The Tour continues in Bretagne with a stage tailor-made for the sprinters. The riders start out in Saint-Gildas-Des-Bois and finish in Saint-Malo 197 km later. It’s the flat stage but the terrain is still up and down all day long. In the end, anything but a bunch sprint will be a huge surprise.
There is not much to say about the route. This is a typical transition stage made for the sprinters and with just one small category 4 climb, nobody should get dropped today. The only interesting factor is the wind. The last 25 km take place alongside the coast and we could see a strong crosswind splitting the peloton near the end. None of the GC rider want to lose any more time before Wednesday’s time trial and everybody wants to stay in front. This should make for another nervous finish and luckily the route isn’t very technical.
Without a single corner the last 5 km, this is a perfect stage for the big power sprinters like Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel. Most likely, the final kilometers will be with a strong tail wind to keep the speed high and that means the leadout trains will decide the winner. The road bend slightly to the left with about 100 meters to go and naturally, you need to take the inner lane in order to win.
|The final 5 km of Stage 10. Click for larger view.|
Argos-Shimano and Lotto-Belisol have the two best leadout trains in the race and in a high-speed sprint, it’s very important to take the final lead. Both Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel are close to impossible to pass when they get to launch their sprint in high speed behind their leadout. Therefore, if Lotto-Belisol get the front; Greipel will most likely win and if Argos-Shimano get the front; Kittel should take the stage.
Lotto-Belisol timed it perfectly the last time and nobody could get even close to Andre Greipel. Greg Henderson is one of the best, if not the best, leadout rider in the world right now and if he gets to deliver Andre Greipel with 250 meters to go, I doubt anybody will be able to pass him.
A tail wind sprint does however favor the riders willing to take a chance. Few - if any - can match Mark Cavendish’ kick in the final and if Cavendish ends up without a leadout, he needs to open the sprint early. Mark Cavendish is so strong on the first meters that he can jump clear of another team’s leadout train and with a tail wind finish, he will be very difficult to catch, even for Greipel and Kittel.
It’s maybe too easy just to say that either Cavendish, Greipel or Kittel will win. Still, it all comes down to the final leadout. I think Argos-Shimano are eager to show the world the real strength of their leadout train and therefore I’ll pick Marcel Kittel to win Stage 10.
This stage is going to end with a bunch sprint but at this point, we already know all the candidates. Picking a joker is therefore not very easy. The only rider I can think of fitting this category is Julien Simon. The French semi-sprinter (sorry Julien) did very well on Corsica but hasn’t been feeling great lately. Still, this stage takes place on his training routes and on home soil - in front of his family - Simon will be extra motivated to perform. Also, Julien Simon’s team, Sojasun, has its roots in Bretagne. A morning breakaway without a rider from the local French team will be just as surprisingly as this stage not ending in bunch sprint.
Favorite: Marcel KittelJoker: Julien Simon (or any Sojasun rider…)
For live race coverage go to Steephill.tv.
Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 10: