By David Hunter
Blankenberge – Ardooie 185km
The stage should follow the example of stage 1. The break of 4 riders will get away with ease, but never get a large gap. They are allowed to take the golden kilometre, before the bunch bring it back together for a frantic finish.
We have a variety of crucial points in the closing 10km. The first battle is for the corner with around 7km to go. The next fight is for the corner with 3.5km remaining. From that point, it’s full gas. We then have the tight corner, followed by a chicane, with 1km to go, before a long finishing straight. You need to be fast, but also be able to corner with the best.
If you take a look at the previous winners in Ardooie, it gives you an idea of the type of sprinter who likes this finish:-
2016 – Peter Sagan
2015 – Tom Boonen
2014 – Nacer Bouhanni
You need to be fast and fearless!
There is a small risk of thunderstorms in the afternoon, but the finish should be dry. Just as well really, it would be chaos in the rain.
Peter Sagan – his winning move, in 2016, was as close to art as you can get! He danced his way through a non-existent gap, and somehow managed to take the win. His win on Monday was another example of his outstanding skill. Bora did a good job of keeping him near the front and he did the rest. This is a brilliant finish for the world champion, as he corners faster than anyone else in the bunch. His team also do a brilliant job of keeping him at the front of the peloton, inside the final 5km.
Dylan Groenewegen – the Dutch sprinter has a decent record in Ardooie, finishing 5th and 4th in the last two years. Jumbo have a team dedicated to helping him win a stage and they will hit the front inside the final 5km. He wasn’t brilliantly placed on Monday and he lacked a bit of speed in the sprint, but he’ll be better for that stage. I expect him to be fighting it out for the win.
Arnaud Demare – knows this stage well, finishing 2nd in 2015. The French champion was one of those sprinters who miscalculated the finish on Monday, never getting in a position to challenge. With a fast group of riders to help, I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again. He has good bike handling skills, so will be able to hold position in the final corners. This is a good chance for him to take a win.
Phil Bauhaus – oh so close to winning on Monday. It’s been great to see the rapid progression of the German sprinter, he has a huge future ahead of him. He doesn’t have a full team to help him, but Curvers and Teunissen are very strong riders. It won’t be easy for them to hold position in the closing kilometres.
Magnus Cort Nielsen – the Dane is riding with a hugely impressive team. Putting him into position will be Gerrans, Edmondson, Keukeleire, Docker and Kluge. That puts them at a huge advantage over the rest of the field. He rode well on Monday, finishing in 3rd position.
Andre Greipel – doesn’t usually go well in Ardooie, although he did win here back in 2011. His team are strong enough to lead the bunch at the right time, but he doesn’t corner as well as his rivals. The tight turn, followed by chicane, usually results in him losing his lead-out man and drifting too far down the pack. Do I see any reason this will not happen this year? No.
Marcel Kittel – QuickStep were awful on Monday. They sat too far back in the bunch and couldn’t move forward. Kittel seems to think that the peloton will part, allowing him to move forward when he wants. If he is to win this stage, his team need to control the final 2km and he needs to stay at the front. He seems to have lost this ability, I think he’ll lose positions in the final corners, much like Greipel.
Danny Van Poppel – I expect Sky to work for their Dutch sprinter, he was very impressive in Poland. Van Poppel is a good bike handler, I think he’ll be able to hold position in the corners and challenge for the podium.
Technical finish = Peter Sagan.
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