Vejen > Vejle 209km
A massive day in terms of the battle for the overall title. The circuit in Vejle is well known to those who watch this race, it always serves up an exciting battle between the best in the race. Yes, the TT will eventually decide the winner, but this stage will end the hopes of many. The circuit in Vejle is the same as usual, but this year the road in is a little different. I’m looking forward to seeing how Lidl – Trek approach the day, expect some bombs.
Cloudy sun, temperatures will be around 20 degrees.
The Golfbakken is climbed on three occasions, the final time crests with 47km. This mini circuit is tricky, the turn onto the climb is a 180. Once on the climb, it’s straight into double digits, it’s a harder climb than the overall numbers suggest. Almost 2km in length, it’s one of the longest climbs in the whole race.
I love this circuit! Year after year I’ve watched this stage, it never disappoints. All eyes are on Kiddesvej, you need a serious amount of grunt to win here.
The first two stages of the race have created a rather large problem for Lidl – Trek, in fact, the issue is 195cm big. After winning the opening stage with a gap and finishing 2nd today, Søren Wærenskjold leads Mads Pedersen by 18 seconds, with Mattias Skjelmose a further 4 seconds back. They came into this race as the two big favourites, now it’s time to show why. Wærenskjold needs dropped in this stage, and not the last time up Kiddesvej, as he’s very strong on his TT bike.
So, how will Lidl – Trek approach the stage? They’ll use the three ascents of the punchy climb above to push the pace and put as many Uno-X riders out the back door. The tactic will be to try and isolate Wærenskjold, then pile the pressure on during the final lap circuit. I don’t think they can wait until the final lap; this is a day they need to make as hard as possible, being almost 210km in length will help.
It’s not all about Lidl – Trek, just like today, EF and Alpecin-Deceuninck will also be keen on getting in the mix. The perfect situation for Lidl – Trek would be to get a strong group away on the circuit, featuring all these teams, that would be a nightmare for Uno-X. The Danes are in a tough position. They have a good team, but if the pace is high, most of their boys will struggle. Charmig will still be around, but just how long can Wærenskjold hang on for?
To summarise, it’s going to be a smash fest!
Mads Pedersen – got great legs, that’s clear to see. He won this stage all the way back in 2017, it suits him well, he loves punchy climbs. Lidl – Trek needs to be in a position where they can play both of their options, that means always being ahead of the race. Given his sprinting speed, Mads starts as the favourite.
Mattias Skjelmose – provides a wonderful option for Lidl – Trek, I’m not calling him plan B, more like plan A+. He looked very strong in the opening stage, and just like Mads, this is a good stage for him. He was very disappointed to finish 3rd last year, he had a poor position for the final ascent of Kiddesvej, but still managed to finish just behind Laporte and Sheffield. This year, the inclusion of the Golfbakken climb is good news for him, it should make the race harder and encourage lots of attacking. If both he and Mads are together for the final climb, Mads will win, but I think Mattias can beat everyone else here. The key for him is to attack before the final lap.
Søren Kragh – another with good legs but winning this stage will be very hard against the Lidl – Trek double act. His best finish in this stage was 6th in 2022, he lacks the extra bit of grunt required to win.
Magnus Cort – he’s got the grunt, but I’m not sure he’s got the legs. Cort is coming to the end of a huge block of racing, it’s not easy to do the Giro, Tour, worlds and then this race. I think he’ll go long and hope to help his team.
Mikkel Honoré – his move to EF hasn’t gone to plan, not getting selected for the Tour was a massive slap in the face. I have no doubt that Mikkel will respond in the right way, I’m hoping for a good result in this stage.
Florian Vermeersch – goes well on punchy climbs, a top 5 finish would be a great result.
Alexander Kamp – 2nd in this stage back in 2018, beaten by a certain Wout Van Aert. Unfortunately, recent form isn’t great.
Tobias Andresen – likes a lump or two, but this stage could be too much for him.
Søren Wærenskjold – he’s a big unit of a man but goes surprisingly well on punchy climbs. 4th in the Queen stage of the Belgium Tour shows that he could surprise in this stage. The problem is the frequency of these climbs, the final 70km is constantly up and down. He’s also in the race lead, which means he’ll come under huge pressure, and might have to use up energy chasing down some moves. His goal won’t be to win the stage, but to stay within touching distance of his rivals heading into the final stage ITT.
Lidl – Trek to have a field day. They’re going to be like kids in a sweety shop, or adults in the middle aisle!
A big win for Mattias Skjelmose.