Clermont-Ferrand > Moulins 180km
This is the only sprint stage in the second week, I don’t think the break stands a chance.
Cloudy, but it should be dry. There’s a cross/tailwind for the final 65km, but the strength of the wind will only be 15km/h. Will anyone try to cause some chaos?
The first roundabout comes with 4.5km to go, both sides look fine to me. The next roundabout is with 3.2km to go, the left side looks marginally faster. Once through this point, the road widens for the first time in about 60km, this is when teams can start to move up the bunch. The last of the roundabouts comes with 2.5km to go, both sides are open, the right side is faster.
Then the bunch head over a bridge and the road is still nice and wide before making a right turn with 2km to go, followed by another right with 1.5km remaining. At this point, the road narrows a little. The last of the turns is a very fast left-hand bend, which opens onto the finishing straight with 1.3km to go.
There’s a massive speed bump at the flamme rouge, but the organisers are quite good at removing items like this before the race, they seem to have a group of ninja road workers at their disposal. While they were there, hopefully they did something about the central reservation with 300m to go, otherwise it’s going to be carnage.
The opening 115km is a headwind, but the final 65km is a cross/tailwind. The bunch need to be careful about the gap they give the breakaway, it’s important not to give them too much of a lead as the tailwind will make it hard to pull back a big gap.
Here’s the run for home, the wind direction will make the GC teams nervous. Usually, it takes wind of more than 20km/h to cause echelons, but not in the Tour de France. When the riders in this race go to the front and smash it, the race can split at the speeds shown in the picture.
The finish is a strange one, once the bunch turn right with 65km to go, they are basically on the same road for the rest of the stage. This road is a typical countryside one, it’s two lanes wide, but still quite narrow. Moving up the bunch isn’t going to be easy; sprint teams will want to secure a good early position at the head of the race.
The final 5km has several roundabouts, teams will have done their homework and will know the best way round them. Unusually for this race, the team with the best lead out has won all three sprints, that doesn’t normally happen. No one has been able to come off Philipsen’s wheel and take the win, but will that continue? Alpecin made it known before the race that van der Poel wouldn’t participate in all sprints, I think he skips this one with a breakaway stage on Thursday. This means that their train will be down one man, but Sinkeldam and Rickaert are both excellent, meaning Philipsen should still be in a good position for the sprint, but his rivals will sense a chance of beating him.
Jasper Philipsen – the dominant sprinter in the race, he’s three from three, five from five if you include last year, With one fewer in the train, it’s going to be harder for him, but he’s looked faster than everyone else in the first week. He starts as the massive favourite, but it won’t be easy to continue winning.
Caleb Ewan – he’s been close, he’ll keep trying to get the win. Despite losing Guarnieri, his sprint team is still very strong, especially as Jasper De Buyst is now over his crash. If Lotto Dstny can get him in the right position, he knows he has the speed to win.
Dylan Groenewegen – 8th, 5th and 4th in the sprints, things are moving in the right direction. I think his team have taken a few stages to get the train right, only having a couple of riders to support in the closing stages does make life very difficult for him, but recent signs have been positive.
Fabio Jakobsen – I’m hoping he’s now okay after his crash, but only he will know. He’s got the sprint train required to boss the closing stages, and he’s got the speed to challenge for the win. Fingers crossed he’s fit enough to go for it.
Mads Pedersen – he’s got his win; his swagger will be back. Stuyven and Kirsch are good enough to get him into a good position, then we’ll see if he’s fast enough to win a flat sprint.
Phil Bauhaus – I think he’s been the biggest surprise in the sprints, his confidence should be sky high just now. Wright, Mohorič and Arndt have worked wonders in the closing stages, he’ll be hoping for another shot at taking the biggest win in his career.
Biniam Girmay – 3rd in stage 7 was a step in the right direction for him. With Petit and Teunissen, he’s got excellent support for the finale, and they got it right that day. There are faster sprinters in the race, to win, he needs everything to go perfectly.
Wout Van Aert – will he sprint? I have no idea, but I would if I were him. With Laporte to lead out, he’s got a great chance of winning.
Surely, Philipsen can’t keep winning.
l like the way he’s been improving throughout the race, particularly in Limoges, where the finish didn’t suit him that well. I’ll take a win for Dylan Groenewegen.