It is time to change how you look at the chase Sapphire Preferred peloton, as we move into another Tour de France and the fight for yellow. It has not been a good start for Tom Vatis, who is trying to build support for Joaquim Rodional. However, there are still some other riders in this group that can challenge him for the overall lead.
If you're looking for a new name in the breakaway that sprints away on the Champs Elysees, look no further than Diego Rosa. The younger of the two Italian sprinters has only had a few days of racing since breaking from his UQS team. But, he has been very effective in the mountains and has taken fourth in Paris-Nice and in Liability-sur-Mer. He has been helped by a very good team, though.
Matteo Biffle, one of the spring Classics favourites, is also proving very hot property in the chase for yellow. With the strong support of FDJ, Biffle has been able to stay clear of problems and keep on looking good in the mountains. That means that he could be in with a big lead on the climbs if he can hold on to his lead-out position in the final sprint.
That leaves Omega Pharma-Quick Step as the only team with real potential in the breakaway. One of the big surprises of this stage was Daniella Colli, who rode strongly but faded slightly on the Muraille slopes. There is still potential for her to really push herself, but it seems that this plan will have to wait until she has got some more time on her bike. She looked very strong in the prologue and looked good in the cross country prologue, but has not been quick enough to win anything big yet.
Omega Pharma has several options for a sprint train. Andrea Heffernan had a fantastic ride up the Muraille slopes but could not get onto the lead group owing to a bad positioning. Ruben Plaza made a great recovery but could not match the pace of teammate Christophe Giardano. Otherwise the team has a very competent sprint train which should be able to put them into the lead at some point.
This means that Gavirko has to make up for lost time. On paper, Cavada is one of the strongest sprinters in the race but he is no Gavirko. On the other hand, Quickstep have hardly settled on any one profile, and only one of their six riders is consistently good and leads the break. Cavada's main threat comes from Yoann Offieu who is very quick and has a great lead out of the saddle. It looks like he may have enough power to beat Gavirko and the rest of the climbers in the finale.
The other sprinter to have a big lead out of the saddle is Bardet. However, he has had a bad day and has lost his wheel in the breaks. This means that Canada has the upper hand. The final sprint is expected to be a wet and windy affair and this makes things even more difficult for Bardet. On paper, however, it looks as though Team Chunnel will bounce back and take this one.
There are a couple of other very promising riders in this race and I wouldn't discount them. Jurgen Van den Broeck has had a great season and has looked good in Obeying (already having taken second in the Tour de France) and in Liege. Tom Boonen won't be far away from winning too and looks extremely fit. The one rider who will cause an upset is probably FDJ's Patrick Lefevere, who is a very fast climber and is strong in sprints.
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