I could almost get away with publishing yesterday’s post again given the similarities between it and today. A long day in the saddle with a couple of hills late on suggests a simple stage for the riders, but as we say yesterday, the stresses of such an exposed stage can lead to abandonments and gaps in the general classification very quickly. The wind could be another danger with such flat surroundings today and it would be no surprise to see echelons forming as GC riders try desperately to keep pace with those on the front.
Asked of the peloton today is not only almost 235km, but also two category 4 climbs in the last 20km; Côte de Maron and Côte de Boufflers, the latter perhaps being key in the final outcome with its 8% average. More of a launchpad for late attacks than a selective ramp, Côte de Boufflers may see an outsider charge for the line as big names look at one another with reluctance to chase.
Look out for…
Peter Sagan could be perfectly suited to the day’s terrain as well as the classic sized distance; but may struggle to shake off his rivals as the ramps fail to cause much damage to the pack. With a team content with burning itself out in the name of its leader and the kamikaze descending which Sagan can cause so much harm with, this could be a perfect recipe for Cannondale.
Simon Gerrans has continued to ride well despite suffering heavy bruising and road rash after being taken out by Mark Cavendish’s antics with the Harrogate finishing line in sight. Only absent when GC teams applied pressure on Stage 2’s Jenkin Road and the chaos of the cobbles, he has maintained a presence which defies his injuries. Orica certainly have the strength and depth to set Gerrans up for a fantastic run at this stage win; although stronger finishes may remain if the pack fails to diminish significantly.
Bryan Coquard has been a surprisingly consistent finisher in the first week, even if yesterday’s lead out by Reza fell apart at the crucial moment. As a duo there is no reason as to why they should not be able to maintain a solid pace over the final climb, in order to be in the mix come the finish line. However, it remains unclear if enough will be held in reserve by the two when the sprint is unleashed.
Marcel Kittel & André Griepel are by no means guaranteed to be present at the finish, but if they are, expect a more even contest between the two than we have seen so far this week.
Michał Kwiatkowski launched a late attack within the final kilometre yesterday and may try the same today, despite not showing enough to deem it worth attempting again so soon perhaps. Sylvain Chavanel was a surprisingly high finisher yesterday on an easier course and seemed to be keeping his powder dry as the sprinters tightened their grasp. With climbs coming late and France still after its first win of the Tour, who better than ‘Chava’ to cross the line first upon his emblazoned bike. Fabian Cancellara was also following similar path as Chavanel yesterday when attempting to lead out Van Poppel; displaying an ability to keep amongst the sprint teams, there is no reason as to why he could not slip off the front after the last climb today and solo to the finish.