The first stage of Tour Down Under is a typical sprint stage. It’s only 135 km and that means we are in for another fast and furious finish. There is a few bumps on the profile, but only one categorized climb (Checker Hill Road, 4 km / 5% avg.) and from the top there’s still about 90 km to go.
The riders will get to know the finish line as the cross it twice before it counts and with the last kilometers on a straight, flat out road it will surely be a fight between Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano to get their leadout-trains in order.
Argos-Shimano seemed to have timed it perfectly in People’s Choice Classic but on the last lap the team fell apart and Marcel Kittel was left alone without a chance to battle against Lotto-Belisol. Argos-Shimano have always been focusing on making the perfect leadout-train and I think they are very eager to make up for their mistake in their first season on the World Tour.
That being said it won’t be easy against Andre Greipel who’s computer showed a max speed of 73,8 km/t towards the finishing line in People’s Choice Classic. It’s clear that if Lotto-Belisol get the lead on the last kilometer with Greg Henderson as the last man before Greipel, nobody will be able to pass him. These days the leadout-trains are more important than ever, keeping the speed extra high and even though guys like Andrea Guardini and Arnaud Demare have an impressive kick I doubt they will be able to pass Greipel with a perfect leadout.
With the long straight out finish I can’t imagine Argos-Shimano or Lotto-Belisol not taking the lead and if so the way is made for Kittel and Greipel. Still I do believe Demare will have his saying too. He’s has been doing a little bit of cyclo-cross before heading to Australia and FDJ really worked hard to put him in a good position last Sunday. So despite being attacked by a koala, I still think he’ll be the best pick if the two big favorites strike out.
Winnerpick: Andre Greipel / Marcel Kittel
Joker: Arnaud Demare