Another likely sprint finish for sure. A hectic finale? Possibly, because the wind will get up later in the stage.
Fontenay-Les-Comptes: three riders took off and were kept on a short leash, just two minutes for much of the stage but just enough to contest the day’s sole climb where local rider Kévin Ledanois took the polka-dot jersey. So far, so formulaic but finale got frantic. First a crash that took out Arnaud Démare, no harm but he sat up and would miss the sprint. By contrast Egan Bernal fell but persisted in his chase like he couldn’t afford to lose time. The peloton had split with some riders caught on the wrong side and amid the jostling for position Chris Froome went cartwheeling into a field. By which time Nairo Quintana had smashed both wheels on a traffic island and had to pull up just short of the three kilometre to go point for help. It all meant significant time losses for the three top contenders, 51 seconds for Froome, Porte and Yates, 1m15s for Quintana. Consequential? Time will tell but it’s a lot of time to make up. One immediate effect will be felt on Monday’s team time trial. Mitchelton-Scott are last on the team competition with Team Sky second last and Movistar third last, normally the team prize isn’t a big deal unless you’re a manager or sponsor but it decides the start order in Monday’s team time trial so these teams will be off early.
In the sprint Quick Step ran a big train and dropped Fernando Gaviria perfectly into place with few other sprinters in contention and the Colombian made a long sprint to hold of Peter Sagan and a fast-closing Marcel Kittel.
The Route: it’s only a 50km ride from the start to the finish but the race takes a long loop around to the north. The start is hilly with the climb to the town of Pouzauges listed as 1km at 3.9% but it’s both a bit longer and the second half tightens up a bit. Hardly terrain for the climbers to exploit, just that it’s a bit harder than it may seem at first glance. It offers the early breakaway an obvious incentive with one point on offer for the mountains competition (in case of a draw on one point between the winner and Ledanois, the best-placed on GC wears the jersey).
The Finish: after crossing the A87 autoroute there’s a long straight run into town and then a technical final five kilometres where the road twists and turns through the town before heading back out to the edge of town for a nondescript finish, the Tour is too big to visit the old town centre. Within the final kilometre the road drops down to a roundabout and takes a sharp exit to the right. Then after passing under a bridge with 550m to go the final metres are slightly uphill, 2-3%.
The Contenders: Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) made it look easy yesterday and so did his team which strengthens his chance of a repeat win. Remember too that he won the intermediate sprint too. So he’s the obvious pick for Stage 2. Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) was quick yesterday, he just started from too far back so concerns about his form are lessened. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) was close but how can he outsprint his rivals? Otherwise the likes of Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-Jumbo) and Peter Sagan should be close. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) missed out yesterday and is one to watch and Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) was a creditable fifth. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) finished 36th yesterday and isn’t an easy pick but let’s see if he’s out of the picture today, ditto André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) who was 26th.
|Marcel Kittel, Peter Sagan|
|Kristoff, Groenewegen, Démare, Greipel, Cavendish|
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 32°C. The wind will blow from the North-East and is likely to get stronger, going from 10km/h to 20km/h in time for the finish which isn’t going to rip the peloton apart but it will make things more nervous.
TV: live from the start at 1.10pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.35pm CEST.