Seldom are certainties in cycling, but Bastille Day is sure to bring a strong French flavour to the day’s attacks, especially when it comes to being in the breakaway at the world’s biggest bike race on the nation’s most celebrated day. Beyond the skirmishes which shape the formative moments of the day, Stage 8’s 181km route from Dreux to Amiens appears to be one of the final clear opportunities for the sprinters to contest the honours. However, given the rolling terrain and potential for crosswinds, few things can be guaranteed in reality at Le Tour de France. With a technical finish which couple hamper and hinder the prospects of some of the leading sprinters thus far, potential is high for a new name atop the podium.
Fernando Gaviria has proven an impressive force at his debut Tour de France so far, which is of little surprise given his pedigree and powerful assortment of supporting riders. Stage 8 will be on his radar as an opportunity to take another win before the first rest day on Monday, which could position him nicely on the points classification ahead of the race entering the first barrage of mountains; the Colombian anticipated to be one of the fast men who copes best with the demands of climbing. He will need to be alert to the technical nature of the finale, but given his track experience, he shall not hesitate to surf the wheels if required here.
Dylan Groenewegen stepped upto the mark yesterday and took the win in some considerable style, distancing the likes of Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan with apparent ease. Having timed his run to the line to perfection, the Dutchman will be far more confident today and knows that this could well suit his strengths once again. The sheer power he possesses is enough to bury most rivals in a short enough sprint, so given that today’s final surge to victory may not be ignited until 200m from the line, it would be far from shocking to see another stage win for the young Dutchman.
Peter Sagan is certainly the most consistent rider in the sprints once again, playing the long game for his ambitions of the green jersey, even if that might mean not taking another stage win at this year’s edition. With the potential for today’s concluding 5km to become chaotic, the chances of the three time world champion winning certainly increases as result, with another podium place feeling assured at the very least in Amiens.
Arnaud Démare looks to be the best chance for a French win on Bastille Day, riding for a native team with plenty of supporting countrymen who will be passionately invested in performing well today. The Groupama-FDJ squad were only bettered by the imperious Quick Step team yesterday in regards to performance, positioning their lead man neatly in the concluding moments and staying out of trouble by avoiding any unwanted risks. With several crucial turns in the final 4km of Stage 8, this technical offering levels the playing field somewhat for Démare and his teammates, knowing that another convincing performance from all could place him in an unbeatable position. He defeated Fernando Gaviria in a similarly technical finale several weeks ago at Tour de Suisse, providing him with renewed confidence, while national pride on Bastille Day stokes the belief that anything is possible.
1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Dylan Groenewegen