Blegny > Citadelle de Namur 199.8km
After the fun of Canada, it’s time to head back to Belgium. The finish returns to the traditional one, I can’t actually remember why they took a different route up to the citadelle last year, I think it was due to roadworks.
Thunderstorms are predicted, so it could get very wet.
The finale kicks off with Chemin de Potisseau, which is crested with 15km to go. 3.2km at 4.9% isn’t that hard, but the right attack has a chance of getting a good gap on the peloton and going all the way to the finish.
Back to the beautiful finish going up the cobbles. The stones help to make the climb harder than the numbers suggest, it takes a lot of sting out of the legs of riders, which opens up the finish to puncheurs as well as sprinters.
If the rain is heavy it’s going to have a big impact on the race, it will likely make the final 60km more selective than usual. In terms of team strength, I would expect Alpecin Deceuninck to be the team dictating the type of race we get, they like nice and strong considering the route, but I doubt they’ll have it all their own way.
Also looking to get in the mix will be those in danger of relegation, particularly Israel and Lotto. This is another chance to get points, but I hate the impact the fight for points is having on rider ambitions. Teams are no longer willing to take big risks, they’ll be happy if the race is controlled and it ends in a sprint. This is how the race normally finishes, only lots of rain will stop it from happening this year.
Israel Premier Tech – they have Teuns, Vanmarcke, Neilands and Strong as good options for this race. Neilands can be used as an attacking option, leaving three options for the uphill sprint. Remember, getting multiple riders in the top 10 gets more points than winning the race, unfortunately, this is the real impact of the current points system, it stifles attacking riding. Given the way he was riding in the Tour of Britain, Corbin Strong is a great option for the team.
Lotto Soudal – they’ll look to Campenaerts and De Buyst in this race, both are going well just now. Campenaerts would normally go from distance, but that is a big risk as if it doesn’t work, he won’t collect points. I hope they don’t keep both back for the sprint, a rainy day would encourage more attacks from distance, perfect for Campenaerts.
Intermarché Wanty – Girmay was sick in Montréal on Sunday, it’s a very quick turnaround for him, I doubt he’ll have fully recovered. If not him, the team can look towards Zimmermann and Vliegen, if it was me, I would go for a sprint with Vliegen, he’s very good in uphill finishes, particularly when it’s cobbled.
Alpecin Deceuninck – they arrive with the two favourites for the win, van der Poel and Philipsen. With just one road race in the legs since the Tour de France, van der Poel needs racing if he’s going to be competitive in Australia. He has produced some big numbers in local races, but he needs proper kilometres in the legs. Given how he rides, I would expect him to use this race as a huge training ride, going on multiple attacks and probably riding another 100km after the day is done. This means he’ll be riding for Philipsen, someone who has got some recent racing in the legs.
Greg Van Avermaet – he’s not won a race for three years; age is starting to catch up with the great man. I’m not writing him off, he’s still capable of producing an incredible ride, but he’s got fewer matches than he used to.
Gonzalo Serrano – fresh from winning the shortened Tour of Britain, Serrano will arrive full of confidence. Movistar have a poor record in Belgian races, the rain certainly won’t help his cause.
Bryan Coquard – this is the type of race he should be winning. Cofidis only start with 6 men, so don’t expect to see much of them until the finale, then we’ll see how Coquard’s legs will respond after 16 stages of the Vuelta.
Julien Simon – solid top 10 contender.
Amaury Capiot – 3rd on Sunday in GP de Fourmies, the legs are still good after a long season. The uphill grind to the line is ideal for him, he should be challenging for the podium.
Dries Van Gestel – after five top 10 results in August, the Belgian can arrive at this race full of confidence. If the weather is poor, it’ll improve his chances of challenging for the win. He’s on the same team as Simon, we’ll have to see how the team decides to ride as both are good for the sprint.
I think van der Poel will be training, so it’s a win for Jasper Philipsen.