• Rúben Silva

Binck Bank Tour Stage 3 Preview

It was a nervous day but one that didn't yet see the GC riders forced into making big efforts, except for Stybar who had a dig in the final kilometers but it was a controlled finish where the sprinters once again were en masse. Seeing UAE but mainly Jumbo-Visma leadout Groenewegen into the final meters was an indicator that the Dutch was sure to be the big candidate to the win but with the sprint launched Sam Bennett once again, easily, took the win in front of Jasper Philipsen and Groenewegen.

Positive: Bora once again didn't have anyone with Bennett in the end but the Irish is without a doubt the fastest man in the race currently, unmatched in both sprints. Philipsen is still having a very good evolution in the sprints, he wasn't far from the win today, presences of mainly Amauri Capiot but also Nikolas Maes in the Top10 are good presences for the Belgian.

Negative: Groenewegen was the most pronounced, he doesn't have his top speed that is clear, Jumbo got it right today but he wasn't up to the task. Mareczko and Modolo again missed the sprint.

The Route

The third stage consists of a series of loops around Aalter, it's a very hard stage technically, with several cobbled sectors where it will be a full-on day of tension, several sections of the stage are crucial and can be decisive in the end of the race, not in terms of winning time but in terms of loosing it.

There are two cobbled sectors that will be repeated four times, the 200-meter long Poekedorpstraat and most importantly the Neringenstraat, 1.8 kilometers in the cobbles, a completely straighforward sector where as you can see it isn't that intense, but it will be felt and there are riders that are targeting the GC that can't deal with the cobbles that well and it can prove too hard, it takes a lot of experience to race in this type of roads.

And the run-up to the line, it's quite hard. There's a sharp turn with 4Km to fo that leads towards a very narrow country road for a little over a kilometers, before coming back to a main road, winding until the final meters where after passing under a bridge they will turn into the 450-meter long finishing straight. Technique will be even more important today.

The Weather

Another tense day, this one more than the others that's for sure. The rain may not appear, forecast is that of a very light dirzzle throoughout the day, but the wind will be strong once again, coming aroun 15/20Km/h mostly from the southwest, which may mean the race will explode, as the final sector and the run-up to the line will amost all be swept with crosswinds, and with the Golden Kilometer mixed in there there is no doubt there will be riders trying to make their first GC bid.

The Favourites

It's a very mixed day, some teams will make the effort to keep it all together for the sprint whilst some will be looking to attack the final kilometers, as it's a race for the opportunists the race is won by attacking early on usually, before the riders know who are the main ones to watch and who needs to be covered. Hence I firmly believe tomorrow there will be attacks coming out of the final cobbled sector and there's a good chance a move can leave from there and make it all the way to the line.

On the side of the sprinters, there are teams such as Bora and UAE who will focus their every efforts on keeping Bennett and Philipsen well positioned and try to get them to finish in a group sprint, which I suspect will be a short one. These teams both have no set leader for the GC bid and both have a team full of strong rouleurs, Bennett doesn't have much experience in this type of racing but Philipsen is given as a great potential for it, but I think both are strong enough to go through the cobbles and motivate their teams and possibly some allies into giving a helping hand. Groenewegen is no slouch on the cobbles but he doesn't appear to be in his best, and in Mike Teunissen they have a much more secure bet, alongside they may want to protect some other riders like De Plus and Roosen who may be good choices for the overall. Also FDJ, Démare isn't at the moment firing confidence after his crash on the first stage but he, alongside his team and a strong Stefan Kung can prove pivotal in the stage aswell.

Some teams will surely put their whole efforts into attacking the race, which is a good bet for tomorrow. Deceuninck the clear choice, Stybar already demostrated today his intentions and how important the Golden Kilometer can be, tomorrow between him, Phillipe Gilbert and Bob Jungels they may very well be on the attack, they have the right riders for it. In fact the cobbled classics specialists will likely all be at the front tomorrow, the sector isn't hard enough to create gaps but after coming out is a brilliant place to attack and they, as the most powerful riders in the peloton will be looking to make differences. From Oliver Naesen, Greg van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke they will rightly feel at home racing in these roads, as they virtually are, and I would add Dylan van Baarle as another serious threat in this list.

Of course some of the names mentioned have a great sprint, but there are some riders that have the right balance for such a stage, Trek mainly are the big team looking at who's present, Mads Pedersen seems to be finally coming back to form and Edward Theuns has looked specially sharp this season and here aswell, they both sprint very well, have a good team to back them but above all have the power to attack from distance and won't be marked as the main faces. Sunweb have Soren Kragh Andersen who will hope to be back in form but a very interesting duo in Marc Hirschi (10th at E3 Harelbeke and recently 3rd in San Sebastian) and Joris Nieuwhenhuis, both neo-pros but specially the latter has the right skillset for this racing, just lacks the experience.

From Jens Debusschere, Jurgen Roelandts and Davide Ballerini there are also expectations, the Direct Energie boys and Edoardo Affini are my wildcards.

Prediction Time

Philipsen, Theuns, Stybar

S.Bennett, Gilbert, Naesen, Teunissen

Groenewegen, Pedersen, Vanmarcke, van Avermaet, Démare, van Baarle

I see Jasper Philipsen on the verge of a big win. Yes, he did officially win in Down Under but he didn't cross the line first, however he had a full classics tilt in the spring, has already 24 days of racing in the Benelux this season with great results in the mix for a rider his age, and his sprint is visibly getting better and better. He has it in him, he just has to play his cards well tomorrow, to stay in the peloton and seize the work of other teams that have the pressure and be there when it matters.

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