A stage promised for the sprinters and an uphill finish to test them and maybe invite some extra names into the contest.
Stage 3 Wrap: sprinters sometimes get a bad label as shirkers who only emerge in the final metres of a race. In fact they’re often the ones able to put down 1600W after five hours of racing when others cannot because they’re cooked. Yesterday showed them clearing the climb and trying to contest the stage win only if Kristoff, Bennett and Bouhanni among others were up there, their team mates were not and so the peloton could not bring back Fabio Aru who took the win. It was an odd move by Aru, he joined a breakaway over the top of the final climb where everyone must have got sore necks for the way they all kept looking over their shoulders waiting for someone else to do the work. Nobody would so when Aru jumped L-L Sanchez marked the others and Aru took a slender lead. It looked like it would never work but if the chase was on behind it lacked power and the Sardinian stayed clear for the win. Well done to him but it was not the result he wanted from this race and we’ll see what he delivers in the mountains. As it’s Astana team politics matter but it’s hard to see Nibali holding sway given he’s leaving the team.
The Route: a flat run past rich agricultural terrain. There’s not much more to add to say about most of the route as it has few obstacles. The 176km route takes the riders to a finishing circuit and when they cross the line there’s 32km to go.
The Finish: an uphill drag to the line, the final kilometre rises at 2.5% on a regular road.
The Contenders: everything says this is for the sprinters given the flat route and because many teams are in with a chance so they’ll work to to ensure it happens.
Nacer Bouhanni and Alexander Kristoff are the two premier picks. The uphill finish need not be a problem for either of them, Bouhanni has the lighter build and Kristoff the raw power.
Next come two more picks. Sam Bennett had crashed hard in the Tour of Belgium but seems to be over the injuries given his sixth place yesterday. If this was a flat finish he’d be rated even higher but the slight rise to the line could be problematic. Edvald Boasson Hagen has been trying hard, so much that he too was tangling in the Stage 1 sprint. The uphill run suits him but whereas once he could win on all sorts of terrain nowadays he seems unable to find something that suits.
Greg Van Avermaet is going well and trying to hunt a stage. Samuel Dumoulin likes uphill sprints and is almost a local but surely the opposition is too much. A similar story for Sondre Holst Enger even if he’s not a local. Trek-Segafredo’s Niccolò Bonifazio can pick off hilly sprints but tends to win a sprint from a reduced group after the hills. Julian Alaphilippe might try to contest the sprint but this may not be selective enough for him.
Finally Etixx-Quickstep’s Maxime Bouet is the local, or at least he was born in the finish town of Belley but has since moved away. A strong rider he rarely gets to play his own card because as good as he is he doesn’t have a speciality, he can’t climb or sprint with the best so he could show in the breakaway.
|Nacer Bouhnanni, Alexander Kristoff
|Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sam Bennett, Greg Van Avermaet
|Bonifazio, Dumoulin, Debusschere, Holst Enger
Weather: warm, sunny and a top temperature of 27°C.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.10pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then cyclingfans, cyclinghub and steephill.tv have schedules and streams.