Otterup > Herning 239.3km
Today’s TT has left us with a delicately balanced GC picture, the bonus seconds in the next three stages will go a long way to determining the winner of the race. This stage is a nod to GP Herning, one of the biggest races in this part of the world. We have an incredibly long stage of 239km and we have 9 gravel sectors, totalling 18.2km of the rough stuff. This is a stage that many will fear, it should have a big impact on the GC fight.
There is a risk of thunderstorms, it could be a wet stage, which will make the gravel even harder. There is a lot of crosswind throughout the day, but the wind doesn’t look strong enough to cause any splits.
The stage finishes with a lap circuit, and the final 2km looks tricky, especially the two double corners that the bunch have to negotiate. Thankfully, the front group is likely to be relatively small, so the finish won’t be dangerous. The final corner comes with 400m to go, being in the first 4 will be vital if you want to take the win.
- Skoværvej – at km108.4 for 1.3km
- Sønder Askærvej – at km128.1 for 1.7km
- Den Gyldne Middelvej – at 136.1km for 2km
- Nørregårdsvej – at km144.5 for 1.1km
- Sandfeldvej – at km150.3 for 1.8km
- Gotteborgvej – at km157.6 for 2.5km
- Harreskoven – at km164.1 for 3.8km
- Bjerregårdvej/Hagelskærvej – at km189.3 for 1.5km
- Buskvej – at km192.3 for 1.5km
There are two intermediate sprints that come early in the stage, after km24 and km44. As the GC picture is very tight, it will be interesting to see if Jumbo-Visma decide to chase some seconds, I know I would.
Once it settles down, everyone will be looking a little nervous. Not only do we have the gravel sections, but we also have lots of narrow roads, hopefully we don’t see crashes. The sectors look hard to me, the final 100km or so follows a similar route to GP Herning.
Sectors 2 to 7 all come in a relatively short period of time, 6 and 7 should be the most important as they are the longest, particularly number 7. Almost 4km on gravel could see massive splits and the front group should be relatively small once we get back onto the tarmac road. Then we have around 20km of normal road, which could see a regrouping, before the final two sectors. The issue I have is the gap between the final sector and the finish, we’re talking around 45km, which will make it very hard for attackers to stay away, but they will hopefully still try.
From a tactical point of view, I see Jumbo-Visma, Ineos and Trek-Segafredo as the team’s most likely to try something. They have the power, and they also have the strength to perform well in this stage, but it’s hard to tell just how selective the stage will be. The most likely scenario is a couple of groups coming together and a relatively small group of around 30 riders going to the line together. As usual when riding on gravel, punctures could have a big say in the outcome of the stage.
Christophe Laporte – sits just 6 seconds down on GC, this is a big chance for him to move closer to Sheffield. With the likes of Van Dijke, Eenkhoorn, Kooij and Van Der Sande they have the power required to put pressure on the other teams. Laporte is normally very good on the cobbles, and as previous winner of Tro-Bro Léon, the gravel isn’t going to worry him either. He rarely wins big sprints, but he is very fast and hard to beat in a reduced sprint, which is exactly the scenario Jumbo-Visma will race for.
Jasper Philipsen – I’m not sure what to expect from him in this stage. He is pretty good on cobbles, but I’m a little worried about the strength of his team. If he does make the cut, he won’t be very popular, it will likely force others into attacking as they don’t want to take him to the line. It would help if Dillier goes the distance, his 2nd place in Paris-Roubaix should give him plenty of confidence.
Olav Kooij – likely to be riding for Laporte.
Jasper Stuyven – 9th in today’s TT is a big sign of his current form. Stuyven is someone who always seems to perform well in the closing months of the season, he always gets a big boost after the Tour de France. As someone who’s gone close to winning Paris-Roubaix, he’ll be looking forward to this day, it’s a big chance for him to take his first win since his amazing success in last year’s Milan-Sanremo.
Magnus Cort – he’ll be up there, but winning will be hard. He’s another who doesn’t have the strongest team to support him. If we get a reduced sprint, he has the speed required to challenge for the win, but there are others who are faster than him.
Zdenek Štybar – his type of stage, it would be great to see him in the mix. He’s announced that this is his last season with QuickStep, it would be nice for him to sign off with a victory or two. The problem is the likely presence of a few sprinters in the front group, but as a former winner of Strade Bianche, he’ll be up for it. Also in his team is Mauro Schmid, he won the Strade Bianche stage in last year’s Giro.
Søren Kragh – as a former winner of Paris-Tours, he’s another with the pedigree to win this stage. 5th today wasn’t his best TT, but he’s still in the GC mix and should be fighting for the win in this stage. He’s got a fast sprint, but he won’t beat the sprinters already mentioned, so he needs to attack.
Casper Pedersen – teammate of Kragh, and he’s also won Paris-Tours, so he should cope with the gravel in this stage. The Dane finished 11th in the TT, an excellent result for him. He doesn’t get many chances to ride for personal glory, but I think he’ll have a free hand in this stage.
Magnus Sheffield – he impressed on the cobbles this season, he was in the front group that was caught close to the end in GP Denain. After his stunning TT today, he now sits in the race lead, and Ineos have the team to control this stage. The problem they have is the risk of losing bonus seconds to the likes of Laporte, this stage presents them with a tactical problem. I don’t they’ll worry about the bonuses, they’ll go full and try to set Sheffield up for another win.
Andreas Stokbro – the winner of GP Herning back in May, he’ll be hoping returning to many of the same roads will give him luck. It’s obviously going to be very hard against the quality of rider at this race, but he’ll give it a bash.
It’s interesting that we’ve got so many riders with a pedigree in races like this, but the gap between the final sector and finish means it’s likely to end in a reduced sprint, but the distance, gravel and potential rain should still make it selective. I’ll take a win from a reduced group for Christophe Laporte.