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Will Arnaud Demare get his first sprint win on stage 2 of La Méditerranéenne?

Photo: A.S.O.




11.02.2016 @ 21:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

FDJ lived up to our expectations by taking victory in the team time trial but Astana turned out to be hard to beat despite being only six riders. The French team now hopes to continue their success in stage 2 but to get the chance to sprint with Arnaud Demare, they need to survive the danger of crosswinds.


The course

The riders will be in France on the second day that will see them tackle a short 157.6km stage from Banyuls-sur-Mer to Port-Vendres. The stage includes two small category 3 climbs in the middle part but the final summit is located 58.4km from the finish. The final part of the stage is mainly flat and leads to the finish in Port-Vendres where the finish line comes at the end of a long straight road. There will be total of 1500m of climbing.



The weather

The riders didn’t escape the rain in today’s stage. Tomorrow they may have more luck. Friday is forecasted to be a cloudy day and there is a constant 10-15% chance of a shower. The sun may even come through at some points and there will be a maximum temperature at the finish of 14 degrees.


There will be a moderate wind from a northwesterly direction which means that there will mainly be a headwind in the first part and then a tailwind. However, there will be a cross-tailwind in the final coastal section.


The favourites

Yesterday we made FDJ our favourites for the team time trial and they lived up to our expectations as they were much faster than most of their rivals. Their decision to line up lots of fast riders paid off in this short stage but Astana turned out to be much closer to them that we had expected. The Kazakh team were hampered by having just six riders and it is a sign of great form that they were just 0.54 second off the mark. On the other hand, FDJ sports director Frederik Guesdon claims that the smaller number of riders was an advantage in the first, technical part of the stage.


With no time bonuses in the race, FDJ find themselves in the perfect position to go for the overall win with Alexandre Geniez but they have multiple goals. First they want to win tomorrow’s relatively flat stage with Arnaud Demare.


There are a few climbs at the midpoint and there’s a total amount of climbing of 1500m and this will make things harder. However, the climbs come too far from the finish to do any real damage. Nonetheless, this is a short race and with no time bonuses on offer, the teams have to ride aggressively to change the scenarios. Ag2r have a strong team and no sprinter so they may try to send riders up the road or ride hard in the toughest part of the course.


However, the real danger will be the wind. It won’t be as windy as it was forecasted a few days ago but there will be a cross-tailwind in the final part along the coast. Furthermore, the roads can be wet and this will make things very nervous and stressful. It won’t be impossible to split things. FDJ will ride on the front all day and make sure that the early break is caught so we will get a sprint finish. The question is whether the entire bunch will be present.


On paper Arnaud Demare is clearly the fastest sprinter in this race. Furthermore, he is supported by a very strong lead-out of Marc Sarreau, Matthieu Ladagnous, Daniel Hoelgaard and his trusted lead-out man Mickael Delage. They are all great classics riders too so they are very unlikely to be caught out if the peloton splits. Their lead-out didn’t really work in Besseges but here they have a stronger team and their rival teams are less strong. The strongest sprinter and lead-out are in the same team so this means that it should be a win for Demare.


His biggest rival will probably be Thomas Boudat. He is mostly known for his track achievements but he has also done well on the road, winning last year’s Clasica Corsica. He is gearing up for the Track Worlds and so has not been fully focused on the road but he showed good form in Marseille. His main problem is that Direct Energie have a very young team without much experience so they could be caught out in the crosswinds and leave Boudat with limited support.


Nicola Ruffoni has proved that he has the speed to challenge the fastest in the world but he had a poor 2015 season. Now he hopes to be back on track. He did reasonably well in Valencia even though he came up short in the sprints. Most importantly though, he showed improved climbing skills which will be important in tomorrow’s stage which could be pretty tough. He can count on Paolo Simion for the lead-out and is clearly one of the fastest here.


Cofidis are here with a solid lead-out train to position Michael van Staeyen. The Belgian is very consistent in the sprints but rarely wins anything. Here the best sprinters are all absent and this could leave room for him to finally achieve some success.


Speaking of pure speed, it is hard not to mention Francesco Chicchi. The Italian is no longer as fast as he once was but he is still fast. In this race, Androni have lots of fast riders and he can count of Marco Bandiera, Marco Benfatto and Tiziano Dall’Antonia for the lead-out. He is very bad at positioning himself but this field is less stacked with sprinters which will make it easier. The big challenge for him will be to survive if the climbs and the crosswinds make things hard.


Rally Racing were a bit of disappointment in the team time trial but they have a chance to bounce back tomorrow. Eric Young is a very fast sprinter and has even won two stages at the Tour of Utah. The main issue is whether he is in a sufficient condition to get over the climbs and survive if things split in the crosswind. He has the speed to win.


Romain Feillu has had some difficult years but he seems to be back on track. He rode solidly in his first races and should be a contender in this stage. The Roubaix duo of Louis Verhelst and Rudy Barbier should also be able to do well.


For other sprinters, look out for Armindo Fonseca, Yannick Martinez, Maxime Renault, Justin Jules and Stephane Poulhies.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Arnaud Demare

Other winner candidates: Thomas Boudat, Nicola Ruffoni

Outsiders: Michael Van Staeyen, Francesco Chicchi, Eric Young

Jokers: Romain Feillu, Louis Verhelst, Rudy Barbier



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