The second stage throws up a challenge to the GC men straight away in the form of a TTT around the streets of Brussels. It may only be 27kms long, but that could see considerable gaps between the GC challengers by the end of the day.
<div><h2>The Route</h2><p>They start near the Royal Palace in the south side of the city, but instead of heading north towards the Atomnium straight away, they go off on a d-shaped loop to the south, taking in the first hill after just 1.4kms (600m at 4%). They also go over another little hill at the bottom of the course after 9.8kms (800m at 4%) before turning back north and crossing over the start of the course after 17.7kms.</p><p>From there they head mostly north-west, and there is one last hill with just 3.3kms to go (800m at 3.5%) and then it's almost totally flat to finish, although the road does drag gently upwards.</p><p style="text-align:center"><img alt src="https://img.aso.fr/core_app/img-cycling-tdf-jpg/2/13109/0:0,960:579-960-0-70/7a4fb" style="width:800px;height:483px" /></p><p> </p><h2>Contenders and Favourites</h2><p>So which teams have hope and which don't? Which GC men will be looking forward to this, and which will be dreading it and will be throwing shade at their team-mates at the dinner table in the evening? The bookies are finding it hard to split the top two teams, with Ineos at +138 and Jumbo Visma at +150.</p><p>Jumbo Visma were the winners of one of the only two World Tour TTTs held this year, but that win in the UAE TT saw only two of their riders for the Tour take part though, Laurens de Plus and Tony Martin</p><p>They have a strong team here though, with Kruijswijk, Van Aert, Teunissen, Groenewegen, Jansen and Bennett. SK is time trialing very well this year, Wout Van Aert has just become Dutch TT champion, not long after that sensational TT in the Dauphiné when he beat Dumoulin by 47" and Tony Martin has just become German TT champ for the 8th time in a row and the 9th time in 10 years.</p><p>Their bikes are very fast, they seem a very confident and cohesive unit and will be doing all they can to give SK a good start in this race. It is also a chance to get Groenewegen in to the yellow if things fall right.</p><p>Ineos, of course, have a very powerful squad here, but how good are they going to be in a TTT? Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal will be looking to put time into their rivals, and we know that Thomas is a top class TT'er, former British TT champ and an ever-present in TTT squads, so is vastly experienced. Bernal was Colombian TT champ last year, and add in Jonathan Castroviejo (new Spanish TT champion), Michal Kwiatkowski (former</p><p>Polish TT Champ), Gianni Moscon (former Italian TT champ), Dylan Van Baarle (former Dutch TT champ), Luke Rowe and Woet Poels and it's a pretty strong squad.</p><p>Mitchelton Scott will be fancying their chances in this, they have done well in TTTs this year, winning in Tirreno and Coppi e Bartali. They didn't go so well in UAE, but that team looked nothing like what is here. They more or less have their A-team here for TTTs, with the two Yates brothers backed up by Durbridge, Hepburn, Impey, Juul-Jensen, Trentin and Haig. Adam, Durbridge, Hepburn and Juul-Jensen were in the Tirreno-winning team, and add in Trentin, Impey and Simon and they have a very strong core. They will be pushing the top two I think very close and are very capable of pulling off a surprise here, they look good to me at +400.</p><p>Sunweb will greatly miss Tom Dumoulin from their lineup here, they had turned in to quite a formidable TTT squad in the last two years, winning the Worlds in 2017 and finishing 2nd in 2018 to QuickStep. Michael Matthews, Chad Haga, Nico Roche, Lennard Kamna, Soren Kragh, Cees Bol, Nik Arndt and Wilco Kelderman are all solid, strong riders, but not exactly top of the best time triallists lists.</p><p>They're a hard one to figure out, how much of a loss wil Dumoulin be? Huge is the answer, possibly 0.3-0.5kmph average of a difference, and that could rule them out of the running for the podium, +500 is too short for me.</p><p>Astana will be looking to keep Jacob Fuglsang in contention and they too have a strong team here to help him. Lutsenko, Cort Neilsen, Fraile, Bilbao and Izagirre are all very strong, but wouldn't be in the same league as the three teams above when it comes to TTTs. They finished way down in 8th in the TTT last year, 51" behind BMC, but only Fuglsang, Cort and Fraile were in that team.