By David Hunter
Eurre > Eurre 178.5km
After today’s fun, the main protagonists will be back for round 2.
The Drôme Classic is significantly easier than Ardèche, it only has 2290m of climbing in 179km of racing. The first half of the day is relatively straightforward, but things start to get much harder in the second half.
The finale kicks off with this climb which comes after 134km. This is the longest climb of the day, and the gradients are tough enough to see riders dropped.
The final 30km of the race is punctuated with short, steep climbs. This one is on quite a narrow road and is 1.3km at 9.1%.
Then with 17km to go the bunch climb the Mur d’Allex, which they’ve already covered early in the race. The climb reminds me of something we would see in Andalucía, it is very steep and cuts through the tiny streets of a little village. From the top there’s only 16km to go, but plenty of climbing still to do.
Côte de la Calendre is up next, this will be the third time up for the bunch. It’s not the steepest, but it is quite narrow. From the crest there is just 10km to go, but with one big effort remaining.
Same as the previous climb this is the third time the bunch will go up the Mur d’Eurre in the day. This one is nice and steep, and the crest is just over 4km from the finish. First to the top should win the race.
A stunning day for this time of year. Temperatures will reach 15 degrees and there’s lots of sunshine.
There might only be 2290m of climbing, but most of this comes late in the race. With so many steep kickers in the final 20km, this race should be quite selective, but not as much as in the Ardèche Classic.
We’ll have to see which teams want to try and dictate the race, I would imagine most of the teams will be looking towards DQT and Astana, as they looked the strongest by a considerable margin, but after today EF, FDJ and AG2R will have to shoulder a lot of the work back in the bunch.
DQT – their best rider today was Honoré, it’s good to see my big Danish pal start the season well. This race suits him better, I expect him to be one of the protected riders, but someone like Bagioli should also like the look of this one. As today was the first race of the year for many of the squad, they should be better in this one. Despite today’s results, they’ll start as the team to beat.
Astana – Vlasov was their best man today, I wonder if they’ll turn to Fraile for this one. The likes of Fuglsang and Izagirre don’t really suit the parcour, but good riders can always do well. I don’t see them having one of the big favourites, but they could surprise.
AG2R – they have three riders in the top seven today. I expect to see Champoussin, Godon and Paret-Peintre fighting for the win, which gives them a big advantage compared to some other teams. The punchy climbs should suit Champoussin best, but it will depend on how the race develops.
FDJ – Gaudu won today, can he double up? The simple answer is yes, he’s a quality climber and packs a good sprint. FDJ don’t have other options, it should be all in for Gaudu.
UAE – Rui Costa is their best option, but top 5 might be the best he can achieve.
EF – big Hugh went close today, but this race isn’t really suited to him. Simon Carr also impressed; he’s settled in nicely. I would think that this race is better for Magnus Cort and Alberto Bettiol, both should be able to survive the punchy climbs.
Simon Clarke – he’s the defending champion, but retaining his crown will be hard. He was a DNF today, which means he’s saving something back for this race. Expect to see him attack, not simply wait to be isolated by the bigger teams.
Quinn Simmons – tenth today was a good start to this season. I was impressed to see how he coped with the steep climbs, and I think this race is better for him. I would think he’ll be challenging for the win.
Alexis Vuillermoz – his type of race. It was good to see him back to something near his best on the Mur de Fayence, which is perfect preparation for this race. He sat out today, no doubt knowing that this one is much better for him. After all his injury troubles, it would be great to see him taking the win.
Daryl Impey – current form doesn’t seem great, but he has to be included as one of the favourites for this race.
AG2R look nice and strong to me. I’ll take a win for Aurélien Paret-Peintre.
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