Sunday’s final stage has an interesting profile. At a swift glance, it appears to be incredibly flat, but on closer inspection, from 90km to the finish at kilometre 198, the riders will either be ascending or descending, with no real flat in sight.
The race takes in three ascents of the infamous Muur, a cobbled climb of just over 1km at a gradient of 8.7%. After three full ascents, the finishing line is situated half way up what would have been a fourth climb of the Muur. Riders with experience in the Spring Classics will be well aware of what lies ahead. Current race leader Rohan Dennis may not be as well versed. Whether this affects his grip on that white jersey remains to be seen.
Freewheeling prediction – The final day of racing is a difficult one to predict, due to the many narrative threads running throughout the race. The riders at the sharp end of the GC are not separated by huge gaps, so someone like Tony Martin, 24 seconds back, could decide to throw caution to the wind on the last day and try a courageous attack. Any attack here would be courageous given the terrain – those cobbles on the Muur are no small matter! The technical nature of some of the climbing could give pause for thought to those riders with World Championship hopes, as no one wants even the most insignificant of injuries to interfere with preparations for Qatar.
On Stage 6, Sagan seemed less concerned with claiming the leader’s jersey, perhaps instead targeting stage wins. Tony Martin of Etixx-Quickstep attempted an attack as he chased down 24 seconds. BMC were keen to protect Dennis, but will his lack of Classics experience impact upon his tactics on the final day? And where have Tom Dumoulin and Greg Van Avermaet been? All these questions and narratives make for one interesting day of racing, that’s for sure! Hedging our bets? Maybe. But the unpredictability is what makes this final day so special and exciting!