By David Hunter
Pinerolo – Ceresole Reale 196.3km
The first of the big climbing days.
With close to 5000m of vertical gain, this is a huge day in the GC battle.
Col del Lys is 13.5km at 7%. This is the nice way to open up the legs! A long period of flat follows, before the going starts to get tough.
Pian del Lupo can be classified in many ways, the hardest section is 9.2km at 8.6%.
The descent off the mountain is a little beauty, with many hairpin bends. This can certainly be used to stretch out the bunch and put some GC riders into difficulty. It bounces straight into the long grind up to the finishing line.
The final 14.6km rises at an average of 5.1%, but the last 4.6km of the stage rises at 9.4%, with the final 300m at 10%. This is a hugely demanding end to a brutal day in the saddle.
Oh dear, it looks like there will be a fair bit of rain around. Most of this rain is forecast for the end of the stage, a little bit of extra motivation for the bunch to go fast!
With such a long final climb, this is a day where teams would like to have riders up the road. After just 18km, the peloton have 4km at 6%, which is the perfect spot for the morning break to go, well, that’s what the climbers are hoping.
The long valley road between the first two mountains means we won’t see any long-range attacks, but we could see some moves on Pian del Lupo, especially if domestiques are further up the road. Remember, most teams have the same objective; isolate Roglič.
Once onto the final climb, the big moves won’t happen until the final 4km. This section is very difficult and relatively large gaps can be made. The final kick to the line is perfect for the fast finishing climbers.
This stage will a huge impact on the GC battle over the next week. No doubt they’ll be a few surprises, with riders not able to follow the main GC group. There could also be a couple of younger riders still in the mix come the closing stages.
The success of the break is in the hands of the peloton. This is a classic mountain stage, where the GC riders will be hoping to take the win. The size of the break and how much of a gap they establish early on will dictate the pace of the bunch and the chances of success.
After today’s crazy stage, I wonder what UAE will do in this stage? They have managed to hold onto the pink jersey, with it moving to Jan Polanc, and he holds a big advantage. They should be the team to control the race, but their weakness opens the door to some big riders trying to make the morning move. It adds a large slice of uncertainty to the day.
Such an important thing in the high mountains. Having multiple riders high on GC gives a tactical advantage, as does having a really strong team. Today was very worrying for Primož Roglič, as he was left without any helpers, which will be a big problem in this stage.
The good news for Roglič is that not many teams have two credible GC options, which means he won’t be forced into covering all the attacks on his own. It will be interesting to see how Jumbo-Visma attack this day, getting a rider in the break would be a good move, but not easy to do.
Mitchelton-Scott looked strong today, with Hamilton and Chaves lasting for the whole climb, that will have given Yates a lot of confidence. With substantial time to make up, he really needs to make a big move in this stage, but does he have the legs to do so?
Simon Yates – arrived with the big words, now it’s time for his legs to do the talking. He didn’t try an attack today, instead choosing to ride conservatively. After losing big time in the ITT, he needs to make a move and he can’t wait around for much longer. He was my favourite to win the pink jersey, but after such a poor performance on Sunday, I do wonder if his legs will respond in the right way. Today was a step in the right direction, but can he attack and distance his rivals?
Primož Roglič – the Slovenian did well today, especially without teammates. He’s a very cool customer, which will help on the final climb. Teams will try and pressurise him to chase, but he doesn’t have to. Roglič needs to play a game of poker and make riders like Nibali close down moves, in fact, he should only look to cover the moves of the Shark and not worry too much about the other riders. The final climb is one that he should like, Roglič has been climbing as well as anyone this year. If he’s in the front group in the final kilometre, he’ll be confident of taking the win.
Vincenzo Nibali – the Shark of Messina is looking hungry. He has a strong team to support him and you can bet he’ll like the look of the final descent. When Nibali is in this form, he is a very hard man to beat. Okay, he doesn’t have the sprint to match some of his rivals, but he doesn’t need a sprint when arriving solo! This is a big day for him, he needs to start taking some time back on Roglič.
Mikel Landa – his disastrous TT has bought him a little freedom. He took a some time back today, but he’s still way down on the main GC riders. Winning the pink jersey seems an impossible task, but he’ll be expecting to win some stages in his current form. When Landa attacks, not many riders can follow.
Miguel Ángel López – Astana rode a very clever race today, and López managed to take some time back on his rivals. He’s now back in a position to challenge for the overall podium, something that he’ll be pleased with. Astana are the team who have the option of blowing the race apart, especially as some of their riders seemed to take it easy today. It will be fascinating to see how they approach this day; I expect fireworks.
Joe Dombrowski – breakaway option number 1.
Mikel Nieve – breakaway option number 2.
Fausto Masnada – breakaway option number 3.
UAE still in the race lead means the start of the stage will be crazy, with no structure whatsoever. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a relatively big name get into the breakaway and cause panic in the bunch.
As I mentioned, it seemed like Izagirre and Bilbao took things a little easy today, that can only mean one thing! Astana will again try to get men in the break, then López will launch a big attack quite a long way from home. The problem for him, is that other riders will want to join in the fun and attack with him. After watching him today, I think this is a stage for Mikel Landa.
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