Lille Métropole > Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 156.7km
A day eagerly anticipated by many, but not all. Every so often the organisers decide to include cobbles in one of the stages, which normally leads to crashes and some GC riders hopes left in the gutter. We have 11 cobble sectors, totalling 19.4km. It’s not a mini-Roubaix, but it is a dangerous stage. I’ll leave the debate about whether it should be in the race to the side.
It’s another nice day for the bunch, with pleasant temperatures and not much wind.
We might not have any 5-star sectors, but the 4-star ones look tough to me. Sectors 9, 8 and 7 are close together, which increases the difficulty level. Then we have the final 5 sectors that occur in just 23km of racing. I would expect the final 30km of the race to be very exciting to watch.
A few twists and turns, but as the bunch will likely be reduced, so it doesn’t really matter.
Does the breakaway have a chance? Probably not, but you just never know. The cobbles start after around 80km of racing, the break will need to have a sizeable gap by this point if they are to survive. The rest of the stage will be raced very hard, that’s the problem for the early move. As usual, it does depend on who makes the break, the right break could go a long way.
Once we hit the cobbles, we’ll see GC riders trying to stay at the front, and those who want to win the stage looking to put the hurt on. Both QuickStep and Alpecin are here to win the stage, they don’t have to worry about protecting a GC rider. We have many riders who might have to sacrifice their personal ambition to protect a GC rider, it could be a frustrating day for a few.
Having multiple riders in the front group is very important for those wanting to win the stage. The front group will likely be around 30-40 riders, so teams with multiple options will look to attack and put pressure on the others. What is hard to predict is where the race winning move will go. The final 30km is full of cobbles, this is where the main action will happen.
Pogačar, Roglič and Vingegaard have all raced on cobbles this year, to get ready for this stage. Roglič was good in GP Denain, but Pogačar was simply amazing in the Tour of Flanders. The problem for him is his team, this really isn’t a team made for cobbles. It is very likely we’ll see Pogačar without support in the final 30km, which will make him vulnerable. On the other hand, Jumbo-Visma do have riders who can cope with this stage. Van Aert will obviously be there until the end, but they also have Benoot, Laporte and Van Hooydonck, all of whom should last a long way into this day. This is an opportunity for them to put pressure on Pogačar, it’s actually a better opportunity than their likely to get in the mountains. The key is Vingegaard, he needs to survive along with Roglič. If this happens, they’ll look to attack Pogačar in the closing stages, hopefully Ineos don’t do the chasing for Pogačar.
So, I think the break has a small chance of success. The main action will be saved for the final 30km, when Pogačar won’t have teammates, then Jumbo-Visma will look to strike. By that point, who knows where van der Poel will be!
Mathieu van der Poel – must start as the big favourite, especially as he doesn’t have a GC rider to worry about. Alpecin will be one of the teams who will look to chase the morning break, this is a chance for their man to go for the stage and yellow jersey. He sits 38 seconds down on Van Aert, but as he’ll be staying with Roglič and Vingegaard, there is a big chance for Mathieu to take yellow. I’m interested in when he attacks. Too early and he risks getting chased down, too late and it could get overly tactical. Whatever happens, we know he’ll empty the tank.
Wout Van Aert – today was brilliant, what legs he has just now. He knows that he’ll need to ride for Roglič and Vingegaard, but depending on the race situation, he could still have a chance of winning the stage. He’ll be dreaming of a situation where he gets away with Roglič and powers all the way to the line.
Tom Pidcock – as Ineos have three protected riders, it’s likely Pidcock will have to work as a domestique.
QuickStep – Asgreen, Lampaert and Sénéchal give the team three good options for this stage. They don’t have to worry about the GC battle, it’s about picking the right moment to make the move. The win in the TT shows that Lampaert has got good legs, and I’m hoping Asgreen has fully recovered from his crash in Tour de Suisse. Sénéchal is also going very well just now, the French champion would love to win this one. None of the three will start the stage as the “big” favourite, but all three are capable of winning.
Bahrain – they’ve got Mohorič who was 5th in Roubaix, and Teuns, Wright and Tratnik who all impressed in Flanders. However, they also have Haig and Caruso to protect. I hope that Mohorič has a free role in this stage, and I notice he lost time today. Will he take a big risk and go for the break? He was very impressive in Roubaix, without doubt, one of the best on the day, he’ll see this stage as a big chance to take a win.
Stefan Küng – will he have to stay with Gaudu? He was brilliant during the spring classics, and if allowed freedom, will be one of the best in this stage.
Peter Sagan – the former world champion has finished 6th, 4th, and 5th in the last three stages, he’s looking nice and strong. As a former winner of Paris-Roubaix, he’ll be one of the favourites for this stage. If we get a reduced sprint, he’ll be hard to beat.
Tadej Pogačar – his effort on the Kwaremont lives long in my mind. He knows that Jumbo-Visma will look to put pressure on him, so guess what he’s going to do? That’s right, Pogačar will attack this stage and try to put his rivals on the back foot. It would not surprise me in the slightest to see him taking the win.
Alexander Kristoff – if the day is a little easier than expected, we could see a reduced sprint. In that scenario, Kristoff would be one of the men to beat, he loves a sprint after a tough day in the saddle.
Trek-Segafredo – Pedersen and Stuyven give the team two strong options for this stage. In particular, I like Stuyven for this one. The Belgian is excellent on the cobbles, he’s usually up there in Paris-Roubaix. Having two cards to play could give them an advantage in the closing stages.
Taco van der Hoorn – breakaway hopeful number 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Given that many of the contenders might have to act as domestiques, the race situation is perfect for Mathieu van der Poel, but with all eyes on him he could find it hard to get away. I’m going to take a risk and take a win for Tadej Pogačar. I just can’t get the image of him smashing the Kwaremont out my head.