By David Hunter
Dubai – Ras Al Khaimah 190km
Get ready for sprint battle number 2.
The stage should start with a bang, as the intermediate sprint is after around 18km. With 3 seconds on offer, we should see a number of teams interested in either joining the break or keeping the race together. A number of the “big” sprinters missed out on bonus seconds today, meaning they should go chasing a few at the beginning of this stage.
Once we pass the sprint, the stage should settle into a normal routine. The break will go and the peloton will gradually bring them back, just in time for the final 10km.
The battle for position will begin with 5km to go. We have a big corner at 1.5km, this is the point where a number of domestiques will be sprinting for. Imagine most squads having riders that will have this point as their finishing line. The approach to this point is on a wide highway, we will see lots of individual trains battling for supremacy.
Once round the corner, the road gradually bends, before opening up for the finish. Last year, Kittel was in a poor position, but still managed to fly past everyone else. The final corner is important, but with over a kilometre to go, it is possible to make positions up before the sprint.
Very similar to today. We have pleasant conditions and a gentle breeze coming off the sea.
Dylan Gronewegen – took a brilliant win today. Jumbo have spent some time thinking about his sprint train and decided to reduce it in size. Not only that, but they brought their classics man, Timo Roosen, into last man. Riding with Jansen in front of them, they managed to time their attack to perfection. As I mentioned in my preview, the short train can be very effective, but difficult to pull off. The Jumbo boys got it just right, but it will be hard to repeat. I was impressed by Groenewegen’s sprint at the end, especially considering it’s his first race of the year.
Elia Viviani – QuickStep were brilliant in the closing kilometres, even though their sprinter only finished 3rd. Had Viviani jumped left and not gone for the barriers, he could well have taken the stage. It’s hard to imagine QuickStep not being in charge of the peloton for the final kilometre, but can Sabatini deliver Viviani a little better than today?
Magnus Cort Nielsen – the surprise of the day, especially as Astana were working for Minali! A fantastic piece of sprinting almost got him the stage win, no doubt Astana will ride for him tomorrow. Despite today, I don’t think he can win.
Marcel Kittel – as I expected, Katusha had a few problems. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them reduce the size of their train and just go with Haller and Zabel. Even though the lead out wasn’t great, Kittel was still in a reasonable position for the launch of his sprint, but he had a mechanical. I would expect Katusha to improve tomorrow.
Mark Cavendish – not a great day at the office. He doesn’t like failure, I expect a better performance in this stage.
John Degenkolb – was very close here in 2017, when Trek timed their attack to perfection. They were another team that didn’t get it right today, but they should be able to improve. They have experience and power, which should put them into a good position for the final corner. It will then be over to their sprinter.
Alexander Kristoff – I worried about UAE, but they did a good job. They don’t have a long train, but Simone Consonni is a hugely impressive rider. If Kristoff can keep to his wheel, he’ll end up in a good position. I don’t think he currently has the speed to win, but he should be able to finish on the podium.
I expect another dominant performance by QuickStep and Elia Viviani to finish it off.
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