Only the wind seems to prevent a bunch sprint in the seventh stage of the Tour de France. In any case it won’t be the hills that leave the sprinters without a chance in the 168 kilometers between Millau and Lavaur.
Only two slopes of the third and one of the fourth category have to be climbed. After the last summit the road almost only goes down or is flat towards the finish, which is expected around 17.30hrs.
Take a look here at Herman van der Zandt’s preview of the impressive Millau viaduct:
“There are already so few chances for the sprinters, they will certainly want to take them”, says Radio Tour de France commentator Gio Lippens.
“Also because they have let themselves be fooled on Wednesday by non-printer Wout van Aert”
Among the biggest contenders for the stage win are Caleb Ewan, Monday’s winner of the third stage, and Sam Bennett.
European champion Giacomo Nizzolo can also call himself one of the favourites, just like Cees Bol, who was beaten with half a wheel by Van Aert.
Lovers of a course nap will probably be able to drop back down again during the stage. Not necessarily a bad prospect, if it weren’t for the fact that Wednesday’s and Thursday’s stages didn’t deliver the spectacle that was hoped for.
Lippens: “Wednesday’s final was spectacular. It was especially striking that no one wanted to be in the leading group”
“Thursday (in a stage with a first category col in the final, ed.) I absolutely expected something would happen. Especially because of the way the favourites looked up to their teammates and the pace went up”
Ineos put a large part of the team in the lead early on the Col de la Lusette. “Jumbo-Visma must have liked that. They have the big favourite and were happy that all bonification seconds were taken away by the leading group”, Lippens said.
The lack of fireworks may also be due to a lack of top form at Egan Bernal, the leader of Ineos. “He’s not making a great impression yet. Last year he was shining on his bike. This year you’re looking a little hollower.”
Ineos sports director Servais Knaven will address Bernal’s situation in the evening stage:
Dull or predictable stages in the first week of the Tour, it’s nothing new. The organisation wanted to avoid that with serious climbs in the opening days, but the favourites don’t seize it to make life miserable for each other.
It’s a cliché these days that the riders are making the race, says Lippens. “It’s commendable that the organization has tried, but the riders don’t want to yet. I’m curious what’s going to happen in the Pyrenees this weekend”
Check out the profile of the stages of Saturday and Sunday here: