km is about as easy as you’ll ever see. The peloton are on a standard two-lane road, which is almost arrow straight. Experienced watchers will know that this actually makes life very difficult for sprint trains, as it’s hard to line out the bunch. Being patient is crucial, teams that get to the front too early will get swamped and lose their chance.
Another day that looks cold and wet. Someone forgot to tell the weather it’s June!
Sam Bennett – the Irishman has been one of the best sprinters this season. This year he’s beaten the best in the world for the first time, he no longer fears riders like Viviani and Groenewegen. Riding with confidence is massive for any sprinter, it always seems to add a few watts in the closing sprint. Bennett is joined by some of his trusted teammates: Archbold, Muhlberger and Pfingsten. Over in the Tour of Turkey, it was Pfingsten who was the last man, once he gets more racing in his legs, I would expect Archbold to move back into that role, but I doubt think he’s ready just yet. Bennett starts this stage as the big favourite, can he handle the extra pressure that comes with it?
Álvaro Hodeg – the Colombian hasn’t quite hit the heights of 2018, but a recent win in the Tour of Norway was a positive sign. Hodeg is a sprinter who I like to watch, his bike handling skills are impressive in the closing kilometres. QuickStep don’t arrive with their usual lead out men, but Gilbert, Alaphilippe and Stybar are very adaptable and can easily move into these roles. Winning the stage will be difficult, but not impossible.
Edward Theuns – Trek don’t arrive with a lot of support for Eddie, but in Koen De Kort he has a quality lead out man to help in the closing kilometres. After a difficult spring campaign, it would be great to see Theuns throw off the shackles and remind everyone of what a talent he is. It’s been a while since he sprinted for the win, I look forward to seeing what he can do.
Luca Mezgec – the Slovenian has more opportunities to sprint now that Caleb Ewan is no longer on the team. He’s managed to post some decent results, but struggles in full sprints against the quickest in the world. Mezgec is a brilliant lead out man, which means he gets into good positions, but doesn’t quite have the kick to pull off a win.
Andre Greipel – moving to Arkéa Samsic was never going to be easy, but Greipel seems to be struggling from a lack of support in the closing stages. The German has always been supported by an amazing sprint train, but that has now changed. He’s never been the best at looking after himself and he seems to be struggling a bit, which can’t be helping his confidence. It would be great to see him roll back the clock and take another world tour win.
Joris Nieuwenhuis – at the opposite end of his career to Greipel. The young Dutch sprinter is part of an exciting group of talented youngsters at Sunweb. He was second in a recent stage in the Tour of Norway and is a rider who will only improve. He should be challenging for the podium.
The fastest sprinter just happens to have the best train. Should be a comfortable win for Sam Bennett.
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