Etoile de Bessèges 2021 – Stage 2 Preview

By David Hunter

Saint-Geniès > La Calmette 154km


The second stage looks like a straightforward affair, we should get our first big sprint of the season. There are a couple of climbs along the way, but nothing to worry the peloton. The last little kicker is 800m at 4%, and it crests with around 9km to go. Don’t expect any big attacks, the sprint teams will have this well controlled.


There could be a little rain around in the afternoon, but it might miss the race. The wind will again be almost non-existent, which is just as well as the final 5km is wide open and perfect for echelons. What wind there is will be coming from the right as the riders approach the line.


The final turn comes with 4.6km to go, then it’s a straight road until the finish. We do have one slight problem, this roundabout with just 500m left.

The roadbook doesn’t say much, but back in 2019 both sides were open, so I assume it will be the same this year. As you can see from the picture, both sides are equidistant. There’s no cheating on the roundabout, the riders will have to stay on the tarmac, which means they have to watch their speed. Once out, it’s full gas to the finish.

DS Cycling Mole

For this stage I’ll be taking over as the DS for Trek-Segafredo. Please note, some names have been altered to protect the identity of the riders;)

Right boys sit yourself down and listen up. This day is nice and easy, sit back in the bunch and chat to your pals. The roads towards the end of the stage aren’t the widest, I need you switched on and in a good position with 10km to go. Don’t go hitting the front though, just hold back and wait for the final 3km. Mulso, once we pass under the 3km flag, I need you to get near the front, but still not on the front, we’ll let some other chumps burn their matches. Kirschy, you know what to do. Use that height of yours to see what’s happening, remember, the roundabout is with 500 to go, so I want you ready to hit the front just after the flamme rouge. As the wind is coming from the right, I want you to take us round the left-hand side. Fast Eddie, you need launch as soon as we’re through the roundabout. Make sure you swing off to the right, making the others come round the windier side of the road.

Now Mads, you beat the big German fella in the Tour of Poland, you have what it takes to do it again. You were good in stage 1, but you’ll be even better in stage 2. Have confidence in the boys, they’ll deliver you perfectly, then it’s a big old power sprint.


Pascal Ackermann – he’s the top sprinter in the field, according to the stats. The German is very fast, but doesn’t have his usual sprint train at his disposal. In fairness, he doesn’t often need a train, he sometimes asks to be placed near the front of the race with 2km to go and he does the rest. 2020 was a mixed year for him, but he still managed wins in some of the biggest races in the world, beating top line sprinters along the way. If he gets a good position, he’ll be tough to beat.

Mads Pedersen – he has the best lead out and previous for beating Ackermann. If the boys follow my instructions, he’ll be fine.

Bryan Coquard – can’t see him winning this flat sprint, his lead out isn’t good enough to get him near the front.

Nacer Bouhanni – 2020 was a year of redemption for Nacer, as he started to remind everyone just how fast he is. Arkéa are at this race with a team fully focussed on him, that will give Nacer confidence, and also help in the closing stages. With no GC riders hiding in the bunch, they can go full gas and try to grab control of the bunch for the roundabout, it’s then over to Bouhanni. It’s been a while since he’s won against the top sprinters, but his performance in stage 1 was hugely impressive. A confident Bouhanni, is a good Bouhanni.

Tim Merlier – has a poor sprint train, he can forget about winning.

Rudy Barbier – he started 2020 well, can he repeat the trick? ISUN don’t have the strongest sprint train, that means Barbier will be left hoping to challenge for the podium, but more likely to be lower down the top 10.

Giacomo Nizzolo – he was the one that mentioned his knee, but 4th place today suggests he is just fine. His sprint train doesn’t look the best to me, but he should be fighting for the podium.

Gerben Thijssen – if you watched the Vuelta, you would have noticed this young Belgian sprinter. With the likes of Gilbert, Oldani and Degenkolb to help with positioning, he should be able to launch his sprint from a good position. Still just 22, he is a rider who can achieve a lot in the sport, but I hope to see him shine sooner rather than later.

Prediction Time

My Trek-Segafredo boys will follow the plan, and Mads Pedersen will take the win. Champagne for me tonight!

David Hunter

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