By David Hunter
Aigle – Champery 173km
After a big day win today, Fabio Felline starts in the leader’s jersey. Will he manage to hold on?
The stage starts with a long flat section, the break will go before the first climb of the day. After a couple of cat 3 climbs, the first proper obstacle is the cat 2 climb to Vex, 8.9km at 6.3%. A descent follows, before another long flat section. The penultimate climb is 2.1km at 9.1%, which will certainly where we’ll see the first riders being dropped.
The final climb is certainly long enough to cause problems, but the gradient is not as hard as other cat 1 climbs in the World Tour. Including some descents, the climb is 14.5km at 4.2%. That is relatively easy for the best climbers in the world, but the weather does increase the difficulty level of the stage.
It’s going to be a horrible day. The race loops around Aigle and Sion, both will have a lot of rain for the whole day. Due to the low temperatures, that means we should see snow on the hills, especially as we twice climb to 1000m. This is going to be a hugely challenging day for the bunch.
The weather is going to be the deciding factor. Hopefully we don’t see any climbs being removed, that would be a huge shame. Trek have the leader’s jersey and they will come under fire. As the final climb isn’t overly difficult, we should have a lot of riders still in contention with 10km to go. That will make the finale incredibly hard to control and we could see a “lesser” rider sneak away and take the win.
However, the weather could make this stage very selective. If it is very cold, the final climb will seem like Ventoux! It’s a day where anything can happen.
The leading teams will employ different tactics. If you have a number of strong teammates, you will use them to attack and slim down the bunch. If you only have one strong helper, you will get them to stay with you as far up the climb as possible. With a number of attacks, we could get the right mix and they go all the way. It’s a good day for those solid climbers that don’t happen to be the team leader.
Ruben Fernandez – the Spaniard is one of the rising stars of cycling. After winning the 2013 Tour de l’Avenir, he has carefully managed his rise through the cycling ranks. He had some solid results in 2016, finishing 6th in the TDU, Poland and Burgos, plus wearing the red jersey in the Vuelta. 2017 should be even better for the 26 year old, he is reaching an age where he can be challenging for wins.
David de la Cruz – with stage wins in Pais Vasco and Paris-Nice, the QuickStep rider is enjoying the best year of his career. He has benefited from being under-estimated, but surely no more! This stage looks good for him, especially as Jungels will be marked by the other GC contenders.
Nico Roche – here to support Richie Porte, but as I’ve explained, he could get some freedom in this stage. Roche packs a very fast sprint compared to most climbers and will relish a chance to chase some personal success.
Roman Kreuziger – the Czech rider was amazing in Liege. He is looking very strong just now and performs well in poor conditions. Orica have a number of stage options, as his TT isn’t that strong, Kreuziger could be allowed a little freedom by the big teams.
Vasil Kiryienka – a surprise name in the list! Team Sky arrive with a weaker team that usual. Despite now being used early in the mountain train, Kiryienka was a fearless last man, back in his Movistar days. With weaker teammates, we might see him return to a later role in the team, that would make him dangerous in the closing kilometres. His prologue was an indication of good form.
Mathias Frank – I needed to include a Swiss rider in my list. He is the team leader for AG2R and hugely motivated to take a result on home soil. His TT ability is quite poor, that might buy him a little freedom. It would be good to see a Swiss rider do well in this stage.
Simon Spilak – loves the rain! Spilak often saves his best performances for horrible days in the saddle. He is a rider the others will worry about, as he can do a good TT too. With Zakarin at his side, Katusha will have a huge say in this stage.
Chris Froome – did not want to take any risks in today’s prologue. No wonder! Now with some ground to make up, we shall see how Team Sky approach this stage. Picking up 10 bonus seconds would be a huge help. The need for bonus seconds should see a number of teams willing to chase down attacks. Sky will look to give their leader every chance of taking back some time.
Richie Porte – went even slower than Froome today! You might think the Aussie would be poor in the rain, but Porte comes from the island of Tasmania, a place no stranger to lots of rain. The weather won’t put him off and giving his climbing form, he should have plenty of confidence going into this stage.
Primoz Roglic – the former ski jumper is no stranger to performing well in the snow! Strong climber, excellent TT rider and can sprint a bit, the other contenders will have to watch him very carefully.
Fabio Felline – can he hold on? The Italian is no stranger to performing well on climbs, but he has been very busy recently. I think this is right on his limit, but he might just stay as race leader.
If the final climb is cancelled, I hope they end the stage on top of the penultimate climb. We will just have to see what alternative plans the organisers have. The favourite will probably be a flat finish and a reduced sprint.
If we get the full stage, I think we could see a surprise winner. With the climb not being that hard, I expect a secondary rider to get away and take the glory. My pick will be Roman Kreuziger, I was very impressed by him on Sunday.
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