By David Hunter
Quincie en Beaujolais – Bourg de Peage 199.5km
The journey south continues. It’s the last chance for a sprinter to win a stage.
The opening 100km of the stage is lumpy. It’s perfect for the break to establish a big lead. If you can’t climb, this is the last stage for you. The final climb is 2.7km at 6.5%, but crests with 47km remaining, so that won’t be a problem for the sprinters.
An interesting final kilometre. The road dips down and then gradually rises to the line.
Not the easiest finish for the sprint trains. Three roundabouts in quick succession. Who’s idea was that!? Another stage where it’s vital to lead the bunch with 4km to go. It doesn’t matter if you burn your men, you need to hit the roundabouts in a great position. The drama isn’t over there, with the road bending to the right with 300m left. This is a challenging sprint finish.
No rain and just a light breeze. The riders are certainly getting closer to the sun!
There are an awful lot of riders sitting far down on GC, but as this is the last chance for the sprinters, there will be plenty of teams looking to control the bunch. Especially as the “big” sprinters have yet to win a stage.
Marcel Kittel – was put into a great position on Tuesday, but didn’t have the power required to seal the win. Not great, but it has been a hard start to the race. Despite having a shortened train, it worked very well. They arrived just at the right time, a good sign for this stage. If Quick-Step can put Kittel in that position again, they would expect Kittel to take the win.
Andre Greipel – the German’s old positioning problems have resurfaced in this race. Without a sprint train, and crucially no final man, Greipel can sometimes get lost in the chaos of a sprint finish, that is why it was a crazy decision to let Greg Henderson leave. Lotto will want to deliver him to the front of the race and hope he can surf some wheels. Given the technical finish, I don’t like his chances.
John Degenkolb – he’s been close, finishing 2nd and 3rd this week. His sprint train might not be very long, but with Edward Theuns, he has a rider able to put him into a great position. Degenkolb seems like he has good legs, he doesn’t mind hard racing, so I expect him to be challenging for the win.
Alexander Kristoff – another sprinter that has looked good this week, without taking a win. He’s managed a second and third place, but he would dearly love a win. Katusha has a good team here to support him and I expect him to be challenging for the win in this stage. He has a huge amount of power, the little uphill drag suits him well.
Sam Bennett – what a win on Tuesday! It was a delight to see a rider that I have known for a long time taking such a big win. Long term readers will know that I have been talking him up for years, it was great to see him beating the very best. If Bora can put him into a similar position, I see no reason why he cannot take another stage win. His time at altitude has been an overwhelming success.
Bryan Coquard – has had a disaster of a race. I don’t see it getting any better.
Arnaud Demare – after a brilliant start, he has started to slightly lose his way. FDJ do have a good sprint train, but they are getting washed away by the more powerful teams. His long train is ideal to hit the front for the roundabouts, that will give him a good chance to doing something in this stage.
The winner needs to enter the roundabouts in a good position. From then, it’s about staying high in the bunch and hitting the final bend in position 3 or 4. Given how his train worked on Tuesday, I think this is a day for Marcel Kittel.
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