By David Hunter
Domdidier – Leysin 164km
The Queen stage is here.
With three cat 1 climbs, this is a tough day in the saddle. The percentages of the climbs aren’t too bad, but with four climbs in the last 76km of the stage, this will still be a test of climbing ability and stamina.
The hardest of the climbs is Jaunpass, 6.6km at 7.5%. This is the opening climb of the stage and begs to be attacked. With gaps very small on GC and a big TT to follow on Sunday, it will be very interesting to see how teams approach this climb. I have a feeling some teams will want to set a very fast pace.
There are a couple of problems for Froome and Porte. First of all, they would like to drop Fabio Felline. Then they have to gain significant time on Roglic and Castroviejo. These two are incredibly good TT riders and capable of putting 30 seconds into the climbers on Sunday. Froome currently sits 20 seconds behind Roglic, that means he would like to take 50 seconds on him in this stage. Looking at the profile, that won’t be easy.
Expect to see a lot of BMC and Sky on the climbs. They have to isolate Roglic and that means fast climbing. Jumbo will look towards Gesink and Van den Broeck to provide strong support for their team leader. They should be good enough to support him deep into this stage. Then it’s up to him.
As the final climb is the easiest of the cat 1 climbs, we might see attacks before it. Col du Pillon is long enough to cause some problems, but it will need a real drive from a few teams. This is where I would start to attack. With a relatively long descent into the final climb, having teammates with you would certainly help.
At last, a beautiful day for cycling. Expect to see lots of sunshine.
Chris Froome – expect a big day from Froome. Despite a solid 2nd place in a Catalunya mountain stage, we are yet to see him in full flight in 2017. The Sky rider has a good record in this race and I would expect to see Team Sky working hard for him. I’m interested to see what role Gianni Moscon plays in the mountain train. This kid can do everything!
Richie Porte – BMC have Van Garderen and Roche to help set a fast pace, but that isn’t as strong as some of the other teams. Porte will happily take advantage of the Sky work, but he will also be at ease working with Froome to distance the TT experts. The two rivals are very good friends and still work well together. Expect to see them share duties until near the end. Then the gloves will come off!
Simon Yates – the Orica boys have Yates and Kreuziger, that is two very strong options in a stage like this. Yates already has a WT win to his name this year, after a stunning long range attack in Paris-Nice. Of the climbers here, he probably has the best uphill sprint, making him a dangerous man to take to the line.
Rigoberto Uran – the Colombian has already impressed in Tirreno and the Basque Country, good signs for the rest of the season. He seems to have re-found some of his old form, his team will be pleased! As his TT is poor these days, the others won’t be overly concerned with his presence in the front group. He should be able to finish in the top 5.
Simon Spilak – Mr Romandie! It’s great to see Spilak back on form after a terrible 2016. I don’t think he’s quite back to his 2015 level, but will be looking for a strong performance in this stage. Katusha also have Ilnur Zakarin, that will allow them to ride an attacking race. Don’t expect to see Zakarin committing to an early attack, due to his descending skills, he needs to wait until the final climb.
Ion Izagirre – the Spaniard will be in wheel following mode. He will back himself to beat Froome and Porte in the TT, so, he needs to just follow their attacks. He has developed into an outstanding one week racer and this is another chance to land a big result. He also packs a fast sprint, making him a big danger to the others.
Mathias Frank – the Swiss rider will be hoping for a big result on home soil. He won’t have too many leadership opportunities with AG2R, expect him to take advantage of this one. At his best, Frank can win a stage like this.
Chris Froome. It’s that’s time of the year.
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