Denain > Denain 202.1km
The cobbles continue in France with the 63rd GP Denain. The route is the same as last year, which means two finishing laps which feature a total of 12 cobble sectors. With the Tour de France containing a cobble stage, we have a few surprise names on the start list. It’s time to see what Roglič, Vingegaard and Martínez make of the pavé.
Nice and sunny, but there will be some wind around. It will come from the north and be around 20km/h. We have a lot of exposed sections, but the cobbles should be the main problem for the riders, not the wind.
We have six sectors that are all covered twice:
Haspres > Thiant (1700m)
Monchaux-sur-Écaillon > Maing (1600m)
Maing > Quérénaing (2500m)
Quérénaing > Verchain-Maugré (1600m)
Verchain-Maugré > Saulzoir (1200m)
Avesnes-le-Sec > Hordain (1800m)
That’s a lot of cobbles! The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th cobbles all come straight after each other; this is where the elastic should snap.
It’s one thing riding cobbles in training, it’s another doing it in a race situation, that’s why some of the TDF GC riders are here. In fact, it’s perfect really. We have a relatively low-key race, without the classic riders, a great way to test your cobble ability without any pressure.
What type of race will we get? Last year it ended in a reduced bunch sprint, the good weather conditions certainly help those who want a sprint. Even though they bring Roglič and Vingegaard, Jumbo-Visma look very strong to me. They have a couple of sprint options but would rather have a hard race. The rest of the teams either don’t start with seven riders or look a little weak. This race really doesn’t have any big-name classic riders, it’s a great chance for the Jumbo-Visma young guns to impress.
I think we’ll see the Jumbo Bees boss the race, they’ll make the cobble sectors hard and try to slim down the bunch, before a small group goes clear. They did this well in Drenthe, but didn’t walk away with the win, this is a chance for redemption. I’m not sure anyone will be able to stop them.
Jumbo-Visma – strength in numbers for the Dutch team, they have Dekker, Eenkhoorn, Roosen and van Dijke as great options for this race. Having multiple options gives them a massive advantage over most of the other teams, they certainly have the strongest team by a country mile. With Roglič and Vingegaard to work for the team, the protected riders will go deep into the race before putting their nose in the wind. The good thing is that all four of the captains have a fast sprint.
Ineos – they only have five riders in the race, but Sheffield, Turner and Narváez are all quality. Narváez crashed out of Tirreno, his current shape is unknown. Turner is the one who interests me, he is a very good cyclocross rider. I think many of us see his future in the classics, this is a great chance to show everyone what he’s got.
Dries De Bondt – his recent form is very impressive, especially his sprinting speed. The former Belgian champion will like the route, but he could find himself outnumbered as Alpecin-Fenix don’t have a strong team at the race.
Taco Van Der Hoorn – he enjoyed a day in the break in Kuurne, managing to hold on for 10th in the sprint. Given the relatively weak looking start list, he must start as one of the favourites. He doesn’t often try to win races from the main group, but he does have a good record in races like this. As we’ve all seen, he can’t be allowed a big gap.
Amaury Capiot – he would normally be one of the favourites in a race like this, but he pulled out of Paris-Nice after the TT, so his current health is a mystery.
Luca Mozzato – he’s started the season in okay form, but I doubt he’s good enough to win this race.
Erik Resell – it’s a rare opportunity for the Norwegian to lead Uno-X, I hope he takes it. He’s spent most of 2021/22 riding in support of others, it’s about time he had a chance to show what he can do. He’s big and strong, perfect for this race.
Jumbo-Visma will be too strong for the rest and Mick van Dijke will take his first pro win.