Monday sees the start of the Eneco Tour, the only WorldTour stage race assigned dual nationality – shared between Belgium and the Netherlands.
Appearing later in the race calendar to accommodate the Olympic Games, the race is packed with star riders using the event as the perfect preparation for the World Championships in October. Fresh from his win at the European Championships, Sagan will be on the start line of the Eneco Tour for the first time, as Freewheeling favourite Geraint Thomas leads Team Sky supported by previous World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Brits Luke Rowe, Andrew Fenn and Ben Swift.
Although the route favours the Classics experts, the race contains something for everyone with flat stages, hilly stages, a team time trial and an individual TT. Last year Belgian Tom Wellens of Lotto-Soudal took the overall classification, with Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet of BMC in second. This year offers a favourable parcours for sprinters, with Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan, Nacer Bouhanni, Caleb Ewan, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb all in the hunt for stage wins and sprint points, with the orange points jersey their ultimate prize.
Stage 1, a 184km circuit from Bolsward in the Netherlands, could see a bunch sprint on the finish line, although with part of the route hugging the coast, there is potential for echelons to form and split the peloton. The weather forecast however looks good, so it seems likely that the bunch will finish together. The streets are fairly narrow in the final run-in, so teams will need to be organised to avoid a messy finish and potential pile ups.
With the individual time trial on day two, the GC contenders will be on the hunt for time bonuses to secure a good TT starting position, so team tactics will come into play early in the race.
Freewheeling Prediction – A bunch sprint with the potential for one of the big names to secure the stage victory. Greipel, Kittel and Sagan will hope to be up there, but don’t underestimate the strength of Team Cofidis, who’ll be working to deliver Nacer Bouhanni to the line, and Orica-BikeExchange have a sense of purpose with Caleb Ewan, fresh from his Tour of Britain stage win in London.