By David Hunter
Abbeville – Le Harve 191.5km
Another stage that looks easier than it really is. We have three categorised climbs, all cat 4. Despite that, if a rider is first over all three, they will wear the Polka Dot jersey tomorrow. That means a few riders will try for the day’s break. A visit to the podium is something that all riders like and this might be the first break, that is hard to enter.
The route is potentially hazardous. We travel along the Brittany coast, but luckily it’s to be a sunny day. We will have an 8mph wind, travelling across the riders, but I don’t think it’s going to cause echelons. The type of stage we will get, depends on who is in the break and who wants to chase.
Etixx have the yellow jersey, but not a clear candidate for the stage. Don’t expect them to bring back the break, if there is no threat on GC. Thanks to a crazy opening 5 stages, there are plenty of good riders, far down on GC. The crashes have also depleted most teams, leaving less men to chase the morning break. The pressure will be on Tinkoff and Giant, to chase down the break. Tinkoff can play the, we have a GC rider, card. If they refuse to work, I doubt Giant will be keen to work all day. BMC and MTN might get involved, but I have some serious doubts about the willingness and ability of some teams to structure a chase.
The finish is perfect for a few riders.
With 1.5km to go, we tackle the Cote d’Ingouville, 850m at 7%. Then we have around 650m at 1-2%, before the finishing line. This is a very tough finish and on the limit of the pure sprinters. It’s brilliant for Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb, Greg Van Avermaet, EBH, Bryan Coquard, Davide Cimolai and Tony Gallopin.
All of these riders will be delighted if Greipel, Cavendish and Kristoff get distanced on the climb. Positioning is very important. Once the climb crests, it’s vital that you are in the first 10 wheels. If a rider loses ground on the climb, it’s going to be impossible to make it up. That is the problem for Greipel and Cavendish. Alexander Kristoff is a better climber, so he has a good chance of retaining his position, at the front of the bunch. Marco Haller was in better shape today and he is crucial to his chances of success. Do not underestimate the Norwegian.
When looking at this stage, Sagan must be very excited. He’s been second, on two flat days. If he can eliminate Greipel and Cavendish, he’ll be very confident of taking the stage. Tinkoff say that they are here for Contador, but they must ride for Sagan. This is his stage to lose. He can climb at the front of the peloton and the finish is made for him. The team have some riders who can help in this situation, Majka and Bennati. We saw Bennati do a brilliant job, in the Tour de Suisse, and he’ll be important here. Majka can drill the climb, to stop any attacking, and Bennati can do the lead-out. It all sounds very easy!
Plenty of riders will look to attack on the climb. They know that Sagan and Degenkolb will be difficult to beat in a sprint, so watch for GVA and Gallopin to try from distance. The climb is just long enough, to create small gaps. Once a gap is opened up, it will be impossible to shut down.
Special mention for Davide Cimolai. Remember he won an uphill sprint in Paris-Nice, way back in March. This is a great finish for him, but what support will he get? Not much! He will hope that Pozzato is in good form, as he is capable of a decent lead out. Cimolai is good at surfing wheels and I would expect to see him challenge for the podium.
Watch out for the break. There is a strong chance of the peloton not cooperating and I would be looking to make the early move. Tim Wellens is a rider made for this finish. He is 25:44 down on GC and no threat to anyone. If he makes the break, that’s another team that won’t work. If Giant also get a rider in the move, I think it’s all over! If it all comes back together, it has to be Sagan. What a race he’s had and this is his type of finish. Although, I’m going with Wellens.
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