Tour de Wallonie 2021 – Stage 1 Preview

By David Hunter

Genappe > Héron 182km

With 2100m of climbing, this should be a day for the sprinters, but it could be the only one in the race. This means teams with a sprint option will be determined to ensure we get one, no mistakes.

Weather

A lovely first day for the race. We have lots of sun, mild temperatures and not much wind.

Key Points

Côte de Marneffe crests with 20km to go, but it doesn’t look hard enough to me for sprinters to be dropped.

Soon after comes this unclassified lump of 600m at 9.3%. With 16km to go from the crest we’ll see some riders attacking and trying to get away from the bunch. Once over the climb we hit a very exposed and narrow road, but the wind isn’t strong enough to cause splits.

Finale

The final 5km is almost arrow straight. There is a rise in the road that tops out with 2km to go but this should be controlled, and it should be quite easy to do so.

Contenders

Fabio Jakobsen – this will be the first time we see Fabio back sprinting; I can’t wait. There won’t be any pressure on him to get a result, but he’ll want to remind everyone of just what he can do. His sprint train isn’t his usual, but with Lampaert, Sénéchal and Van Lerberghe to help him, he should be in an excellent position for the bunch kick. It would be great to see him challenge for the win.

Dylan Groenewegen – his progress since returning from racing has been slow but he’ll be keen on getting his first win. Jumbo-Visma are flying just now, I expect to see them looking to boss the closing kilometres. Dylan will have Eenkhoorn, Roosen, Kooij and Pfingsten to guide him in the closing kilometres, this is a very strong sprint train. Most will be focused on how he and Jakobsen get on with each other, but for them this will be just another race.

Giacomo Nizzolo – it was great to see him getting his win at the Giro, it was long overdue. He approaches this race looking to kick start the second half of his season, he has his eyes on the world championships in Belgium. His sprint train is okay, but not as good as some. This means he’ll likely be in a good position, but maybe not the best. He has the speed required to win against this field, but he needs to start his sprint in a good spot.

Fernando Gaviria – he’s without a win this season and it’s contract year, not great for the Colombian sprinter. A few years ago, he was one of the fastest sprinters in the world, but his decline has been rapid. Gaviria looks like a poor initiation of his former self; he really needs some confidence to help him get back winning races. He still has the speed required to win, but he needs to believe.

Alexander Krieger – the big German sprinter is often underrated. He was part of the successfully Alpecin-Fenix sprint train at the Giro, but he’ll now get to chase some personal glory. Alpecin-Fenix arrive with a strong sprint train, if Krieger gets in a good position, he could surprise the bigger names.

Timothy Dupont – he’s always in the mix but doesn’t win much.

Kristofer Halvorsen – it’s taken a while, but the Norwegian is starting to look more and more like his old self. He’s still waiting for that illusive first win, but his form is certainly going in the right direction. Remember, Halvorsen was under 23 world champion, he has the speed required to win sprints.

Jake Stewart – it’s great to see him arrive with a proper sprint train in front of him. He’s still waiting for his first win, and although he prefers harder stages, he’ll be challenging for the podium. It’s going to be hard going up against some of the big sprinters here, but he’ll give it a bash.

Andrea Pasqualon – not fast enough to win a flat sprint against these sprinters.

Niccolò Bonifazio – he’ll be a little disappointed with his results this year, but there’s still time to turn things around. The Italian has a lot of speed, but I’m not a big fan due to his dangerous moves in the closing stages. He should be challenging for the top 5.

Prediction Time

It’s time for Dylan Groenewegen to get back in the winning grove.

David Hunter

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