Amorebieta-Etxano > Bayonne 193km
The first of the big sprint opportunities. This is usually a nervous day in the bunch, but as we already have gaps on GC, I hope we’re in for a calm day without crashes. A small break will roll off the front, probably only two or three men, and the peloton will gradually bring them back and we’ll get a sprint.
Cloudy with a chance of rain at the start, but it will brighten up throughout the day.
They love a roundabout in this part of the world. The riders approach town on a highway, and they must negotiate a series of roundabouts, including three in 800m around the 5km to go mark. Each time, only the right-hand side is open, which naturally strings out the bunch. There’s another roundabout at 3.2km to go, and again at 2.4km, now things will be getting serious. With 2km to go, the riders have to do a U-turn at another roundabout, and then it’s full gas for the finish.
With 1.7km to go, there’s a fast left-hand turn, which moves the bunch onto a relatively narrow road, just two lanes wide. The final turn comes at the flamme rouge, at this point the road goes down to a single lane, before opening onto a slightly wider road, this time it’s two lanes with a bike path. Once the final bend stops with 200m to go, the road widens again, just in time for the sprint to launch. It’s one of those finishes where sprinters don’t see the actual line until 200 to go, it’s hard to time it right, especially as the final 115m averages 3.5%.
Sprint Train Ratings
Before getting stuck into this, a little reminder that the exact order of the sprint trains isn’t certain, there’s a little bit of guesswork required on my part. Also, van der Poel will not participate in all lead outs, and Van Aert is not going to sprint in all stages.
Alpecin-Deceuninck – Sinkeldam, Rickaert, van der Poel, Philipsen.
Rating – **** When leading out, I would expect van der Poel as last man.
Soudal – Quick Step – Asgreen, Cavagna, Lampaert, Mørkøv, Jakobsen.
Rating – **** No Pedersen is a blow, they lack a bit of speed in position 4.
Lotto – Vermeersch, Eenkhoorn, Guarnieri, De Buyst, Ewan.
Rating – **** Long lead out, and a good one for Caleb, but De Buyst crashed today.
Jayco – Juul-Jensen, Reinders, Mezgec, Groenewegen.
Rating – *** Mezgec is an excellent final man.
Intermarché – Smith, Petit, Teunissen, Girmay.
Rating – *** Lacking a little punch in positions 4 and 3.
Lidl – Trek – Stuyven, Kirsch, Pedersen.
Rating – *** Short train, but it could be very effective.
Jumbo-Visma – Van Hooydonck, Laporte, Van Aert.
Rating – *** When will Wout sprint?
Bora – Politt, Haller, van Poppel, Meeus.
Rating – *** Solid sprint train, Bennett should be here.
DSM – Edmondson, Eekhoff, Welsford.
Rating – ** Could really do with an extra man.
Astana – Bol, Cavendish.
Rating – * You can’t turn up to this race with one lead out man and expect to win.
Bahrain – Arndt, Bauhaus.
Rating – * See above.
Jasper Philipsen – starts as the big favourite. Last year he got his first Tour de France win, and he quickly followed it up with his second. This stage is a big deal for him and the team, van der Poel will be in the sprint train, looking to pay back some of the work Philipsen put in while helping him to win Paris-Roubaix. If he starts his sprint from a good position, he’ll be very hard to beat.
Fabio Jakobsen – after winning the opening sprint in 2022, he failed to register another win throughout the race. This year, he’s only managed 5 wins, but two of them came in the recent Belgium Tour, so confidence isn’t going to be an issue. His sprint train is strong, he’ll once again be relying on the guidance of Mørkøv in the closing metres. He’s got the speed to win, but he needs to start his sprint from a good position.
Dylan Groenewegen – despite the flattish looking profile, there’s still 2443m of climbing in this stage, which is a lot for a rider the size of Groenewegen. He’ll be in the mix but could find his legs a little sore when the sprint starts to open. Stage 4 should be much better for him.
Wout Van Aert – will he sprint? This is the question which will be asked before every sprint stage, as it seems that he won’t be sprinting. Without any significant climbs near the finish, I think this is a day he’ll sit out.
Mads Pedersen – this is a good stage for Mads. His train isn’t long, but they know each other very well and can surprise with a late surge.
Sam Welsford – his first ever opportunity to sprint for a Tour de France win. The Aussie has enjoyed a brilliant season, but I can’t see him winning at his first attempt.
Mark Cavendish – 2443m of climbing isn’t ideal for Cav, I don’t see him winning.
Biniam Girmay – winning a big sprint against those already mentioned won’t be easy for Girmay. Yes, he’s a fast man, but he arguably doesn’t have the same top end speed as the likes of Philipsen and co. What he does have is a good sprint train, so he should be able to challenge for the podium.
Caleb Ewan – he’s got a full team dedicated to him; I’m expecting big things from him in this race. After a tough period, many seem to have written Caleb off, but not me. Okay, he might only have one win in 2023, but there’s been some recent signs of hope, particularly his second place in Elfstedenronde Brugge. His sprint train looks a good one to me, I’m hoping to see Caleb start his sprint from a good spot and see if he can add to his five Tour wins.
I’ll take a win for Jasper Philipsen.