A team time trial, a dress rehearsal of great interest to the teams ahead of the Tour de France but probably not as gripping for onlookers. This stage will reset the overall classification before the race heads into the mountains for four consecutive stages.
Pascal’s wager: Pascal Ackermann won, no easy feat given he’d been close the previous day and faced a hilly course that saw other sprinters in trouble on the day’s final climb, especially Bryan Coquard. Bora-Hansgrohe’s sprinter is just 24 and has two World Tour sprints to his name already and they’ve already named a street after him in his home town of Minfeld, Germany where either the local mayor is a visionary… or he’s a relation.
The Route: a 35km team time trial with about ten corners along the way. This is not a white-knuckle test of team cohesion, instead it’s all about the long straights and cruising at 55km/h. It’s not as flat as a polder, the road rises and falls a little but with the kind of drags where you try to hold a big gear up the climbs and then click up to an even bigger one when it dips down.
Rules: the time is taken on the fourth rider to cross the line.
The Contenders: it’s hard to see past Team Sky. They placed three riders in the top-10 in the prologue and Geraint Thomas probably would have won had he not crashed. So if they can keep it upright surely they will win.
There are three challengers. In order they’re BMC Racing, Mitchelton-Scott and Quick Step with the US-Swiss team probably the most cohesive on paper and the squad practices a lot for this. Otherwise several other teams will be racing to limit their losses, watch to see how they do as a reference point for July.
|BMC, Mitchelton-Scott, Quick Step
Weather: warm, sunny and 25°C but with the chance of storm clouds bubbling up bringing gusting winds and downpours but with luck only once the race is down. Advantage to the early starters but the top teams are all off late.
TV: the first team is off at 2.50pm CEST, the last at 3.53pm and expected to finish at 4.30pm..