Eneco Tour 2016 – Stage 7 Preview

By David Hunter

Bornem – Geraardsbergen 197.8km

eneco-7a

The Muur is calling!!!!

The riders have to tackle the brutal circuit, featuring the climbs of the Bosberg, Denderoordberg and the Muur. This circuit is done 3 full times and the 4th lap finishes 600m up the Muur.

As you will already know, the Muur is one of the most brutal climbs in cycling. It features enormous cobbles, proper old school racing. No longer in the Tour of Flanders, it’s great that we still get to see it in competitive racing.

Tactics

After today’s boring stage, the GC riders are exactly where they were. As it’s the final stage, time for a recap.

  1. Dennis
  2. Phinney 16s
  3. Tony Martin 24s
  4. Sagan 27s
  5. Terpstra 27s
  6. Van Emden 28s
  7. Quinziato 29s
  8. Van Avermaet 33s
  9. Jungels 36s
  10. Kelderman 40s

Some other interesting riders to watch:-

13. Stybar 40s

14. Elmiger 40s

17. Izagirre 44s

20. Naesen 51s

With three full ascents of the Muur, there is a question mark over Rohan Dennis. Yes, he is climbing incredibly well, but can he cope with the cobbles? The Aussie has never competed in the spring classics, not great preparation for this stage. He has done this stage before, back in the 2014 Eneco Tour. That day he finished 8:52 behind the winner. There is no guarantee he survives the Muur.

The pressure is on the other teams to break him. If they can, the race is wide open. I also think that Taylor Phinney will suffer on the climb, If both blow up, that leaves 15 riders separated by just 20 seconds. What a finish we would then have.

Etixx – Two strong options in Terpstra and Martin. They also have Stybar and Jungels, both sitting close on GC, so they would have to be chased if they attack. That gives Etixx a number of cards to play and we know how much they love these races. Expect to see the Belgians really put BMC under pressure.

Tinkoff – all in for Sagan. No mucking around from these boys, they will want to make the race extremely hard and hope to put Dennis into difficulty. That would leave Sagan free to battle against the other riders. Bonus seconds will be important and we know that the world champion is in tremendous form.

BMC – with Van Avermaet, they have a back-up plan. He does sit 6 seconds behind Sagan, so it won’t be easy for him to win the GC, but it’s still a good option. He’ll probably be allowed to have Quinziato to help, with the rest of the team protecting Dennis. They will just have to see how Dennis copes with the Muur.

Jumbo – despite having Roglic and Van Emden high on GC, Kelderman looks like their only hope. The Dutch rider should be strong enough to stay with the best, but it’s hard to see him getting away from the top riders.

IAM – they have three options: Elmiger, Devenyns and Naesen. All three riders are in good form and will feature in the front group. That will give IAM some tactical options, very important considering the strength of Etixx.

Breakaway Hopes

Quite good. Sitting over 5 minutes down are Boy Van Poppel, Lutsenko, Matteo Bono and Luke Rowe. Sitting closer to the leaders is Tim Wellens, but with a deficit of 3 minutes, he might be allowed to get up the road. It will be a hard fight to make the break, but you could be rewarded with a stage win.

Golden Kilometre

It starts half way up the final ascent of the Bosberg. Hopefully it comes into play!

Weather 

There is a chance of some afternoon rain and a little wind. If it comes, the ascents of the Muur will become even more difficult and make the race brutal.

Prediction Time

What happens tomorrow really depends on two factors:-

  1. How will Dennis cope with the Muur?
  2. Will Tinkoff and Etixx chase the break to set up a potential stage win and bonus seconds.

I think that Dennis will blow, under the pressure of Etixx. It should set up a massive showdown between the classics stars. Depending on tactics, a move could go on the final lap, or a group of 30 riders arrive together.

I’m not exactly sure how it will happen, but this is a stage for Van Avermaet. Yes, Sagan is in amazing form, but the Muur belongs to Greg! I think that he’ll take the stage, but he’ll just be short of winning the GC. The title will go to Peter Sagan.

OVERALL PREVIEW

David Hunter

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