By David Hunter
Saint-Apul-Trois-Châteaux > Nîmes 159.5km
Should be a sprint, could be a breakaway.
This isn’t a straightforward sprint stage, it won’t be easy for Deceuninck – Quick Step, they won’t get much help chasing the break.
The problem for all the sprinters is that the Wolf Pack has the best sprint train in the race, and it’s not even close. They have seven riders to support Cavendish, we saw on Tuesday that they still had five men for the closing stages, other teams need to ensure they have fewer men for the finale of the race. How do you do that?
Firstly, we need a stronger break. DSM helped chase on Tuesday, I don’t think they’ll do that in this stage. If we get a break of six riders it will force DQT into committing more men to the chase, meaning fewer for the finale. We also have an unclassified climb in the final 15km, this is another point which can be attacked, forcing DQT into burning another rider. All other teams have a short train, if they want to challenge for the win, they need to make sure DQT only have three men left to support Cavendish in the finale.
Quite a nice day for the bunch. The wind is coming from the north, so we do have a lot of crosswind throughout the day, but will we see echelons? The wind will be at its strongest at the start of the stage, and we do have an exposed section of crosswind after just 5km, but it doesn’t last long. After this most of the route is well protected by trees and the wind gets weaker.
With 44km to go the bunch head south-east and we have a cross/tailwind. We stay in this direction until the intermediate sprint, with comes with just 26km to go. This 18km stretch of road does have exposed sections, but it’s not like something we’d see in Flanders. It is possible to split the bunch, but the wind will need to be stronger than the 15km/h currently predicted. Once through the intermediate sprint the bunch head south to the finish, so no more opportunities to cause splits.
This climb starts with 15km to go, but it doesn’t look hard enough to put the sprinters out the back door.
Once into the final 7km the pace will be very high as the riders come down a steep descent as they approach town.
Narrow right turn with 2.8km to go.
Fast left hander with 2.2km to go.
Under the railway line with 1.8km to go.
Last turn with 900m to go, it will be taken at pace.
The last obstacle is this roundabout with 400m to go. Only the right-hand side will be open, those who go through first will have a big advantage.
Mark Cavendish – the pressure is on, but Cavendish has had to deal with pressure throughout his whole career. He’s flying, his team are flying, everything is pointing to another win. If Mørkøv can drop him off with 150m to go nobody will be able to stop him. Is this the day he equals the record?
Wout Van Aert – knackered after today!
Peter Sagan – podium challenger.
Jasper Philipsen – podium challenger.
Nacer Bouhanni – podium challenger.
Cees Bol – podium challenger.
Lukas Pöstlberger – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Stefan Küng – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Brent Van Moer – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Edward Theuns – breakaway hopeful number 4.
The start of the stage is critical to the outcome of the day. After today, everyone will be tired, including the DQT riders. If the break has six or more men it will stay away, but will it? The break has a much better chance than usual in this type of stage, but I’ll still go with a Mark Cavendish win.
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