By David Hunter
Saint Vulbas – Saint Michel De Maurienne 229km
Could well be a day for the breakaway.
First thing to note is the distance, 229km. This is a very long day in the saddle for the riders.
Next thing to note is the six categorised climbs in the central section of the race, which is perfect for the attackers.
The final thing to note is the final climb, it crests with just 7.5km remaining. This means GC teams won’t be keen on chasing all day, for a rival to escape on the descent and take some vital time bonuses.
Put the three things together and do you know what it makes? This looks a great day for the morning break, which means it will be very hard to actually make the move. The vast majority of the opening 80km of the stage is flat, this isn’t a day for a small climber to get in the break, it’s a day for those with raw power. Once the break has been established, which could take a long time, the race will settle into a normal pattern. The only issue for the break’s survival is if a threat on GC makes the move, but that’s unlikely with the big gaps we already have on GC.
6.9km at 6.6%, but this climb has lots of difficult sections. It starts with double digit gradients, before becoming much easier. Once near the top the road kicks up to 7/8%.
The descent is fast, and the road is narrow, perfect for those who are fearless. If we have a small group together at the crest of the climb, we could see plenty of moments where you have to look away from the TV screen.
There could be some rain around in the morning, but the peloton could get lucky and not get wet. The temperature will be higher than the first few stages, with a relatively strong wind coming from the north. This means a tailwind for much of the day, which is great news for the break. Once onto the final climb, there will be a headwind, which will help keep the race together, potentially setting up a small sprint finish.
After Froome’s crash, the race is left wide open. Team Ineos were the ones doing all the work in the early stages, I don’t see another team wanting to take over chasing down breaks. Once on the final climb, it is hard enough for lots of riders to be dropped, but only a GC rider on a very bad day will lose contact with the main group. All that could change on the descent, we could see some small gaps appear and the good descenders taking some time.
Julian Alaphilippe – his tactics were a little questionable, when he decided to go in the break on Monday, but at least he tried. This stage is one where he’ll need to assess the chance of the break surviving, before deciding on his tactics. The final climb is perfect for him, as is the descent to the line. He starts the stage as the overwhelming favourite, especially as he can win from the break or GC group. QuickStep will be aware that life could be tough for him in the break, with riders leaning on him to do more than his fair share, so I think they’ll try and have multiple riders in the move.
Michal Kwiatkowski – now without Froome, the Pole should have freedom to chase personal glory. He sits way down on GC; he’ll hope to make the break and take it from there. He’s spoken about being unsure of his current form, after a long block at altitude, but this stage is one that suits him well.
Oli Naesen – was in the break on stage 1, and looked in fine form. AG2R will be desperate to take something from this race and it looks like a breakaway will be their best option, with Bardet not looking at his best. Naesen is a very strong climber, don’t be fooled by his classics tag, remember he nearly won a very hilly stage of the Dauphine back in 2017, featuring Mont du Chat. He also packs a fine sprint, which will give him confidence if a small group arrive together at the finishing line.
Magnus Cort – already has a breakaway win to his name this year, taking a fine stage in Paris-Nice. As he continues his transition from sprinter to all-rounder, this is exactly the type of stage that will interest him. Keep your eye on him, I’ve been very impressed by his development over the last year.
Carlos Verona – a solid climber who’s always willing to take his chance in the morning move. Movistar will hope to join the break and Verona would give them a decent option, but he would have to attack on the final climb.
Alberto Bettiol – after his huge win in Flanders, Bettiol is looking like he’s back in form. A strong TT performance is always a good indicator of form and he’ll be looking to make the break. If he does, he has a good chance of taking just his 2nd pro win.
Robert Power – had to quit the Giro through injury, but seems to be over that now. The young Aussie has long been touted as future star, but he hasn’t had many opportunities to show what he can do with Sunweb. Without a GC rider, all of their team will have freedom to chase personal glory, hopefully he can remind everyone just what a talent he is.
Wout Van Aert – if by some miracle the breakaway doesn’t win, a certain WVA will be licking his lips in the peloton. The climb looks within his capabilities and he’s sprinting like a dream. Can he take three consecutive stages?
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