By David Hunter
Anneyron – Sisteron 228km
The longest stage in the race, in fact, the only stage over 200km. A long and mostly boring day in the saddle. The boredom is punctuated by 3 classified climbs and a long, unclassified bump.
The stage gets serious, with the Cote de la Marquise. It’s a cat 4 climb and 1.3km at 6.7%. It crests with 12.5km to go, but soon after, the riders tackle a short, unclassified climb. This provides two opportunities for riders to attack and stop the race ending in a sprint.
Bouhanni and Cofidis have their stage and it will be interesting to see how they cope with attacks. They aren’t the strongest team in the peloton and will need help ensuring a bunch sprint. As Bouhanni is much faster than everyone else, other teams will be reluctant to help. They would rather let Cofidis do all the work and see them have fewer men, for the closing stages of the race.
This can be a dangerous tactic, as if Cofidis stop working, the break will win. In fact, we might even see this tactic at the very start of the race. After his dominant win on Monday, Cofidis, will be expected to control the break, all by themselves. They might not be too happy about this and we could see the break’s lead heading above 10 minutes. They’ll be some angry words and they might be forced into working, or Team Sky will step up and control the race themselves.
The opportunists, in the bunch, will sense a chance to attack. If there is a sniff of discontent, just wait for attacks on the climb. However, it doesn’t look long enough, or steep enough, to create gaps. It would need a similar scenario to stage 1, if the break is to succeed.
The other sprinters to start the race, where Modolo and Mezgec. The Italian is away home and Mezgec has lost the support of Simon Geschke. The German was acting as his final lead-out man. Lampre no longer have a sprinter, so won’t work, and Giant don’t have the numbers to support a chase. If we’re to get a sprint, it’s all down to Cofidis.
That might not be totally true. MTN like getting involved in chases. They have total confidence in EBH and he has rewarded them with 3rd and 4th places, already in this race. The Norwegian is in fine form, and this finish is very good for him. He knows he can’t beat Bouhanni in a sprint, so they have to drop him or attack on the final climb, that’s the uncategorised one. In terms of their new signings, he has been the best by a mile and it would be nice to see him get another win.
We’ve already seen a few surprises in the sprints, with Benoot, Dumoulin, Keukeleire, Van Genechten and Navardauskas featuring. Orica have been active in both sprints and this stage is another for Simon Gerrans. If the gap to the break is held under control, we might just see Orica and Cannondale-Garmin, try to drop Bouhanni. The absence of Daryl Impey is huge and Gerrans will find it hard to win, without his trusted pilot.
Kris Boeckmans hasn’t managed to sprint yet. He was dropped on stage 1 and crashed on stage 2. He has been in tremendous form and this is his last chance, in this race. He, and his team, will be hopefully or one sprint. Without Modolo, the door is open.
I think MTN-Qhubeka smell blood. Eddy Boss is in fine form. They have worked hard in the earlier stages and nearly got it right. They have a very strong sprint train and he’ll certainly cope well with the climbs. My only concern is the peloton politics that could be played, early in the stage. They will need to show some willing to help Cofidis, but I think they will. The final classified climb, isn’t that hard, but the unclassified climb is challenging. With around 10km to go, there isn’t much time to get organised again. Coming into the finish, Orica and MTN will be the teams with numbers and I think EBH will take advantage of his fine form.
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