Murnau > München 207.1km
The Euros are in Germany, and they’ve been designed so we get a big sprint, it might not be a great watch. It’s a city centre finish in Munich, with five laps of the lap circuit.
Sunny and hot as the heatwave continues in Europe.
Much of the circuit takes place on very wide roads, but as the bunch go up and down the same stretches of tarmac, it’ll be a two-lane or three-lane for much of the finish. There should be plenty of space for the sprint teams to get into colour order.
There’s just a one little climb in the circuit, the bunch will be over it before they know it. Five laps of the circuit give the sprinters a good look at the finish, they’ll all have a plan for the final 5km.
There is a climb of 5km at 5% early in the stage, so there is a small chance a strong break gets away, but with nearly all the nations here wanting a sprint, that’s what we’re likely to get. These teams will want a weak break, allowing them to save as much energy as possible for the lap circuit.
To me, it looks like a nailed-on sprint, it’s what the organisers want. Once we hit the lap circuit the pace will gradually increase, it’s basically a glorified crit race. The circuit is fairly technical, there are several corners which will help line out the bunch and make life a little easier for the lead out trains. The final turn comes with 1km to go, it’s a big U-turn, before a long finishing straight.
The “big” nations are Italy, Netherlands, France, Denmark, Germany, and Belgium. These are the teams with the numbers and quality to control the race, and the closing stages. I doubt any one team will dominate the final 5km, I’m expecting a very messy sprint finish.
Fabio Jakobsen – returned to racing on Wednesday but didn’t last too long. It’s always hard to judge how someone comes out of the Tour de France, especially when it’s their first one. Jakobsen looked tired at the end of the Tour, but if he’s recovered well, he’ll hit a higher level over the next month or two. The Netherlands have a strong sprint train, they’ll have Hoole, Reinders, Maas, Eekhoff, Eenkhoorn and Van Poppel to help support Fabio in the closing stages. This isn’t a group of riders who normally race together, but my goodness, they look incredibly strong to me. Jakobsen will start as the favourite to win the title, but there are doubts about his current shape.
Tim Merlier – the other big favourite. Merlier has only 35 race days this year, which is low for a rider of his quality. He started the season in fine form, and then won the Belgian title in late June, he’ll be hoping for a few wins between now and the end of the season. He’ll be leaving Alpecin at the end of the year for QuickStep, a bet you big Pat would love the Euro champ jersey in his squad. In terms of his lead out, it should be Theuns and Van Lerberghe for the final kilometres, personally I would swap them around but it’s not up to me. One thing to note is that Merlier doesn’t have a good record against Jakobsen this season.
Alberto Dainese – this is a race the Italians have dominated in the last four years; can they make it five from five? For them, they need to decide which of their fast men they ride for, I would pick Dainese. In terms of race schedule, he’s unique for a sprinter as he’s completed both the Giro and Tour. He looked in good shape on Wednesday, so I think he’ll get the nod, especially as Nizzolo crashed hard in the same race and is no longer doing this race. With the likes of Ganna, Trentin, Guarnieri and Milan to help, they’ll have a good chance of winning another title.
Arnaud Démare – ended the Tour of Poland with a stage win, so confidence won’t be a problem. The French arrive with lots of sprinters, but they don’t have riders who are used to doing lead outs, they are all finishers. They’ll need to have a clear plan about how to approach the closing stages, especially as Démare can often get boxed in during circuits.
Mads Pedersen – he has the luxury of having Mørkøv as his final man, without doubt, the best lead out man in the race. The Danes don’t have the same depth in their train compared some of the other nations, but Mørkøv is brilliant and can do a lot of the work by himself. Pedersen hasn’t raced since the Tour, so we’ll have to wait and see how he recovers. If we get a messy sprint, it will suit him, remember back to the opening stage of the 2020 Tour and his second place in Nice.
Germany – I’m not sure if they’ll go for Bauhaus or Ackermann. As they are the host nation, they would love to win on home soil. They have a strong sprint train with Degenkolb, Kluge and Krieger to help in the closing stages. It will be interesting to see if they allow both sprinters the chance to go for it, it’s not a strategy that usually goes well, but you never know.
Sam Bennett – he doesn’t have much help with him, Ireland will need to time their move to perfection in the final 2km. On paper, Bennett is one of the few sprinters who has the speed required to challenge Jakobsen and Merlier, but he needs a good position in the final kilometre.
Alexander Kristoff – arrives as the sprinter with the best form, but the flat route isn’t his favourite.
Jakobsen and Merlier are the big favourites, they are the fastest riders in this peloton. I’ll take a win for Tim Merlier, he normally goes well in a messy sprint.