Etoile de Bessèges 2021 – Stage 5 Preview

By David Hunter

Alès > Alès 10.7km ITT

The race ends with a tough ITT. This stage has been used in this race for many years, most riders know it well. We have 8km of flat, with barely any need for brakes, then a tough 2.7km climb.

2.7km at 5.9% doesn’t sound much, but this is a horrible effort. Riders will try to save as much energy as they can in the opening 8km, but without losing too much time. The climb is incredibly inconsistent, and it features many steep pitches, this is a tough one.

Weather

Sunny, with a strengthening wind throughout the day. It comes from the west, which means quite a lot of headwind for the riders. If the forecast is true, it’s a good day to be out early, and almost impossible for the later starters to win the stage. However, not all forecasts actually agree with this. Another one I’ve checked says a constant wind of 15km/h throughout the day. Predicting the weather is hard!

Contenders

Filippo Ganna – what a win today, no doubt he was just warming up for the TT! The opening 8km is perfect for Ganna, but the climb isn’t. Now, he did win a Giro stage last year with lots of climbing, but he’s a big guy, he will lose time when the road goes up. Will he have gained enough on the flat to hold off the rest?

Geraint Thomas – the Welshman is usually very good against the clock. This route is great for him, he won’t lose much time on the flat, and he should gain time against most riders on the climb.

Michał Kwiatkowski – a good performance will mean 2nd on GC, a solid result this early in the season. The Pole is strong on his TT bike, but possibly not good enough to challenge for the stage win. A place in the top 5 will should mean 2nd on GC.

Tim Wellens – he has previous in this type of TT. Wellens will be confident of limiting his losses on the flat, and then doing his thing on the climb. The inconsistent gradient will suit his climbing style, it’s going to be impossible for anyone to take the leader’s jersey away from him, and he’ll have one eye on another stage win.

Benjamin Thomas – the consistent Frenchman has a solid record in TTs, but without ever seriously challenging for the win. He climbed well in Marseille, which will give him some hope for the hill that awaits him at the end of this run. I think he’ll be challenging for the top 5, maybe the podium on a really good day.

Mads Pedersen – the hill could be close to his limit; it all depends on his current shape. I think it’s going to be too much for him.

Alberto Bettiol – won the stage last year, can he do the double? As the level is higher this year, I can’t see him winning again.

Pierre Latour – another rider who’s gone well here in the past, but will struggle to replicate against riders of a higher level.

Nils Politt – the big German will have one eye on moving up the rankings, possibly onto the podium. His record in TTs is quite good, he’ll be hoping to possibly finish the day in third place overall.

Alexys Brunel – like Ganna, he was in today’s break. He was 4th in the TT last year, 17 seconds down to Bettiol. The Frenchman is a solid TT rider, I expect to see him in the top 10, but the podium will be hard to reach.

Mads Würtz Schmidt – another rider who’s right in the mix for the overall podium. The Dane is a capable TT rider, and he will hope to hold onto his 3rd place, but that won’t be easy against the likes of Kwiato and Politt.

Early Starters – notable TT riders who start early include Bohli, Mullen and Langeveld.

Prediction Time

Even the wind is scared of Filippo Ganna, he’ll take the win.

In the GC battle, Tim Wellens will take the win, with Kwiatkowski and Politt rounding out the podium.

David Hunter

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