Bazainville > Fontainebleau 163.5km
One of those Paris-Nice stages where everyone is nervously checking the weather forecast. If the wind blows, it will be in pieces, but if not then we’re in for a big sprint.
Cold and the wind will be a steady 17km/h, which might not be strong enough for proper chaos. It’s going to be another cold day; the sun will be well hidden behind grey clouds.
The direction of the wind is perfect, and we have exposed roads, but the wind could do with being a little stronger. Now, in this part of the world, you don’t need a huge amount of wind to cause splits, you just need teams willing to rip the race apart. The last 30km is full of danger, with narrow roads and crosswind, and there’s a bonus sprint to fight for too. For me, this is where it could split.
Arrow straight, but there’s a roundabout with just 500m to go. The roadbook indicates that just the left-hand side will be open, so the winner of the stage will be very close to the front at this point.
Who wants to have some echelon fun? All day the bunch will be nervous, it really depends on how strong the wind is in the exposed sections. Jumbo-Visma, QuickStep and Trek-Segafredo are the teams with the riders who can do significant damage in windy conditions, they’ll decide when and where the action will kick off.
I would imagine the first serious attempt comes between km 80 and 90, when the bunch head south and the wind is coming from the right shoulder. After this there’s a lot of tailwind to help if a front group has formed.
If it comes back together, there’s another chance to split things in the final 30km when the road heads north and the wind is coming from the left. This section lasts until 10km to go when the bunch will be protected by the trees.
This day will be a worry for some of the GC riders, they’ll be hoping the wind isn’t strong enough to cause splits. In terms of the Pogačar/Vingegaard battle, I would expect both to make the front group.
Tim Merlier – took a wonderful win today, what a job by his whole team. If the wind blows, and the race splits, the team can throw all their resources behind him as they don’t really have a GC man. Merlier is also very good at echelon riding, he’ll look at this stage as a big chance to take another win.
Sam Bennett – just ran out of gas today, but he did look impressive on the penultimate climb. Bora have Schachmann and Jungels to protect, it’s not all about the stage win. This adds an element of doubt into my mind, Sam will hope they make the front group, and he can save his energy for the sprint. With Danny van Poppel to lead him out, he’ll always be in with a shout.
Arnaud De Lie – started his sprint too far back today, without Jasper De Buyst he’ll find positioning hard at this level of race. He’ll hope wind reduces the size of the front group, that would help him in terms of positioning. He does have the speed to take the win.
Mads Pedersen – if there’s a hint of wind, he’ll get his troops on the front. This is a big chance for him to sprint for a win. He was close today, but if he can put some of his rivals under pressure, he has a better chance of being first across the line. Watch out for Hoole, Kirsch and Skjelmose, they are all excellent in crosswinds and will want to try and split the race.
Olav Kooij – Jumbo-Visma will need to ensure Vingegaard is well protected in this stage, Kooij might have to sacrifice personal ambition for the good of the team.
I think it might just be strong enough to see some splits, it really depends on the approach of the teams.
After a tough day in the saddle, I’ll take a win for Mads Pedersen.