Aalborg > Aalborg 170km
The opening stage of the Tour of Denmark is one which will test the climbing legs of the sprinters. Two short, steep climbs in the closing lap circuit will make it an interesting finale, and one that is hard to control.
Sunny and warm, temperatures will hit 25 degrees. There’s a bit of wind around, but it shouldn’t be an issue for the riders.
The lap is done three times, and you can see it includes two climbs. First up is, Skovbakkevej, which is 710m at 6.6% with a maximum of 15.3%. A descent of just under 2km follows before the riders bounce into the next climb, Nordtoft, which is 680m at 5.2%. Last time round, there’s just 6km to go from the crest of this climb.
Lidl – Trek are the team who arrive with the biggest hope of winning the race. Not only do they have Mads Pedersen, but Mattias Skjelmose and Toms Skujinš are also in brilliant form, they have the strongest squad by a mile. This is a day where they’ll control the morning break before hitting the lap circuit hard, the goal will be to put as many riders into difficulty as possible.
With three cards to play, don’t expect them to simply ride for a sprint, they’ll attack and put pressure on everyone else. The two climbs taken in isolation are quite hard, they might be short, but they are steep, coming so close together is what will do the damage. Riders have almost no time to recover from the first effort on the steepest climb, then it’s straight into the next one, perfect for those who want to attack. Just 6km to go from the final climb is also good news for those who want to launch before the sprint, this is a hard finish to control.
Mads Pedersen – starts as the big favourite, as he’s not going to be dropped on the climbs and he’ll likely be the fastest rider left in the peloton. Pedersen was brilliant in Glasgow; 4th place didn’t really do his ride justice. He’ll come here full of confidence and looking to win stages and the overall title. We’ll see if he waits for a sprint, allowing his teammates to attack, or he might just attack himself.
Mattias Skjelmose – won the Danish road race title here back in June, and the circuit also featured the same two climbs. Skjelmose is another who rode brilliantly in Glasgow, he looked incredibly strong throughout the whole day. He gives Lidl – Trek an excellent attacking option, especially as everyone will be looking at Pedersen. Expect him to attack in the final lap.
Magnus Cort – after doing the Giro/Tour double, I’m not sure how much he’ll have left in his legs. If he’s recovered, this is a good stage for him.
Michael Valgren – he’s getting back to his best; it was great to see him attacking in the Tour de l’Ain. It’s been a long road back to fitness, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This week will hopefully be an opportunity for him to test his legs against quality riders.
Tobias Andresen – the Dane is a fast finisher, and he doesn’t mind a lump or two. If we get a sprint, he’s got what it takes to push Pedersen all the way.
Fabio Jakobsen – unlikely to survive the climbs in the final lap.
Søren Kragh – another who’ll be looking to attack and split the race up. When he’s good, he’s very good, someone who can put pressure on the Lidl – Trek riders.
Søren Wærenskjold – he’ll have his eyes set on bonus seconds; he’s got a chance of challenging for the overall title. Mainly known for his TT prowess, the big Norwegian also has a good sprint on him, and he should have the grunt to survive the climbs.
Mauri Vansevenant – injury has ruined much of his year, but he’s starting to get back to his best. He rode well in Tour de Wallonie and put in a big ride to set up Remco’s attack in San Sebastian. With Jakobsen likely to be dropped, it frees him up for an attack on the hills. To win, he’ll need to arrive solo.
I get the feeling Lidl – Trek are going to have a very good week.
With all eyes on Pedersen, it’s going to be a win for Mattias Skjelmose, thanks to a daring late attack.