By David Hunter
Penzance > Bodmin 182km
The race begins with a lumpy one.
With 3022m of climbing, this is tough day for the pure sprinters. There might only be three categorised climbs, but the day is full of unclassified climbs. This is good news for the breakaway, when opening stages aren’t a nailed-on sprint it usually swings things a little in their favour. The problem is Jumbo-Visma and Deceuninck – Quick Step both have options for this type of stage, we’ll have to see how much rope they give the morning move. Remember, teams only have six men, it’s not easy to chase on rolling roads.
Looking at the wind speed and direction you would normally think that we could see echelons, but not in this part of the world. The British love a hedge, most of the route is well protected from the elements and we won’t see any echelon action. On the plus side, it’s going to be sunny and warm.
This rolling section ends with 16km to go, it gives a good understanding of the difficult roads the bunch will face. Nothing too hard, but it will put fatigue in the legs.
The final 4km has two little kickers, it’s not easy. The first climb is 1km at 6.5% and the rise to the line is 600m at 5%. This is a complicated finish for the pure sprinters.
Wout Van Aert – a perfect stage for Van Aert, it’s almost as if the organisers designed it for him. Taking bonus seconds will be important in his quest to win the GC, I expect Jumbo-Visma to control this stage and set up a sprint. My sources tell me he is flying just now, I think he’ll be keen on taking an early win.
Davide Ballerini – I think the finish is a little bit on the hard side for Cavendish, but it’s perfect for Ballerini. He looked brilliant in Plouay; his current form is similar to what it was in March. With Alaphilippe to help guide him into position, he’s likely to start the sprint from a good position, then we’ll see if he can beat Van Aert.
Giacomo Nizzolo – the Italian loves an uphill sprint; he’ll like the look of this stage. His team isn’t as strong as his main rivals, I think he’ll have to start his sprint behind Van Aert and Ballerini. This will make it hard for him to win, there aren’t many with the power to come from behind Van Aert.
Ethan Hayter – his current form is off the chart, and he’ll have the extra motivation that comes from riding on home soil. This is a big race for Ineos, they always look to do well in front of their home fans. Hayter will expect to be challenging for the win, I’m looking forward to seeing him go up against Van Aert and Ballerini.
Nils Eekhoff – he doesn’t get many options to sprint for DSM, but he’ll get his chance this week. This is a finish that suits him well, he’s better in a tough finish compared to a flat one. Getting the win against those already mentioned will be tough, but I hope to see him fighting for the podium.
Rory Townsend – he rides for Canyon dhb SunGod, one of the local teams, and he’s fast. The problem will be positioning in the final 5km, he’ll have to try and jump on a good wheel and hold it. This is what happens when you ride for a smaller team, but Townsend has the speed to get himself into contention. A top 5 finish would be incredible for him and the team.
A tough start to the race, but the big teams should work together to make sure we get a sprint. I see Wout Van Aert taking the win.
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