Strzelin > Opole 199km
After a couple of GC days, things should have settled down a bit, but the weather forecast means the GC riders won’t be able to have an easy day.
Another day with a threat of rain throughout, but it’s the wind that’s the problem. We’re talking about 20km/h and gusts could hit 40km/h. The wind is coming from the south-west, which means crosswind all day long.
This part of the world isn’t as exposed as bits of northern Europe, but there’s still plenty of opportunities for teams to split the race if they want. This will make for a nervous bunch; we’ll have to see if the wind is strong enough for echelons.
Just one real corner in the final 5km, and that comes with 500m to go. The race will be on for this point, to win the stage, you’ll need to be in the first 5 wheels. Ideally, you would be 3rd wheel, with two lead out men in front. Once through the corner, position 3 gets everyone back up to speed before leaving the rider in wheel 2 to gradually lift the pace for the sprint.
Will we see echelons? Normally, the more people talk about them happening, the more unlikely they are to happen. For me, the wind would need to be a little stronger than forecast, but some teams could still try something. The direction the race goes is perfect for crosswind fun, especially as there’s no nasty headwind sections to slow things down. The thing is, all teams will be aware of this, they all have VeloViewer and know where the crosswind sections are. I’m going to say that some teams will try, but we won’t get significant echelons.
That means it’s a day for the sprinters. The opening stage was crazy, thanks to all the rain, it stopped us from seeing a real sprint battle. Jumbo-Visma had the numbers, but they hesitated, and Van Lerberghe pounced, he drove to the front and launched Merlier to his win. The two of them have a brilliant understanding, it helps that they are good friends off the bike too. They don’t have a long train, but Van Lerberghe has the ability of staying in an excellent position without seeming to use up too much energy, then he hits the front in the final kilometre. He’ll have his eyes set on the final corner, Soudal – Quick Step will want control at that point, but it won’t be easy against Jumbo-Visma, as they’ve got the numbers. Whoever controls the final corner has the best chance of taking the win.
Tim Merlier – his win in the opening stage was a good one, it was his first win since the end of May. He was due to be going to the Vuelta, but as Remco is now going, Merlier has had to change his plans for the second half of the season. His goal is now clear, win as many races as he can to ensure he’ll be heading to the Tour in 2024. He and Kooij are closely matched, Kooij beat him 2-1 in the 4 Days of Dunkirk, Merlier will enjoy trying to go 2-0 up in this stage.
Olav Kooij – this is his final chance of taking a win, he leaves the race on Thursday, destination Glasgow. His sprint train is strong, it’s a fleet of vans! First up it’s van Emden, then Van Der Sande and finally van Dijke, that’s a lot of van power. Okay, they made a little mistake in the first stage, but they still have the best train in the race, and they’ll want to show it.
Sam Bennett – doesn’t have a huge amount of support, but he was fighting for the win in the first stage. Mullen is vital, he can get Sam near the front for the final turn, then we’ll see if he’s got the legs to take the win.
Fernando Gaviria – 3rd in the opening stage was a good result, but the Colombian rarely wins these days. He’s got Max Kanter as his final man, he’s got the speed to get Gaviria in a good position for the final corner.
Pascal Ackermann – didn’t get to sprint in the opening stage, he’ll be hoping to at least be in the mix come the final kilometre. UAE are here to try and win the GC, Ackermann doesn’t have much help, which makes it almost impossible to go for the win.
Gerben Thijssen – unfortunately for the team, Julius Johansen pulled out with the COVID on the morning of the opening stage, he’s an important part of the Intermarché sprint train. Luckily, the team have several quick men who can support Thijssen in the closing stage, hopefully he can challenge for the win.
Much like the opening stage, it looks like a two-horse race.
Jumbo-Visma to get it right this time round and Olav Kooij to take the win.