By David Hunter
Norwood – Murray Bridge 152.8km
The second and final sprint stage. Nothing much to talk about on the profile, only complacency from the peloton will stop this being a sprint.
We might not see the break escape until later in the stage as Mitchelton-Scott will be very interested in the opening intermediate sprint which comes just 18km into the stage. One issue is that this takes place on the flat, which isn’t ideal for Impey if some of the sprinters are interested in the points classification. The second sprint comes after just 40km, but holding things together for that long would take a herculean effort from the likes of Luke Durbridge.
There’s been talk all week about potential echelons in this stage. We have some exposed sections of road, especially as the riders head south for the final 25km of the stage. At this point the wind will be coming from the west, which means crosswind! The wind is predicted to be around 21km/h at this time, which isn’t overly strong, but in conditions like these the direction of the wind can often be more important than the strength. This will put the GC riders on high alert, but when everyone is waiting for something to happen, we can often be left disappointed.
The run for home is arrow straight, nearly 25km of it! With under 2km to go, the riders come off a two-lane road, and get stuffed into a single lane, before making the left turn. This is the first pinch point for the riders and sprint teams will need to be at the front. The next big problem is a corner with 300m to go, not great planning by the organisers.
You can also see the road gently rises in the closing kilometres, but the gradients won’t scare any of the sprinters here. One thing it does do is make moving up the bunch a little harder, having a good early position is the best approach to take. With a finishing straight of just 300m this is a race to the corner, those in the first four wheels can win, the rest are out of it.
Caleb Ewan – took an impressive win in Stirling, but he’ll be keen on doing much better than he did back in the opening stage. That day Lotto got the sprint train all wrong and Caleb was left way out of position. The long straight road to the finishing line means we’ll again see the washing machine effect, with teams coming to the front, only to be replaced by another. The Lotto train is short, which makes finishes like this quite difficult. We might see them changing tactic and looking to place Caleb on the wheel of a rival sprinter and letting him go from there. His performance in the opening criterium was hugely impressive, he’ll be hoping to take another win.
Sam Bennett – the QuickStep boys nailed the opening stage. Despite usually being a last man, Shane Archbold was put in front of Mørkøv, with the Dane taking over that role. This was a brilliant move by the team, with both men doing a great job. Looking at this finish, they’ll again be confident of dominating the closing stages and putting Bennett into the final corner with just Mørkøv in front of him, which will make him very hard to beat.
Elia Viviani – crashed hard in Stirling, it’s unlikely he’ll be challenging in this stage. Watch out for his lead out man, Simone Consonni, he’s fast when given the chance to shine.
Jasper Philipsen – the signs have been encouraging for the young Belgian in the race, with strong performances in the three sprints we’ve seen. His lead out isn’t too bad, but he’s brilliant at jumping on another team’s sprint train. After tasting success in the 2019 edition of the race, he’ll be hopefully of winning a stage in this edition, but he doesn’t have many chances yet.
Kristoffer Halvorsen – he’s been skirting about the edges, but hasn’t yet made the podium. EF are still trying to sort out their train, they got it right in the criterium, but not in the opening stage. If he gets in the right position, the Norwegian has the speed to challenge for the win.
Andre Greipel – it’s great to see him hungry and sprinting well. His position wasn’t great in the opening stage, but his sprinting speed was as fast as Sam Bennett. If Greipel can be put in a good position, he can win the stage, something I would love to see.
All the top sprinters cope well with windy conditions, it would be a huge surprise to see any of them miss out. The rider in control going into the final corner will win the stage, that’s why I think Sam Bennett will take his second stage win. QuickStep have shown they have the best lead out, and I expect them to deliver the win on a plate.
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