By David Hunter
Lanaken – Lanaken 154.2km
The last day for the sprinters.
Yet again, this stage will follow the same schedule as the rest of the week. A break of 4/5 goes up the road, mainly with pro-conti riders, before the bunch brings it back in the last 20km.
Not as technical as stage 3, but harder than stage 1. The corners are good news for the lead-out trains, it gives them something to race for. I expect a very structured finish, one that will be dominated by a couple of the sprint trains.
Looks like the peloton will need their rain jackets. It shouldn’t be as heavy as in the TT, but it won’t be a very pleasant day for the bunch.
Marcel Kittel – sat out today’s sprint, at the time I am writing this, I don’t know why. This finish should suit the German much more than the other two sprints. The slightly technical corners will stretch the bunch out and he can use the finishing straight to move up the bunch. However, Kittel is a confidence rider, currently he looks a little down on himself. The team will expect more from him.
Andre Greipel – yet again, he failed to do well in Ardooie. He is very similar to Kittel, this stage is much better for him. Lotto have done a good job in preparing the sprints, but Greipel is yet to build a relationship with Jasper De Buyst. I expect the team to put Greipel into a good position, we’ll have to wait and see if he can deliver the win.
Peter Sagan – two stage wins and sitting in a strong position on GC. The world champion is level on time with Dumoulin and just 5 seconds behind Stefan Kung. If he manages to win, or finish second, he’ll move back into the race lead, ahead of some challenging stages. Sagan is clearly flying just now and he has a team that can match his ambition. The work of his train often goes without mention, but they have been brilliant this season. Now sitting on 99 pro wins, can he take his 100th in this stage?
Dylan Groenewegen – he’s been just off the pace required to make the podium, but I think he will still be confident of challenging in this stage. Jumbo have done good work in the sprints and Groenewegen will be keen to reward his teammates with a stage win. He has the speed, he has the confidence, he has the team.
Arnaud Demare – not been a great couple of sprints for the French champion. I don’t see him turning things around.
Magnus Cort Nielsen – has a team dedicated to helping him challenge for a stage. He’s been close in the two sprints, without seriously challenging for the win. I think his team will again put him into a good spot and the Dane should finish in the top 5.
Edward Theuns – what a fantastic sprint from him today. Trek did a great job of delivering him into a good position and he finished well to take second place. Despite being a great result, he’ll still be a little disappointed, but he shouldn’t be. With Stuyven and Van Poppel, he has two of the best leading him out. I expect to see him challenging for the win.
Phil Bauhaus – great on Monday, but didn’t get it quite right on Wednesday. The kid is young, he’ll have good and bad days. This looks like a better sprint from him and Sunweb have done well to position him, despite only having a few men to help. He should be challenging for the podium.
This is a sprint that doesn’t really suit Peter Sagan, but he does like a rainy day. Instead, I’ll go with another sprinter who doesn’t mind the rain. Step forward, Dylan Groenewegen.
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