By David Hunter
La Chaux de Fonds 3.95km
Start, go up a hill, go down a hill, finish!
This is a prologue that will be badly hit by the weather. It’s going to be cold, with morning rain and possibly a little snow. It’s to then clear, before chances of another rain shower, during the stage. Weather forecasts can be wrong, but the start times of the riders are quite interesting:-
1518 Rui Costa
1704 Ion Izagirre
1706 Van Garderen
1712 Tom Dumoulin
To decide start times, teams are allocated slots and they pick which riders go when. Sometimes, organisers put pressure on the teams to ensure that the star riders go last. This is so the star riders are on TV.
The big surprise is seeing Zakarin go out very early. He is the defending champion, so should be the last man out, but Katusha have opted to put Spilak there. It seems to me that Katusha are a little worried about the weather closing in for the later starters. We will just have to see.
The climb is 960m at 6.5%. This guarantees that a sprinter will not win. In prologues, riders like Kittel often have a good chance, but not in this race. The winner will have to be able to climb well. The descent back into town does feature five tight corners. Good bike handlers will be able to steal a few seconds, but everyone will hope it’s dry.
Tom Dumoulin – he has one prologue win to his name, the 2015 Tour de Suisse. He hasn’t taken a win yet this season, but I get the feeling he’s only been warming up! He’s been preparing for the opening TT in the Giro, so this should be a perfect chance to test his legs. He starts the stage as the favourite and will hope to improve upon his 2nd place in the Paris-Nice prologue.
Michael Kwaitkowski – his win in E3 seemed to promise much for him, but he’s failed to deliver on that early season promise. He worked well in LBL for Poels, but really needs to find his racing legs. Won the Paris-Nice prologue in 2015.
Jerome Coppel – huge recent improvement in this TT ability, culminating in bronze at the Worlds. He’s been very consistent in 2016, winning the TT in Besseges, 3rd in Andalucia, 10th in the PN prologue and 2nd in both the Criterium International and Pays de la Loire. He’s never won a prologue.
Bob Jungels – another rider who continues to improve in this discipline, but hasn’t really delivered in 2016, especially in Tirreno. He won the Besseges TT in 2015, his only pro win against the clock, discounting national titles. A win would be a surprise.
Wilco Kelderman – 2nd in Andalucia, but a rider with a surprisingly few number of pro wins. The Dutchman has only 2 wins to his name, again discounting national titles. He won the Tour de l’Ain prologue in 2011 and the Tour of Denmark TT in 2013. That did surprise me!
These riders are the big 5 and it would take something special to beat them. Someone from Movistar should challenge the top 5, maybe Jesus Herrada, but it will be hard to spoil the party.
If the rain comes down in the middle of the stage, those early starters will be laughing. In that case, Ilnur Zakarin, might just have an outside chance of success.
Against this field, Dumoulin stands out a mile. Only the weather can stop him!
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