</p><p>They've not had a great record in TTTs over the years though, they were only 13th in the TTT in Tirreno this year, 1'13" down on Mitchelton Scott, a team that had Fuglsang, Lutsenko and Fraile. They just don't seem to be able to pull it together in a TTT, and I fear Fuglsang could lose 40" or so to some of his rivals here, +5000 sounds about right.</p><p>Decueninck QuickStep are a team full of stars, but can they pull it together in a TTT? World Champions last year, but that team was a very different one to the team they have here, with only Lampaert and Asgreen here, the big engines are not. But Alaphilippe and Lampaert are two very good TTers, Lampaert recently won the final TT in the Tour de Suisse and finished 2nd behind Van Aert in the Belgian TT champs.</p><p>They finished 4th in the TTT at Tirreno, a team that had Lamps, Alap, Viv, Morkov, Richeze and Asgreen, only Devenyns and Mas were missing. They were 37" behind M-S though over just 21kms, that's quite a chasm to have to close. Alaphilippe wants to take yellow at some point in the first week, Viviani could take yellow if they pull off a stunner and win, Mas won't want to lose too much time, they're racing in Belgium. Lots of motivation, but ultimately I think they will miss out, 4th or 5th for me.</p><p>Bahrain Merdia - any team that has Rohan Dennis, Jan Tratnik, Matej Mohoric, Vincenzo Nibali, Dylan Teuns and Damiano Caruso has to be respected. Rohan Dennis we all know about, Jan Tratnik was Slovenian TT champion last year, and won TTs at Coppi e Bartali and the CCC Tour and has been trialling well this year.</p><p>Caruso has won two TDF and two Tirreno TTTs while at BMC, he was an integral part to their all-conquering TTT teams and recently finished 4th in the final TT in the Giro.</p><p style="text-align:center"><img alt src="https://ms.sbrfeeds.com/redirect-proxy/redirect/?url=http://teambahrainmerida.com/new2017/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/bettiniphoto_0274792_1_1024px.jpg" style="width:800px;height:534px" /></p><p>Bahrain finished 3rd in the TTT in the UAE Tour, just 9" behind Jumbo, and that team had Nibali, Tratnik, Caruso and Dennis, that was a superb ride from them, they beat all bar Sunweb and Jumbo comfortably. Dylan Teuns is a very solid top-20 finisher in almost every TT he does and will add BMC experience to the squad too. Colbrelli and Garcia will be the weak links, but the rest of the team looks pretty solid and they could be pushing for a podium spot. +2500 looks like a great price to me for an e/w.</p><p>EF Education First and Bora Hansgrohe will go well too, EF surprised by winning the TTT in Colombia at the start of the season, but Uran was the only one of that team here, and I don't think the rest of this team look particularly hot. Bora have some very strong guys, but this isn't a priority for them and they aren't very good at TTTs. The 10th in the UAE Tour TTT is probably their level, they will hope to not do as badly as their 20th out of 23 in the Tirreno TT.</p><p>Katusha could surprise a few, they have a very strong team with Dowsett, Politt, Haller, Wurtz and Debuscherre, but they will be held back by Zakarin and they'll probably have to wait for him. CCC could do alright too, they have some of the old BMC boys and a strong unit with GVA, Rosskopf, Bevin, Geschke, Pauwels, De Marchi, Wisniowski and Schar.</p><p>Movistar won't be far off the pace either, with Amador and Oliveira in their team, but they have too many lightweight climbers and hangers-on, I think they will be just looking to limit their time losses. I think they will be around 8th-10th, so +6600 looks right to me.</p><p>And that's it really, can't see Lotto-Soudal, FDJ, Trek, UAE or any of the others troubling the podium. It looks like it will be a battle between Jumbo Visma, Mitchelton, Ineos and Bahrian-Merida for the win and at the prices I’m prepared to take on the top two, I think one of the other two could surprise and one of the top two disappoint.</p><p> </p><h2>Recommendations:</h2><p><a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4702&book=Bet365" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><strong>2pts e/w on Mitchelton Scott at +400 at Bet365</strong></a></p><p><a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4702&book=Bet365" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"><strong>0.5pts e/w on Bahrain Merida at +2500 at Bet365</strong></a></p></div>