• Rúben Silva

Tour de France Stage 1 Preview

The Route

The Tour starts in Brussels with an interesting stage to see the first Maillot Jaune emerge from the race. The stage, in general is mostly flat, it rides through Flandrien roads and goes through the Muur de Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg early on the stage, those points will define the first KOM leader of the race so it will promise show even if there's not much importance given to the stage result.

The final kilometer is quite straightforward, not a technical finish but one with a bit of an incline in the final kilometer, it won't disturb the sprinters but may give some a bit of an advantage in the final few meters.

The Weather

Pretty warm day with temperatures above 25 degrees, the wind will be clear from the west with around 15Km/h with gusts well above, hard to see that such a stage will have wind influence but it will make for a fast pace right before the Muur.

The Favourites

For a first stage it's set to be very exciting. I don't expect the cobbled climbs to make a difference in the stage outcome but it may mean there will be a big battle before them, and with a headwind present I believe it's possible to see the peloton together until them, or at least right before them, as some of the Belgians, specially the Flandriens will want to go through their home climbs to take the jersey in the Tour. The rest, the roads aren't complicated to chase and the wind won't benefit the riders in front enough, adding to the big amount of teams that want a bunch sprint it's safe to go for it.

There are 2 names that stand out, the ones with the strongest leadouts that have had a huge success this season. There's Elia Viviani, he comes with Richeze/Morkov/Lampaert/Asgreen, mega power combined with experience, the Italian thrives when connected with his men (as in Suisse) but his most direct rival, Dylan Groenewegen is in the same situation, with Teunissen/Jansen/van Aert/T.Martin. So I have to say that if there's a race where a proper leadout may be bad is here, the sprints are filled with contenders and there will be dozen of riders in front, having too many leadout riders can cause confusion ultimately destroying one's chances. One rider that is THE best in those conditions is Peter Sagan, and his leadout consists in that exact strategy, as he has Daniel Oss and Lukas Postleberger set to guide him in the final kilometers, with the slight uphill finish he may be right on the same place as the others.

Caleb Ewan is one that also profits from a very strong and experienced leadout but he's known to have some dificulties in messy sprints, I wouldn't have him as a big favourite for the stage but the finish does suit him. In the profile of punchy sprinters there's a big contingent, Michael Matthews, Sonny Colbrelli and Matteo Trentin in the main side, of those only Trentin doesn't have an actual sprinter that can lead him out if such is needed.

Alexander Kristoff, Cristophe Laporte, Rick Zabel, Andrea Pasqualon should be riders to consider for the Top 10, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Giacomo Nizzolo aswell, we're yet to see if there will be a set leader or if each will shoot their shot. In the middle of it there's always an Andre Greipel, but his positioning sense is completely off so I wouldn't see him coming close to the fight.

Prediction Time

Groenewegen, Viviani, Sagan

Ewan, Matthews

Trentin, Colbrelli, Boasson Hagen, Nizzolo, Kristoff, Laporte

I'm going with Dylan Groenewegen to take the first win and the first yellow jersey of the race. He and his 2 leadout men have 16 wins this season, they race together and are perfectly dialed in as a leadout, adding the firepower of van Aert and Martin and it's an excellent leadout, but above all an excellent rider to finish it off.

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