By David Hunter
Bourges – Châtel Guyon 210km
A stage that is harder than the profile suggests.
I mean, it looks quite easy! The riders actually face 2380m of climbing, in the 210km stage. It is a long and fairly demanding day in the saddle. The main issue is the final cat 3 climb, which the organisers are claiming to be 4.6km at 4.7%. The whole climb is 13km at 3.3% and that includes almost 2km of flat. You can see the climb better by looking at the profile created by the good people @laflammerouge
The climb begins with a little kick up of 1.4km at 4.6%, before the flat section leading to the first crossing of the finishing line. We then have 8km at 4%, which takes us to the KOM banner, but the climb doesn’t stop there. To end with, we have 2.5km at 2.8%, taking us to the sprint point. You would have to think that the break will have already been swallowed up by the bunch and the GC riders will attack trying to take the bonus seconds on offer.
After a descent of around 16km, the riders tackle the little kicker again, before 1km of flat to the line. I’ll remind you, the kicker is 1.4km at 4.6%, making this a very challenging finish for the sprinters. It should be a great finish for us fans.
Rain and some wind from the south-west. That means we have perfect conditions for some echelons!
The final climb will encourage many attacks, but moves by GC riders will be covered by their rivals. If it’s still together, we will see a rider like Alaphilippe going for the intermediate sprint, but he won’t be the only one.
Once through this point, we have a long descent towards the finishing town. The descent isn’t technical, with straight roads. This is bad news for attackers as it’s relatively easy for the bunch to catch them.
I suppose what I’m saying is the little kicker is the place to attack. 1.4km at 4.6% offers a chance to distance the bunch and at this stage, there won’t be many left to chase you down, if you’re not a GC threat. Plenty of puncheurs will be looking to attack at this point, especially with just 1km left of the stage.
Julian Alaphilippe – due to the power of Team Sky, he won’t be allowed to get away from the bunch. That means QuickStep will have to eliminate all the sprinters if Alaphilippe is going to win. This will be very difficult to do, making this a tough stage for Alaphilippe to win.
Tim Wellens – of all the GC riders, Wellens has the best chance of taking the stage. As QuickStep and Sky look at each other, he might just get a little bit of freedom. I think Sky will be confident of dropping him during the big mountaintop finish. Given his current form, Wellens will be a hard man to beat.
Patrick Konrad – finished high on Sunday and is a rider I do like. Konrad is one of those that gradually improves, last year he managed to finish 7th in Pais Vasco. The Bora man has a fast sprint, but I think we could see him attack in the closing stages. He’s not a serious threat to the GC riders, meaning he could get a little freedom.
Oliver Naesen – if he gets freed from Gallopin duty, Naesen will have a big option in this stage. The Belgian champion is a great teammate, he never complains about looking after his GC leader, but he still deserves the chance to chase some personal glory. Expect to see a big Oli attack!
Robert Gesink – has free licence to do what he wants. There is no way Groenewegen makes this finish, that allows Gesink the chance to attack. His form is good, I think we’ll see him move on the cat 3 climb.
Lilian Calmejane – this stage looks perfect for the attacking Frenchman. After a brilliant 2017, he is already looking good this year. Calmejane was 3rd in GP La Marseillaise, 6th in Bessèges, 5th in Provence, 3rd in l’Ardèche, but he managed to take the win in the Drome Classic. Form is good and I’m sure we’ll see him attacking.
Romain Combaud – I’ve been keeping a close eye on this French rider for a couple of seasons and I’ve liked what I’ve seen. Riding for Delko Marseille, he gets plenty of opportunities in “smaller” races, but the big races are still a challenge for him. He’s yet to take a pro win, but it will happen soon.
Arnaud Démare – can he survive? I think that Démare will be confident of making the finish, but he’ll lack teammates. On Sunday, he was left by himself and the final climb wasn’t exactly tough. He’ll need to hope another team does the chasing, as I don’t think FDJ will have the numbers to do so.
Elia Viviani – it’s a bold statement, but I don’t think he’ll make the end. QuickStep have other options for this stage.
Edward Theuns – as long as he’s not sore from crashing on Sunday, he gives Sunweb a big option in this stage. Fast Eddie is climbing better than ever and feeling strong. Sunweb should have numbers after the final climb, meaning they could chase down any late attackers, but they won’t be too keen on towing other sprinters to the line. If they want to join the attackers, Mike Teunissen gives them another option.
This is very hard to call. I expect there will be enough teams with a stage interest to chase down the morning break. We then have the chance of echelons, before we hit the final climb. I need to also consider the distance, 210km is a fair challenge at this time of the season.
I think a late attacker will strike gold and that man will be Lilian Calmejane.
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