By David Hunter
Breda – Venray 169.8km
The race begins with a sprint stage in Holland.
A flat profile and the break should still remain in front to take the golden kilometre bonus seconds.
Nothing to worry about here. The problem will be hitting the front too early, as you will get swomped and lose position. Ideally, sprint teams will stay near the front, but only hit the wind in the closing 2km. A long finish like this can often be harder than a technical finish.
Lovely sunshine and no wind. This guarantees a sprint finish.
Marcel Kittel – it’s his first race since having to quit the Tour, such a shame as the green jersey was within his grasp. That being the case, it might take him a little while to get back to race speed. He arrives here without his usual lead-out train, instead he has Richeze, the man that usually goes with Gaviria. We shall see how they get on, as Kittel always prefers to ride with Sabatini.
Andre Greipel – very poor in the Tour de France and disappointed in London. I think the German is currently at a low ebb. He is a rider that has plenty of class, I don’t expect this poor spell to last forever. I’m interested to see how Jasper De Buyst fits into the lead-out train, I would make him Greipel’s last man. As a team they have failed to replace Greg Henderson, something that really hurt Greipel at the Tour. I think that De Buyst could be the answer for Lotto, but Greipel needs to trust him.
Dylan Groenewegen – the Dutch sprinter had already made massive progression since joining Jumbo, his win in Paris was another huge step forward in his career. Confidence is a massive commodity for sprinters and I expect to see him flying in this race. Backed up by a solid sprint train, I would be surprised if he didn’t take a win this week.
Phil Bauhaus – the 23 year old is one of the rising stars of sprinting. Having taken his first world tour win in the Dauphine, he had a break from racing. This race is perfect for him to return to racing and he’ll be hoping for some good results. This stage is probably a little too soon for him, he’ll need a few stages to get back to race speed.
Peter Sagan – if the sprint gets messy, we know Sagan will step forward. He took a sprint win in Poland, but he did seem to lack his usual edge, this is a result of the incident with Cavendish. Sagan is an aggressive sprinter, but he seems to have dialled it back a little. This is understandable, but I don’t think it will last forever. Sagan is at his best when he is being aggressive. As I said, if the sprint gets messy, he has a huge chance of winning. Bonus seconds will be very important this week, Sagan will hope to start by taking 10.
Edward Theuns – back racing on the roads he loves, I’m looking forward to seeing what Theuns can do this week. He is out of contract, at the end of the season, and has some offers for 2018. It looks unlikely he’ll stay at Trek, despite enjoying his time with the team. A fast finisher, he arrives with strong lead-out men. One problem could be Stuyven’s GC hopes, he might want to sprint and go for bonus seconds. I hope the team go with Eddy.
Elia Viviani – Team Sky arrive with two sprinters, Viviani and Van Poppel. It will be interesting to see how they tackle the sprint stages, for once they actually look like a decent sprint team. The Italian won the opening stage here in 2015, in a messy sprint, he’ll fancy his chances again. A messy sprint can be good for Viviani, a rider that seems to always lose positions in the finish. The chaos does allow for a poorly positioned rider to gain ground in the closing metres.
Magnus Cort Nielsen – it’s not been a great 2017 for the young Dane, but his 2nd place in London was a welcome return to form. He ended 2016 with two wins in the Vuelta, but hasn’t kicked on as he would have liked. There is still plenty of races left in 2017, this is one where he should impress. A strong sprinter, he can benefit from others underestimating his speed.
Arnaud Demare – it was all going according to plan for the French sprinter, after a good start to the Tour, including a stage win in Vittel. Fast forward a few stages and his race ended in disaster, missing the time cut in Chambery. His exit was a huge disappointment to both Demare and FDJ, especially as they sacrificed the chances of three of his teammates. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back from this, he certainly owes his team a big result.
We have an interesting mix of sprinters, some of whom haven’t raced since the Tour. I think that puts them at a disadvantage for this stage, instead, I favour a sprinter with recent racing in their legs. I think we’ll see an unstructured finish and Peter Sagan will step forward to take the win.
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