A forgone conclusion is most people’s assumption when looking at today’s stage; seemingly a gift of another win for Marcel Kittel. With Cavendish long gone to have surgery, Griepel’s confidence and train issues, it leaves little to form a substantial case against the blonde bombshell’s dominance. Yet certain variables and events yesterday could well offer us a chance to see a new pair of arms held aloft as the first man home crosses the line in Reims later today.
With the technicality of the last 5km consisting negotiating the typical city outskirt road furniture of 9 roundabouts, the last of which for the teams is at the 1,200m mark. Reims offers the sprinters plenty of room to showcase their wares as the entry to town expands into a wide boulevard which finishes with a subtle drag; this may give outsiders a chance (of an otherwise unexpected) top 5 placing today.
7th, 5th and 2nd have been chalked up by Kristoff so far in all of the major bunch kicks during this first week; but today could be his winning day. With wet roads, a slight drag and possible crosswinds which could all hamper a Giant-Shimano train already carrying an injured Dagenkolb along with Kittel who touchdown yesterday on the tarmac, the playing field may be levelled somewhat for Kristoff at last.
Three top 5 finishes have announced Coquard to many viewers this year so far, yet a win seems to be slightly beyond him at the moment. With a fantastic lieutenant in the shape of Kevin Réza, who lacks no confidence when scything through the lead out trains for his man, Bryan is consistently in the mix. Able to surf the wheels of his rivals when necessary, a diminished bunch finish of those still suffering from yesterday’s war of attrition may play into his hands for the first French win this year.
Mr Consistent himself is yet to steal a win from Kittel this week, but with mountains looming ever closer, Sagan may wish to get a victory under his belt before the roads start tilting skywards.
Those who only hope for a stage win is in with a desperate ‘against-the-odds’ dash from start to finish, may well find favourable conditions today. Crosswinds may split the bunch into smaller and consequently less efficient groups, possibly aiding their escapades along with the the Côte de Roucy with less than 40km to go. With time gaps already so prevalent amongst the mountain men after yesterday’s chaos, teams may be less inclined to focus upon maintaing a presence at the front of the bunch in order to save their legs for the approaching mountains.