L’Escala > Perpignan 201.9km
The second stage should be an opportunity for the pure sprinters. We only have 2306m of climbing over the 200km, with the last of the classified climbs cresting with over 60km to go. Expect to see Bahrain, BikeExchange and UAE look to ensure the break is weak. A small move featuring riders from the Spanish pro-conti teams is exactly what they’re looking for. That will allow them to easily chase it down and set up a big sprint finish in France.
A much nicer day with plenty of sunshine. Once again, the wind will be strong, around 20km/h all day long. Coming from the south-east, there will be opportunities to split the bunch late in the day. The final 20km will be nervous because of the wind, much of this section takes place on exposed roads. If the wind is strong enough the race will split at this point.
This section of exposed road is with just over 10km to go. You can see the bunch head north and then west to the finish. As the wind is coming from the south-east, all of this is cross/tailwind. We’ll have to see if the wind is strong enough for echelons.
With 8km to go the bunch move from a wide highway to this road, it looks like madness to me. Just one lane wide, and with a concrete block on the side, I have concerns about rider safety. What is likely to happen is four teams get a good early position and then ride at a steady pace, there is no space for anyone to pass, so no need to go too fast. They stay on this road until 3.5km to go, this is when we’ll start to see the real start of the sprint.
Inside the final 2km the bunch must do a little loop the loop, once this is done there is only 1.3km to go. The next obstacle is a fast right-hand turn at the flamme rouge, and then there is a slight bend in the road with 300 to go.
Kaden Groves – without a shadow of doubt, BikeExchange have the best sprint train at the race, which means Groves will have a great chance of taking his first world tour victory. After his win today, Matthews should be back on lead out duties, with Scotson and Juul-Jensen also in the train. It’s not the best train in the world, but as most teams are here with skinny climbers, it should be good enough to boss the closing stages. With Matthews as his final man in Tirreno, Groves picked up two 3rd places in the sprints. This is a big chance for him to land his first big one.
Phil Bauhaus – without Colbrelli (thank God he’s okay) the Bahrain train are significantly weakened. The rest of the team are climbers, not the type who are good at getting involved in a sprint. The German will have to try and jump on a rival’s train and hope for some luck. It’s not impossible to win without a sprint train, but it does make life much more difficult.
Juan Molano – another who doesn’t have much help in the finale. The Colombian hasn’t won yet this season, as this race lacks the top sprinters, he’ll have a good chance if he starts the sprint from a decent position.
David Dekker – form is currently building, but he’s not at his best level.
Hugo Hofstetter – he’ll be helped by Owsian and Delaplace in the closing stages, riders who shouldn’t be underestimated. Hofstetter is in good current form; he should be challenging for the podium.
Martin Laas – the Estonian is always capable of popping up with a surprisingly result. He won’t have much help, but the same goes for most sprinters.
Ethan Vernon – without recognised lead out riders, QuickStep won’t be their usual self in this sprint. Vernon has done okay in recent races, but he’s a bit away from the level required to take a world tour win.
He’s got the best sprint train and good form, so I’ll take a win for Kaden Groves.