The 176.5 km from Aix-En-Provence to Montpellier only include a tiny climb and from its top, there are still over 100 km to go. The biggest threat today is therefore the crosswind which they riders will be battling the whole stage.
If the wind is as strong as expected, a couple of teams could really blow the race a part and the all the GC riders will have to stay in front. That means it will be a fast stage and together with high temperatures it won’t an easy day in the saddle. Not at all!
The finish is very easy and there is not much so say about it. Entering Montpellier the peloton only has to tackle one difficult corner the last 8 km. With 2.5 km to go the riders turn left into the tail wind and from here on it’s more or less straight out the way towards the line.
This is a surely a finish for big sprinters like Greipel and Kittel. Lotto-Belisol and Argos-Shimano have the two best lead out trains in the world and it will be a furious fight to take the lead on the final kilometers. Argos timed it perfectly on Stage 1 - not knowing about the bus-situation, just focusing on their plan - and I think they will end up in front on the final two kilometers. In Koen De Kort, John Degenkolb and Tom Veelers, Marcel Kittel has an extraordinary lead out and he will be eager for revenge after his crash on Stage 5.
With riders like Kittel and Greipel it’s all about who’s team ends up in front when it counts. Kittel has a strong lead out train but Andre Greipel does too. The German Champion can count on support from Marcel Sieberg, Jurgen Roelandts and Greg Henderson and if Lotto-Belisol gets the lead, it will be Greipel who will be difficult to pass.
Mark Cavendish doesn’t have a lead out train as strong as he used to. Still with Tony Martin to set the pace and Matteo Trentin and Gert Steegmans to lead him out, he showed on Stage 5 that it’s all he needs. Omega Pharma Quickstep were outstanding in the final and no one came close to beating Cavendish on the line. From the helicopter view it seemed like Peter Sagan was able to match Cavendish’ speed but once again Sagan didn’t position himself well. It would have been a close call had Sagan been on Cavendish’ wheel and hopefully we will see them go head to head soon again.
I’ve named Alexander Kristoff as a joker the last couple of years but I doubt he fits that category anymore. The big Norwegian has been on fire this season and don’t be surprised to see him make Top3 again on this stage. Another joker I’ve used before is Danny Van Poppel. The Vacansoleil-DCM sprinter is the youngster rider to take part in the Tour since WWII. Many doubted if Van Poppel was strong enough to be in the mix but he showed on Stage 1 that he is. He took third place in the sprint and I think he will be up there again this time. It’s true many of the top sprinters didn’t contest in that sprint but even with a full peloton I think Danny Van Poppel has what it takes to make another great result. It won’t be easy to beat the big sprinters but I wouldn’t rule out Top5 on a good day.
It’s hard to not pick Mark Cavendish as the big favorite after his - and his team’s - performance on Stage 5. Also, if the race gets blown a part, Omega Pharma Quickstep shouldn’t be one of the teams left behind. They have a big part of their Classic team here and they will be able to take advantage of it. However, the way I see, Argos-Shimano have the best lead out train in the race. If they can take the front - and keep it - with 3 km to go, Marcel Kittel will extremely difficult to pass with Tom Veelers leading him out. If anyone can do it though, it’s Mark Cavendish.
Another joker for the stage is Ramunas Navardauskas. If we end up with echelons, I would imagine Navardauskas to be in the front group. He’s not going to outsprint Mark Cavendish but if some of the big favorites are caught behind, he might be able to do top3.
Favorite: Mark Cavendish
Top3: Marcel KittelJokers: Danny Van Poppel / Ramunas Navardauskas
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 6: