Written by Christian of Team WonderDee
We take a look ahead to a pair of hill sprint classic in Finland and France on Thursday and Saturday, the Lappi Sea GP and the Grasse - Toulon.
Both races tend to suit the kind of punchy riders with quick sprint finishes, with the Grasse - Toulon usually being contested by reasonably-sized group sprint finishes, and the Lappi Sea GP offering more for breakaways.
Lappi Sea GP
First of is Lappi Sea GP who leads the riders through the beautiful Finnish midlands. The start will be in Tornio, the biggest city of the Finnish region Lappi Sea. The riders will face some difficult hills through the most beautiful forests and lakes.
From Tornio, the route goes along the coast for 25 kilometres. At Kemi, the route turns north, and here the hilly part of today starts. Here the riders will also enter the beautiful Finnish forests.
Going through villages with names like Hyypiö and Lehmikumpu, there will be many hills the whole race long. There are some difficult ones with a length of more than a kilometre and a percentage of more than 6%, though many hills will only be difficult in length. However, these hills too will drop the pure sprinters. Some ability in the hills is certainly required. Strong teams make a huge difference, forcing others into burning domestiques.
Also in the last kilometres, the peloton will face some hills. A good hiller might try to break away, but it's more likely that a thinned group of hilly sprinters will fight for the win in Tervola.
Grasse - Toulon
The French classic, Grasse-Toulon takes the peloton south from the “World Capitol of Perfumes” to the home of the French Mediterranean Fleet, Toulon. The 148km long stage is in many cases destined to be won by a sprinter with important side stats as the route is not completely flat. Approximately halfway through the stage the riders will enter the Hills of Draguignan at Le Muy. The Malmont (551 m) hill in Draguignan is one of challenges along the route and the hill provides either a great “launchpad” for a group to breakaway, or for the leading sprinter teams to crush all plans of attacks prior to the next last hill on the route.
As a natural gate into the streets of Toulon, the leader group will need to pass an enormously steep and narrow ascend of Mont Faron. This hill will become the last opportunity for the riders, whom does not feel comfortable in a final sprint to attack. Following the downhill on the east side, the stage will stay flat until the finishing line.
The sight at Toulon will be special as the leader group will pass the enormous Naval Base of Toulon. Home to the Force d'action navale, tactical submarines and the French Aircraft Carrier, Charles de Gaulle. A large number of French naval assets are stationed here. The final sprint will take place in the Old Town on the Boulevard de Strasbourg, where the strongest sprinter or a possible breakaway will fight to conquer the title of this classic off the Mediterranean coast.
L = Lappi Sea GP
G = Grasse - Toulon
Albert Lowrey (L | G) – despite a huge amount of hills, this two races isn’t too hard for the Canadian. The big problem is that he’s one of the fastest sprinter and the other squads won’t simply tow him to the line. As I have already mentioned, this puts the team under enormous pressure. I don’t think they have the strength to hold the races together and set up a sprint.
Rey Rozadilla (L | G) – The Spanish has endured a tough season, but eventually seems to be hitting some form. His squad will have to do a lot of work to ensure we get a sprint, something they might not be up to.
Curtis Zerwe (L | G) – not as fast as Lowrey, will Zerwe ride for the podium or attack? He is a fan of attacking!
Jeremy Scheppers (L | G) - One of the fastest sprinter, if not the fastest. But Hog Bay have to work hard to keep the peloton together for a mass sprint, not very likely.
Nicolas Strobl (L | G) – performed well in Nuoro GP. It was brilliant to see Strobl ride so strongly, reminding everyone of how talented he is. His sprint is fast enough to challenge for the top 9, but I want to see him
risking it all and attacking.
Addison Stauss (L | G) – the defending champion of Lappi Sea GP is back. Last season was a perfect example of what can happen in this race. A big break got away and most teams were represented, which meant the bunch didn’t chase. From the group, Stauss won the sprint. This is a race that can reward attacking riders, something I think Stauss will try again this year. He does have a fast sprint, but he won’t win from the main group.
Olaf Rosenbjerg (L | G) – the great Dane looked in fine form. This is his last big goal for the season and he will go all guns blazing! Fighting have one of the strongest team in Lappi Sea and Grasse - Toulon. I’m sure we’ll see them making the races tough. With a number of rivals having a faster sprint than him, Rosenbjerg will need to play it clever in the end.
Xavier Nagas (L) – looked good in Bergen-Bergen. AGB Procycling are here to fully support Nagas, but he hasn't done better than a 17th in Lappi Sea GP in the past.
Douwe Bruin (L | G) – the Dutch star hasn’t won a race since day 66 last season. For someone so talented, this is a worrying period, especially considering the strength of the team he rides for. The good news is that Bruin looks like he have timed his form perfect for Lappi Sea GP and Grasse - Toulon. Hopefully he gets a win soon.
Yermolay Sedelnikov (L) – Sedelnikov had a brilliant last season with a strong win in Coppa della Famiglia del Don. This is a race that suits his characteristics, as it contains a lot of hills. If we get a small sprint, he’s fast!
Carlos Falcón (L | G) - The young Mexican looking promising for the future, but might to young to win a classic at 22 year old? A better candidate for top 9 in Grasse - Toulon, then in Lappi Sea GP.
Clemens Antholz (L | G) - The German was 2nd in Grasse - Toulon #54, but never done well in Lappi Sea GP. The hills in Finland will be to tough for the German, but a candidate for a top 9 in Grasse - Toulon.
Nordin Moerenhout (L | G) - Will support Erkan Safak in Lappi Sea GP, but coming in great form for Grasse - Toulon as captain.
Leroy Jonker (G) - Won Mito - Tokyo this season, a very strong performance from the 35 year old Australian. Jonker have also won Rotterdam Classic in his career, but it will be a massive shock if he wins his third classic in France.
Romuald Maes (G) - The home favorite for Grasse - Toulon, and the current leader of the French rider rank. A massive pressure on Maes shoulders, who came 3rd here last season.
Marzio Lagrasso (G) - 6th last season, Lagrasso returns with the hope of doing well in Grasse - Toulon. He looks ideally suited to. If he can retain some of the form that saw him impress at the Nederlandse Tour last season, he’ll be a contender to win, especially if the race boils down to a sprint.
Boris Bitao (G) - Not as strong candidate for the win in Grasse - Toulon as Lagrasso, but will be a candidate if the race ends in a sprint.
Xalbador Varela (G) - An other rider that hope Grasse - Toulon ends in a sprint, but his squad will have to do a lot of work to ensure we get a sprint, something they might not be up to.
Eldjárn Valgarðursson (G) - A better tour rider than a classic rider, but if we get a sprint in the end he can out sprint most of the competitors.
Korneli Antonowicz (G) - Fifth in Bergen Rundtur this season. It’s safe to say that Antonowicz will be very happy to be in Grasse. He won here in season 55, beating Sebastiano Sala from Nairobi City Cycling Club in the sprint.
Lamine Dagano (L | G) - Dagano packs a strong sprint, but I hope we see him attacking and not waiting for the final kilometre. 8th in Lappi Sea for some seasons ago, and should be happy if he can replicate the same performance this season.