By David Hunter
Neufchâteau > Fleurus 205km
Harder than it looks.
We have two difficult climbs in the opening 25km, a tricky cobbled sector with 25km to go, a proper little wall with 10km to go and lots of exposed roads. On paper it looks like a day which could end in a sprint, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Another beautiful day in Belgium. The wind is to increase throughout the day, reaching 17km/h for the finale. It might just be enough to create some splits.
Col du Sati is 1.1km at 13%, it’s a really tough one. It comes after just 25km of the day, we’ll have to see how the bunch approach it.
The approach to the cobbled section is on an exposed piece of road, with a perfect cross/tailwind. The pace will be very high and it’s possible to split the bunch before we hit the pavé.
The cobble section lasts around 2km, and we have proper cobbles! The road is also exposed to a crosswind, and we have a little climb up to the intermediate sprint point. There might be 25km still to go but teams will look to split the race here.
Côte du Petit Try is classified is 1.3km at 6.6%, but it has 500m at 12.4%, with a maximum of 19%. It is a leg breaker! The second ascent of the climb tops out with just 10km to go, making it very hard for the heavy sprinters.
The race is likely to be controlled until the cobble section. This is when we’ll see the big moves. The wind could be strong enough to see splits, which will put riders into the red before the start of the cobbles, then the fun starts!
2km on tough cobbles is going to hurt some of the fast men. It is perfect for some of the specialists to put the pressure on and see if a small group can escape the bunch. I say a small group as with 25km still to go it’s too far for a solo rider.
Then we have the wall with 10km to go. It’s one of those climbs you must see to believe. The bunch will hit it hard, and we’ll see big gaps. To be at the front for this one you need a huge amount of power, pure grit. Once over the top teams will do a quick headcount before deciding on their tactics for the rest for the stage.
Florian Sénéchal – he was stuck on domestique duty today, but now that Quick Step don’t have a genuine chance of challenging for the GC, he should be set free. The cobble section will be great for him, he’s one of the best on the pavé. We’ll have to see how they work out the team tactics, but this stage does suit the Frenchman.
Yves Lampaert – the stage also suits Lampy! After today’s disappointment the Wolf Pack will want to fight back. The cobbles and the steep wall are good news for Lampaert, watch him attack.
Giacomo Nizzolo – probably the best chance for him this week. The Italian can handle the cobbles and he should be able to hang tough on the little wall near the end. Although steep it’s one of those climbs where it’s all about power, sprinters will be able to survive and get to the end. The issue could be ensuring it stays all together, he’ll need some teammates to help with that.
Amaury Capiot – impressive form this week by Amaury, he’s finished in the top 10 in all three stages. He’ll look at this stage as a big chance, there is every chance the fastest sprinters don’t survive the final climb. This is when Capiot is at his best, sprinting after a tough day.
Pascal Eenkhoorn – another big strong rider who sprints well at the end of a tough stage. He’ll be in the mix if we get a sprint, especially as the finish will likely be too hard for Groenewegen.
Milan Menten – he doesn’t get many chances to sprint, as he’s usually working for Dupont, but I expect the stage will be for him. Milan is very good on short, steep climbs, he won’t be dropped. If we then get a sprint from a group of around 60 riders, he’ll have a great chance of challenging for the win.
Alexander Kristoff – is the final climb too hard for him? Given his classics experience it really shouldn’t be. Without a win this year, this could be his day.
Jake Stewart – Simmons got his first pro win today, could tomorrow be the turn of Jake? The young Englishman is very fast, particularly after a tough stage. Groupama – FDJ looked good today, I think they’ll have a couple of riders to try and control the attacks on the final climb and set up a sprint.
Quinn Simmons – he’ll be put in a good position by his team for the finale of the stage, he’ll then see what happens. He clearly has great legs just now, but there’s no need for him to force a move. He’ll follow the wheels and see what happens. We could get a small group getting away on the final climb and fighting it out for the win.
We’ll see lots of attacks, but I think we’ll get a reduced sprint. This could well turn out to be the Tour for young riders, I think we’ll see Jake Stewart get the win.
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