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Etoile de Bessèges (2.1) – GC preview

With many races being cancelled again start list quality in other increases, team leaders change their programs to get in much needed race kilometres before their big goals. It is something we see in this race as well, Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, Vincenzo Nibali and Greg van Avermaet are at the start line here to name a few.

The parcourse is classic but lacks a real mountain stage in my opinion. This race consists of 5 stages, first stage is the same as last year. Flattish but with an uphill finish. Looks like its designed for someone like Greg van Avermaet or Michal Kwiatkowski. Stage 2 and 3 have a few small hills during the stage but should pan out in a bunch sprint.

Stage 4 is probably the hardest of the bunch, lots of up and down but don’t let the profile trick you. The finish is ‘only’ 1.1km at 5.5% avg.

To finish it off there is a time trial on the last day which will play an important role in the general classification.

Stage 1 profile (https://www.etoiledebesseges.com/etape-1-2021)
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
Stage 5

Recent winners:

2016Jerome Coppel
2017Lilian Calmejane
2018Tony Gallopin
2019Christophe Laporte
2020Benoit Cosnefroy

Favourites:

I think the time trial will be decisive but the winner also needs to be quite quick to get bonus seconds. Someone who could make such a big difference in the time trial that he wouldn’t need bonus seconds is obviously World Champion Filippo Ganna. The bookies consider him the top favourite but I am not too sure about that, two finishes are quite punchy and I reckon Ineos will go for Kwiatkowski on those stages. Ganna will loose time there on his teammate either because of small gaps or bonus seconds. And Kwiatkowski can do a great time trial as well. Ineos is probably the strongest team here and will decide the race, they also have Geraint Thomas but this early in the season I don’t expect much from him he is here to train and help the team, same for Bernal.

Trek – Segafredo also brought 2 favourites, Bauke Mollema and Mads Pedersen. Vincenzo Nibali is starting as well but I reckon it will be training, Nibali never does well in his first races especially in recent years. Pedersen could survive the hills if he brings his Tour legs and has a great sprint and time trial. Within the team they have a conflict because where Pedersen needs an easy race they also have Bauke Mollema on board who has to make the difference on the climbs. His time trial is not too shabby but compared to the other GC candidates here it is his weakness.

AG2R – Citroen changed their line-up because Valencia is cancelled, now Greg van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen start their season here and also Marc Sarreau is on board. I think they will be key riders to keep in mind for the stage wins but GC seems unlikely because of the time trial. Greg van Avermaet is likely their best shot, maybe he can limit losses, the new jersey could give him wings. With his friend Oliver Naesen finally on the same team and a BMC bike to translate his power into km/h again all lights are set to green from some great results.

Another favorite is Tim Wellens, great allrounder with a great team to support him. He showed good form in Marseillaise as well. Someone whose form is unknown, Alberto Bettiol, somewhat inconsistent but he did good here last year and the parcourse suits him very good. Other riders that did well here previously are French talents Alexys Brunel and Thibault Guernalec, but because the start list is so much stronger than last year repeating results will be very challenging.

Bora has a great squad here actually but they lack someone who ticks all the boxes, they got sprinters and climbers but left Schachmann at home. But for GC top 10 Kamna and Grossschartner are still riders to consider.

*** Michal Kwiatkowki

** Filippo Ganna, Tim Wellens, Alberto Bettiol

* Bauke Mollema, Mads Pedersen

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