A flat route and a possible sprint finish but watch out for the weather as the forecast overnight has changed, suggesting stronger winds and it’s all on terrain so exposed it won’t take much to split the bunch again… if the stage goes ahead as last night the French government moved the threshold for permissible events from 5,000 down to 1,000 people.
Grim Plaisir: dire conditions saw the race split early and regroup only for a big crash to fracture the peloton again and among the riders caught out was Max Schachmann but he made it back. Eventually Julian Alaphilippe and Tiesj Benoot escaped from the reduced peloton and the duo held a slender lead on the bunch such that on the final climb Dylan Teuns and Schachmann were able to bridge across to form a quartet from which Schachmann won the stage and takes the race lead. All four look good for the coming days, Alaphilippe had been on antibiotics and complaining about the cold but seems to be improving.
There were plenty of losers with only 30 riders in the front group by the end and the second group rolled in minutes down with the likes of Richie Porte, Guillaume Martin, Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour, all losing time although they’re frequently on the receiving end in these conditions; they have room now to chase a stage win. Warren Barguil fared worse, crashing and then being paced back too flagrantly and got disqualified.
The Route: 166km to Châlette-sur-Loing, home of the Hutchinson rubber company, the last place in France where they still make bicycle tires. It’s typically flat and often on very exposed roads past dormant cereal fields and the final 50km feature some narrow tertiary roads. The course is south-east on the whole meaning a crosswind for much of the time but the route changes direction several times including in the final 50km with headwind and tailwind sections too.
The Finish: after a narrow section through town, including a tight roundabout, there’s 2km long finishing straight on a wide road which begins with two small rises and descents then it’s flat.
The Contenders: a sprint finish? Probably this time although the bunch could split on the run but if a group arrives it’s still advantageous to the sprinters who make it. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) is the top pick if he can get through the grim conditions with Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) close by and Elia Viviani still on the hunt for his first win with Cofidis. Once again take your pick from any of the classics contenders in the bunch too. Update: 10.30am: Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) rides too and is a good pick for a cold, wet day.
|Pascal Ackermann, Sam Bennett, Cees Bol|
|Viviani, Bouhanni, Nizzolo, Hofstetter|
Weather (updated): sunshine and possible rain showers, a top temperature of 12°C. It’ll be windy at 20-30km/h in places, not as windy as yesterday… nor as windy as tomorrow. The wind will blow from the W/NW implying a 3/4 tailwind for much of the day but the route twists and turns.
TV: roughly 90 minutes of live coverage and the finish is forecast for 4.25pm CET. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.