A short stage to ease into the race? On paper yes but that paper requires a paperweight today because of the forecast for strong winds meaning a nervous start to the race.
The Route: 138.5km on roads to the west of Paris past exposed fields and small woodland. An early climb, of sorts, which should be enough to see the wildcard invitee teams go beserk for the 4-2-1 points on offer for the first three and then see if they can stay out long enough to secure the same points on the later climb. Note the two intermediate sprints which offer 3-2-1 seconds including the one with 3km to go, likely swept up by a leadout train.
The Finish: a long finishing straight going past the training grounds of Paris Saint Germain and if there’s a chicane of sorts with 2.8km to go it’s on big wide roads. The danger here is finish line fever, that riders and leadouts see the finish arch from a long way out and go too early.
The Contenders: Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) is in form and has a strong team in support. The long finish is fine for him and he’s good at biding his time, for example he’ll happily let Arnaud Démare open up the sprint and come past in the final 50 metres.
Otherwise there’s a very strong field of sprinters with Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) coming with a strong squad in his service. Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) doesn’t win often but can beat the best on a good day although his team isn’t built around him. Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is the new Dylan Groenewegen, he sat out the Belgian openingsweekend because of illness but is back and if things are windy then several team mates have a chance too from a late move, especially Bob Jungels.
Once arch rivals Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) come looking for a result and reassurance. Kittel has a win already this year and a third place in the UAE Tour but it’s still short of expectations while Cavendish hasn’t finished higher than eighth place so far this season.
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) are both capable of winning with their long sprints but others here have more pure speed but if the finish is wild because of the wind they could thrive.
Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott), Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) are outsiders, in terms of pure speed the names cited before are quicker than them but again if this turns into a semi-classic because of the wind they could have their day.
Jakub Mareczko (CCC) is very fast but has a low win rate against the top names. André Greipel (Arkea-Samsic), Bryan Coquard (Vital Concept-B&B) and Niccolò Bonifazio (Direct Energie) are the wildcard invites with Greipel offering the most reassurance, Coquard still hasn’t one a World Tour race even if he’s been close.
|Dylan Groenewegen, Caleb Ewan|
|Fabio Jakobsen, Arnaud Démare, Alexander Kristoff|
|Bennett, Kittel, Degenkolb, Trentin, Colbrelli|
Weather: wet and windy with a top temperature of 12°C. The wind will blow from the WNW at 30km/h which is sufficient to split the race up but there’s a storm alert and a yellow warning for much of northern France and gusts are forecast to reach 80km/h which will make things hectic.
TV: the finish is forecast for 2.55pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then cyclingfans and steephill.tv have schedules and streams.