By David Hunter
Dinant > Quaregnon 189km
The final stage is one that will interest the sprinters, but the puncheurs will sense a chance of upsetting the fast men. The issue is a couple of little kickers that are in the lap circuit, they don’t last long but they are tough.
Some forecasts say it will be cloudy, others say heavy rain. A wind of 16km/h could cause a few issues as the bunch head for the finish as the roads are very exposed to the elements.
We have a lovely piece of exposed road and cross/tailwind around the 140km mark. The wind will be around 16km/h, which is just about enough to cause some splits.
The lap circuit has a few lumps, this is one of the hardest. Just 400m, but it does average 8.1%. Last time over this climb comes with 12km to go.
This is the most important part of the stage. We have a horrible little cobbled climb, with an intermediate sprint at the top. It might only last 200m, but the gradient is over 10%. This is done twice, cresting with 28km and 8km to go. Both ascents have sprint seconds at the crest. What makes the climb even harder is the big turn that leads onto it, meaning the bunch will start with no speed.
It also means a massive battle for the front of the bunch. The turn is so tight it means that those halfway down the bunch will almost have to stop as the front riders go through. The approach to the turn is a fast downhill, I really hope it doesn’t rain. If the road is wet it’ll make the downhill very dangerous, it will also make the climb much harder. I don’t think anyone likes a cobbled climb in the wet.
The last two stages have been brilliant, this promises to be the same. There might only be 2000m of climbing, but the teams seem to be racing very aggressively this week.
The fast men will be hoping the lap circuit is well controlled, they’ll quite like another chance to test their legs. Normally a stage with 2000m would end in a sprint, but the cobbled climb will worry a few of them. The final time up crests with just 8km to go, that is doable for a solo rider, or small group. If the weather is bad, I don’t think we’ll see a sprint.
On paper this is a relatively easy stage, but it all depends on how they ride it. The weather conditions will have a large impact on how the stage develops. I would expect to see a controlled race, a massive attack on the final climb, then we’ll see if it comes back for a sprint.
Giacomo Nizzolo – a good stage for the Italian, but he needs to get rid of Groenewegen.
Dylan Groenewegen – he might be big sprinter, but the Dutchman can handle the climbs in this stage. For him it’s all about his position for the final climb. If Jumbo-Visma can get him to the head of the race for the tight turn he’ll have plenty of sliding room to remain in the bunch. This will be the same tactic that all the pure sprinters will try and use, but they won’t all fit.
Fabio Jakobsen – see above.
Florian Sénéchal – he’s the best at uphill cobbles in this peloton. I’ve watched him for many years, he seems to float going up cobbles. Deceuninck – Quick Step would hope to control the head of the peloton for the final climb, it’s then up to the Frenchman to make his move. Will anyone be able to follow? It depends on who is on his wheel.
Yves Lampaert – another Deceuninck rider who loves some cobbles. With Jakobsen hoping to survive for a sprint we’ll have to see if Yves is given the freedom to attack, I think Sénéchal will be the man for that move, but it will depend on who’s in the best position for the climb.
Quinn Simmons – the way he’s climbing I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try something on the final climb.
I think a solo attack on the final cobbled climb will win the day. This is made for Florian Sénéchal.
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