Le Tour de France returns after its first race day of this year’s edition, diving straight into the action with a 168.5km stage from Île d’Oléron Le Château-d’Oléron to Île de Ré Saint-Martin-de-Ré; both locations being islands. The creation of this stage, with its little elevation and open roads, was to strike fear into the GC riders at the potential of crosswinds eviscerating the peloton with ease. However, if current weather forecasting is to be trusted, the wind looks to be tame at best and rarely from a high risk position en route to the finish.
We have all witnessed how unpredictable 2020’s Tour de France can be, yet the belief is that this will be a sprint stage, which should allow the yellow jersey favourites to return home having avoided any peril en route. That is not to suggest the bunch will not be nervous though, as it could be theirselves that prove most dangerous on Stage 10 after all.
Still seeking his first career victory at the Tour de France, Sam Bennett shall be investing everything in making sure he makes the cut no matter the wind direction, ready to produce the stage winning performance everyone knows he has within him. However, it is anticipated to be a headwind in the finishing straight, which will raise concerns of a repeat misfire by the Irishman when finishing runner-up on Stage 3 in similar circumstances.
Caleb Ewan shall be hoping that his aerodynamic prowess in the sprint shall be enough to defeat Bennett once again, despite a smaller lead out train and having looked to have suffered badly in the Pyrenean stages last week. The Australian is very good at finding the right wheel or late developing gaps at the front of the sprint, which could be decisive if locked onto Bennett’s wheel as he opens up the sprint into the headwind. If Bennett or his team misfire yet again, Ewan will not need a second to capitalise and then seize another Tour de France victory.
Perhaps the most impressive lead out efforts so far have been in support of Cees Bol, his Sunweb teammates looking organised and strong enough to cause problems for his faster rivals. If crosswinds do prove damaging during Stage 10, Bol will have the protection and support of experienced riders in such conditions, after which he will be confident of being the fastest man remaining compared to any potentially fatigued pure sprinters remaining. Positioning will be crucial too, as will avoiding hitting the front too soon, both of which Bol should be confident of doing given Sunweb’s showings thus far.
Max Walscheid is the favourite to take the role of sprinter for NTT Pro Cycling in the wake of Giacomo Nizzolo’s abandonment, on a stage which he could be in the mix for on paper, thanks to its power focused finishing straight. However, the talented German will have to muster some of his best form to threaten for the win.
Trek-Segafredo face the familiar issue of deciding who of Edward Theuns, Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven should be the protected sprinter, though the inclination is to reigning World Champion Pedersen to lead the charge again.
If crosswinds begin to howl and the thoroughbred sprinters become shelled out the back; Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff, Wout van Aert and Oliver Naesen will all figure in the subsequent mayhem.
1st Sam Bennett 2nd Caleb Ewan 3rd Cees Bol