Valsir > Kraków 177km
The Tour of Poland finishes with an interesting looking stage. The opening 45km contains a number of climbs, two of which are categorised. Not only that, but we have an early sprint point, at the top of a little rise and another sprint after 63km.
Hot and sunny.
The first intermediate sprint comes after just 24km of racing, this is the run into it. The sprint point is at the top of the little hill, it’s a challenging one.
This is the only cat 1 climb of the week, but the organisers have decided to put it just 40km into the race, and a long way from home. 3.3km at 6.7% doesn’t sound that hard, but the final 1.2km of the hill averages 10.8%. A short descent follows before the next climb.
This cat 3 climb is fairly straightforward, it crests with over 130km left in the day. That’s a long way to go for any attack to stick.
This is the circuit that finishes the stage, the riders do three complete laps, but it’s basically four. The corners on the circuit help the sprint teams get things lined out and hopefully we’ll get a safe sprint for a change.
With so many sprinters still in the race, a bunch sprint is the most likely scenario. The start of the stage is going to be hard for the sprint teams to hold together, the placement of the climbs means that we could see a strong group establish a lead, but as the climbs aren’t that long, the peloton should be able to keep the gap down to around 2 minutes. Due to the GC situation, I don’t see any of the main GC riders looking to put pressure on Ineos, but I live in hope.
Ineos are now in control of the race, and it looks almost impossible for anyone to beat Ethan Hayter. The climbs are too far from the finish, and Hayter can also pick up bonus seconds early in the stage. Despite the presence of the cat 1 climb, I think we’ll see a relatively calm day and a battle between the break and bunch.
Olav Kooij – with only three teammates left in the race, winning his second stage of the week is going to be complicated. He still has a couple of powerful riders to help in the final kilometres but getting a good position will require some luck. He showed what he’s capable of in the opening stage, he’s got the speed to win a second stage.
Phil Bauhaus – got his win on Wednesday, and he’s still got a full team at his disposal. With Haussler and Milan as his last two men, Bauhaus has a great chance of launching his sprint from the front. I’ve said many times before about just how valuable confidence is for a sprinter, Bauhaus will be hopeful of taking another win.
Arnaud Démare – he’s been consistently up there in the sprints but hasn’t managed to take a win yet. Just like Bauhaus, he’s still got a strong sprint train here to support him. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him taking the win, but I wouldn’t say he was one of the big favourites.
Sam Bennett – he’d love to get a win; the confidence boost would help for the next races. His lead out man, Jordi Meeus, crashed today, and is out of the race. Bora will have to rearrange their sprint train, but we all know that Bennett has the speed to win, if he starts from a good position.
Gerben Thijssen – took a brilliant win in the second stage, his first success at this level. He’s got the experience of Boy Van Poppel to help guide in the closing stages, hopefully we see him challenging for another win.
Kaden Groves – he’s got nothing out of this race, mainly thanks to being caught behind the crashes in two of the sprint stages. One of the issues is a lack of support in the sprints, it’s not a surprise to see him too far back in the final 2km.
Edward Theuns – the form is building. He had a day in the break on stage 3 and he managed to sprint to 5thon Wednesday but had to use up energy to chase after the crash. Trek-Segafredo have a decent sprint train still at this race, looking to support Fast Eddie will be Mosca, Liepinš and Hoole. If they can get it right in the lap circuit, Theuns has a chance of getting the win.
Pascal Ackermann – got his win in the uphill sprint in stage 4 and he was also just pipped in stage 2, it’s been a good week for the German. He’s got Molano as his final man, so he’s got a good chance of starting his sprint from a top position. After such a good week, another win wouldn’t be a surprise.
Thomas De Gendt – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Alessandro De Marchi – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Hugo Page – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Zdenek Štybar – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Confidence is King for the fast men; I’ll take a win for Pascal Ackermann.