Stage 7: Millau - Lavaur (168km)
Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) Okay, I've cracked and I'm going for one of the big favourites this time. With the ever-present threat of an early cancellation meaning that the breakaway just doesn't seem likely to be given a meaningful lead, I think it'll come back to a sprint. Caleb Ewan just seems to be brimming with confidence – it feels like he has fully shaken off the 'almost' tag that he had for a couple of years. In contrast, Sam Bennett seems weighed down by the pressure (by his own admission) of being the man on the spot for the Deceuninck-Quick Step behemoth.
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) Caleb Ewan won't have it all his own way at the Tour this year. I'm backing the Irishman to time it just right and hold off his fellow Riviera resident. He certainly seems to have the lead-out train who everyone is watching. It would be a popular win too, I'd wager.
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) A lead out doesn't seem to matter for Sam Bennett, he's been at the fore on every run for the line so far. With the Irish well and truly behind him and his green jersey, that could be the extra 2 per cent he needs.
Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step) He may not have managed to get his first win on Wednesday but it seemed to me that the Irishman sprinted smarter than before, watching wheels and not letting anyone else take advantage of his. I'm at the point where I feel I'd better back him until he takes one now, but I'm also genuinely convinced that this stage, with the potential for crosswinds, could well be the one.
Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling) Hey, Rouleur panel. Booooooring. Enough of this playing it safe malarkey. Let’s go out on a limb. The break to stay away as the peloton takes an easy day before the mountains at the weekend and the Flanders champion for the win.
Cycling Mole says...
Wait a minute, who was the smart arse that picked Lutsenko? That’s right, it was me. Yet again I land a big one, leaving the Rouleur boys wondering if they’re even watching the same sport as me. Enough gloating, for today, time for stage seven.
It looks like a sprint stage to me; the early hills should mean we see a fight for the break and a decent group of riders getting up the road. The big problem for the attackers is the weather forecast. We’ll have a strong wind all day long, but most of the stage is well protected from the elements. That all changes when the race leaves Castres, as the roads are exposed for around 15km and it’s a full cross/tailwind.
Make no mistake, we will see echelons. Ineos will sense a real chance to put Roglič into difficulty and this will ruin the hopes for some of the quick men. When the dust settles, I still think we’ll see a sprinter win the stage, but which one? That’s lucky for the panel, as I don’t think they even checked the forecast. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Ian’s fed up of picking the favourite, despite always seeming to pick the wrong favourite! His choice of Bettiol could be inspired, but it won’t be.
The rest of the boys are split between Ewan and Bennett, which is the right way to go. Both are good in the wind, but Ewan’s lack of team-mates will be a huge disadvantage. Bennett has a team built for the wind, but he might have to do a few turns for Julian Alaphilippe. Then we have someone like Cees Bol, the big man was born in an echelon.
When the dust settles I think we’ll see Sam Bennett take his first Tour de France win.