A short stage to London where a sprint finish looks certain given the flat terrain and wide roads in the British capital. After yesterday’s slog across the climbs of Yorkshire today’s stage is almost a rest day but it’s never easy when the race speeds through at city at 60km/h. If you plan to watch note the earlier than usual finish.
Stage 2 Wrap
A stage win and the yellow jersey for Vincenzo Nibali. He jumped with two kilometres to go and quickly got a gap but seemed unsure, he kept looking back but held off the chase to win. Peter Sagan seemed to lose the stage being almost too visible in the finale but he late said that once Nibali jumped he didn’t want to chase his friend. They were team mates at Liquigas before.
The rest of the stage was as gruelling as predicted but the racing lacked fireworks for long periods, the TV producers forced to catalogue events at the back of the race such as Richie Porte’s chase to the peloton, Arnaud Démare’s puncture or long shots of Marcel Kittel after he’d been dropped. It was a hard day and the tension built towards the finish. Stage 2 and Albert Contador, Chris Froome and Vincenzo Nibali were already swapping attacks.
The yellow jersey is the ultimate prize in cycling and Nibali leads by two seconds. But does he want to hold this position? It’s one of cycling’s subtitles that a rider who wants to win the race often doesn’t want to inherit the lead to early. Now Nibali must pose for photos, give interviews and becomes the centre of attention plus the Astana team have the implicit duty to defend his measly lead.
Yorkshire’s grabbed all the attention but here’s a stage to London with a start in the university town of Cambridge. It’s flat roads all the way to London via the Olympic park. The South-East of England is the most crowded part of the UK and we can expect busy roads packed with street furniture. These obstacles and the way the riders negotiate them probably present the greatest danger of the day
Flat with wide roads for most of the way, the only pinch points come from street furniture like islands for pedestrian crossings. The riders pass under the 1km to go kite and sweep right past Buckingham Palace to finish on the red tarmac of The Mall, the broad avenue that isn’t a shopping destination. The finishing straight is the same as the Olympics and the Ride London-Surrey Classic.
Who’s going attack first? The question is not about identifying the riders, rather why would they bother? Going clear today has to be a futile exercise in sporting terms, a sprint finish seems certain with several sprint teams keen to set up a win for their fastman. So the only reason to go up the road is business, to get a team’s jersey on TV. But even the value of this has to be questioned, to try and fail might liven up the race but would you want a consumer loan, some laminate flooring or a rental car that was fun for a moment but failed within hours? A touch cynical yes but all that TV time for a breakaway isn’t necessarily the publicity manna we might imagine.
Marcel Kittel is the prime pick. He’s got the form, he’s got the team, he’s got the confidence and he hasn’t got to worry about Mark Cavendish any more. Despite all the teamwork and applying new techniques sprinting always involves a degree of luck, you make your own to some extent but the actions of others often spoil the best laid plans, you can be in the perfect position with 400m to go only to get swamped, flicked, nudged, bumped, switched, chopped. But what if the team decide to back John Degenkolb today? If so then it’ll be fascinating to see how this works.
André Greipel is the next pick. He’s perhaps not as fast but if there’s an open door he’ll take it in the 11T. He’s got a good team and the absence of Cavendish means a different sprint. It’ll be interesting to see what OPQS do now, a sprint train without their sprinter but Mark Renshaw, Matteo Trentin and Alessandro Petacchi can all be given the job for a day however their chances against Kittel and Co. seem reduced.
Arnaud Démare is the third pick. The Frenchman has won on the same road before when he took the Ride London classic last August but that’s anecdotal, it’s his fast sprint that makes him likely to triumph… but he’s been complaining of a sore wrist. Fellow Frenchman Bryan Coquard is doing very well so far too, twice winning the intermediate sprints which have been the only contests of straight speed on a flat road we’ve had so far.
Alexander Kristoff is another who’s won a sprint on The Mall as he was third in the Olympic road race and first in the breakaway. Today’s stage might be too easy though as the Norwegian often triumphs in long distance races in grim conditions, the last sprinter standing in Milan-Sanremo.
Peter Sagan will contest the sprint but as ever his chances of beating the specialist sprinters is reduced. He’ll be in the mix and has green jersey points to grab but I wonder if Elia Viviani is the faster in a straight line. Watch also for Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) and Romain Feillu (Bretagne-Séché).
There’s the possibility of a late attack but an ambush always needs some cover or a distraction and there’s little on supply, only if the sprint trains relent and there’s hesitation could someone take off.
|André Greipel, John Degenkolb
|Arnaud Démare, Bryan Coquard, Alexander Kristoff
TV: live from start to finish. But tune in for the sprint action. Today’s stage has an unusually early finish that’s planned for 3.50pm UK time / 4.50pm Euro time. The race will pass the Olympic park around half an hour before this and tune in to watch the speed soar and the famous landmarks fly by.
Weather: cloudy with a top temperature of reaching 22°C. There’s the chance of rain in the afternoon but the latest is that it should stay dry.
Transfer: the stage finishes in London but the race convoy keeps going to France with the idea of getting all the riders to France for dinner and a massage. The riders will fly from London City Airport to Le Touquet while the rest of the race convoy goes by ferry from the port of Dover. But perhaps one rider has alternative plans?