By David Hunter
Valdengo – Bergamo 199km
A tough day ahead for Team Sunweb.
The stage can really be split into two sections: a very easy 149km and a crazy 50km! The end of this stage presents opportunities for many riders.
First on the menu is the cat 2 climb to Miragolo San Salvatore. Giving it cat 2 status is a little misleading as this climb does have 7km at 7.5%. Overall the climb is 9.85km at 6.2%, but that includes an easy beginning and end. This climb is long enough to see some big attacks from the GC riders. Once over the top, the riders descend for 5km before facing the next climb. Hopefully the descent has been resurfaced, it was in a very poor condition in October.
The cat 3 climb to Selvino is much easier, it is 6.9km at 5.4%. This is a relatively steady effort, but the opening 2km can be used to drop weaker riders. The fun doesn’t stop here, we have a real sting in the tail as the riders head for home.
Coming so close to the finish, the final kicker is perfect for a late attack. We have 500m at 6.4%, before 500m at 9.8%, this section includes 200m on pave and a maximum gradient of 12%. The road doesn’t drop immediately, it continues to rise for another 400m, before a fast descent to the finishing line.
We’ve Been Here Before
If some of these climbs ring a bell, it’s because this is the same route used into Bergamo in the 2016 edition of Il Lombardia. The three climbs above were used in 2016 and caused quite a split in the bunch. Miragolo San Salvatore is hard enough to cause a big selection and the final climb up into Bergamo is one that suits the punchy riders. The finishing line is not in the exact same place as Il Lombardia, the peloton don’t have to make the final right hand turn.
Once over the final climb, we have a sweeping descent to the line. The roads are wide, except from the point where the riders go through a very narrow gate. If we get any type of sprint, it will be fast, thanks to the descent.
Another sunny day, with a light tailwind for almost the whole stage. Good news for the break.
Another flat start is not good news for the climbers. It makes it very easy for the little guys to get in the morning move. Movistar’s tactics will be interesting, they might try and sneak some riders into the move. If Quintana wants to take some time, he’ll attack on the first climb, but he’ll need some riders to help him for the rest of the stage.
Due to the difficulty of the finish, this could be a stage for a very large break. No team will really be keen on controlling this stage, the finish is too unpredictable. The break does have a good chance of success.
Nairo Quintana – even if he gets riders up the road, it’s just about impossible for Nairo to win the stage. The climb in Bergamo is one for explosive riders, plus we have a flat finish. That’s not to say that Nairo will not look to gain time. The first climb is hard enough for differences to be made and Quintana needs to take every possible opportunity to gain time on Dumoulin.
Thibaut Pinot – the flat finish is good news for Pinot, who is the fastest sprinter of the GC riders. The race will be hard to control, but if it comes back together, he has a great chance of taking the stage. He also has the explosive kick required for the final climb in Bergamo.
Diego Rosa – you might remember how strong he was in Lombardia. That day, he dominated the climbs, riding for Fabio Aru, before eventually being allowed to chase personal glory. Despite leading out the final sprint, Rosa finished in 2nd. Sky no longer have GC hopes, that should allow Rosa some freedom in this stage. He has the power required to make the morning move.
Tom Dumoulin – will be a day that he hopes to survive and not lose any time to Quintana. His team will have to be very watchful on the opening climb, as it is hard, despite only being cat 2. If we get a sprint featuring the GC boys, expect to see the pink jersey having a go for stage glory. He does pack a fast finish.
Omar Fraile – this is another stage that suits him. After a brilliant win on Wednesday, he’s had a chance to recharge his batteries. Given his current form, I think he looks good enough to take more wins in this race. A big favourite of mine, I hope to see him make the morning move.
Rui Costa – has been close here in the past. Costa finished 3rd in the 2014 edition of Il Lombardia, after looking very strong on the run for home. He was unlucky to lose to Fraile, on Wednesday, after such a strong performance. UAE do have a stage win already, but they have been unlucky now on two more occasions. This is brilliant looking stage for Costa, expect to see him making a big effort to make the morning move. Despite sitting in 15th position, I don’t think the peloton will be worried about him making the break.
LL Sanchez – the Spaniard has had a quiet couple of days, that was only to be expected after three big performances, last week. Astana are still searching for that elusive win, this is a day that suits their main man. He has an explosive climb and packs a fast sprint. If he makes the break, he has a big chance of success.
Michael Woods – now on the search for stages, this is a profile that suits him. The final 1km climb is very good news for him, we’ve already seen that he enjoys that type of effort this season. He won’t find it easy to make the break, but Cannondale should be throwing all their resources behind him.
The break stays away and we’ll see a win for LL Sanchez.
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