Besançon > Montfaucon 170km
Just the third running of this new race, and the organisers have stuck mainly to the same route used last year. That means twice up Montfaucon, a proper hilltop finish. Last year, Cofidis dominated with Jesús Herrada winning from his teammate Victor Lafay, can they successfully defend their title?
Grey and not very warm, but the rain should hold off.
I’d put this in the punchy category. It starts with a bang, gets a little easier, then kicks up again towards the finish.
First time up the climb they’ll be a selection made in the peloton, but there’s still a long way to go, so it’s unlikely to be decisive. A few teams have multiple cards to play, but attacking with 50km to go seems far too risky to me, but how can they use their numbers? I think it comes down to the final climb, attack at the bottom and try to force riders without teammates to close gaps. Cofidis are certain to use this tactic, they’ve got the strongest team in the race and must force the others into chasing. It worked for them last year, there’s no need to try anything different.
Cofidis – they have three potential winners in Martin, Herrada and Lafay, it really is an embarrassment of riches for the French team. Martin went well in Paris-Camembert, Herrada has shown good form already this season and Lafay is as close to an enigma as you can get. Honestly, this guy has all the talent in the world, but he strikes me as someone you could never rely on. I would expect Lafay to be used up first, Herrada was brilliant here last year, and Martin always seems to be a protected rider. With these three, the team will be confident of defending their title.
FDJ – Pinot and Martinez should be their protected riders. Pinot’s been in okay form this season, in what looks like being his final year in the pro peloton. 10th in Tirreno was encouraging, and he comes here as he continues his preparation for the Giro. It can be tricky to predict how well Pinot will do in a race like this, he blows more cold than hot in recent years, but this is near home so he should be motivated. In Lenny Martinez the team have an excellent back-up option. 12th in Catalunya was a ridiculous result for a 19-year-old, most first year pros come out of that race questioning their life decision to become a cyclist! He was up there in Paris-Camembert, but sacrificed himself for Madouas, hopefully it wasn’t a sign that he’s tired after Catalunya. Being so small, the steep gradients of the finish should be good for him.
Arkéa – they’ve got Gesbert and Rodríguez, with a side of Costiou. These guys are all solid pros, but they aren’t big favourites for a finish like this.
Ben O’Connor – his season has been a little stop/start due to health issues, but with Catalunya in the legs he should start to hit top form. He was 6th here last year, and I would expect a better result this time round. The problem is team support, he’s likely to be without teammates in the final 2km, and that could be crucial against those squads already mentioned.
Victor Langelloti – solid climber who flies under the radar. I’m hoping he’s got good legs and can challenge for the top 10.
Pierre Latour – DNF in GP Miguel Indurain and stepped off his bike in the final stage in the Basque Country, his form doesn’t look too good just now. On his day, he can challenge for the win, but these days are becoming few and far between.
Eduardo Sepúlveda – I’m hoping we get to see a lot of him this weekend. This is a race that should suit him well, remember how well he coped with the steep climbs in last year’s Tour of Turkey. He lacks a bit of explosivity compared to some of his rivals, but hopefully he can challenge for the top 10.
Sylvain Moniquet – another Lotto rider who’ll hope to do well. He was impressive here last year, but faded in the final 500m. He’ll hope to better his finish of 8th.
Roger Adrià – he’s already posted some impressive results this year, 5th in GP Miguel Indurain was a high point. He’s another who flies under the radar as he rides for Equipo Kern Pharma, but I have high hopes for him. Still just 24, he’s got a lot of growth in him. He should like the final climb; the length is good for him.
Cofidis look too strong to me.
I’ll take another win for Jesús Herrada.
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