By David Hunter
Conthey – Villars 172.7km
Well, that was a surprise! I thought he’d do well, but Pinot was outstanding. He really is showing everyone that it’s about time for him to move into the elite rider section.
We head back into the mountains, where the GC will be settled.
The riders have a real day of climbing ahead of them, with three cat one climbs. They are 10.4km at 8.9% and then 8.9km at 7.8%. The climb to Villars is completed twice. This is a proper day in the mountains.
Nairo Quintana – isn’t he looking good? A good climbing day on Thursday, then a pretty special TT. Quintana certainly seems to be in great form. He leads Pinot by 23 seconds, Zakarin by 26 and teammate Izagirre is at 29. It is very hard to see how Quintana does not take the GC. Even with the bonus of 10 seconds, Pinot or Zakarin, will need clear daylight between themselves and Nairo, and I can’t see that happening. There is no need to win the stage, he is likely just to follow wheels.
Ilnur Zakarin – was the only rider capable of following Quintana on Thursday, dropping Pinot in the process. His TT was good, but he’ll still be a little disappointed. The Russian clearly has good legs, plus a fast sprint, although he needs to stay on line! Has a very good chance of a stage win.
Thibaut Pinot – couldn’t follow on Thursday but was amazing today. He has a very strong team here to help, they did a great job the other day. With Elissonde, Geniez and Morabito, FDJ have a solid squad for the lower slopes. Once he get a little higher, Reichenbach takes over. The local boy is in great form and will dedicate himself to the team. Pinot will need him at his best.
Chris Froome – his TT confirms that he didn’t want to go over a certain level on Thursday. We all know how much he loves his power meter, Sky clearly had a clear plan and Froome stuck to it. He will want a big performance and win before retreating to another training camp. For once in his life, he might even get a little freedom. He is way down on GC and no one needs to chase him. Froome is in a win/win position.
Most riders are way down on GC, so the breakaway has a strong chance. To win this stage, you must be a good climber. Riders like LL Sanchez, Michael Albasini, Maxime Bouet, Mikel Nieve, Thomas De Gendt, Jarlinson Pantano and Andrew Talansky are all candidates for the morning move.
Movistar are strong. They can count upon Anacona(although he fell today), Gorka Izagirre, Amador and Ion Izagirre. Quintana will be confident that Ion Izagirre will last all the way up the final climb, meaning that the little Colombian can stay nice and fresh. Izagirre really is crucial to the Movistar plan.
FDJ will look to cause some problems, just like they did on Thursday. They will also be confident that Reichenbach can keep the pace very high and possibly drop Izagirre. That is the point where Pinot will try to strike. Saying that, I can’t see him dropping Quintana.
Katusha aren’t too bad either, with Taaramae and Spilak able to help Zakarin. He can climb with Quintana and outsprint him, but he might just have to settle for a stage win.
There is no need to chase Froome, so he wins. He clearly has good legs and will try to send a message to everyone. Quintana will be supported by Izagirre and only has to follow wheels. He will win the GC.
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