By David Hunter
Lucens – Torgon 176km
The big GC day.
The peloton have over 4000m of climbing ahead of them. The way the stage has been structured, I don’t think we’ll see any long-range attacks, as the Jaunpass is far too far from home, and the other climbs aren’t hard enough. This should be a day for teams to ground others into the ground, then unleash on the final climb.
The riders better look away now! We have lots of rain around, which could well fall as snow on the higher ground. Thankfully, the descents aren’t particularly technical, but that’s the only good news for the bunch. The conditions are bound to make this a brutal day in the saddle. Giro riders beware!
12.5km at 5.7% isn’t the hardest climb in the world, but the opening 8km is at 7%. As you can see the climb flattens out as we get to the top, so the riders need to take advantage of the tough opening with plenty of hairpin bends. As this is the only proper mountain stage, you can expect the pace to be high throughout, this is a big test of legs for those heading off to the Giro. This will ensure tired legs for the final climb and the mountain will seem harder than the gradient suggests.
Lotto-Visma are still in control of this race. They will take up the riding, but won’t be concerned if a non-threatening breakaway goes down the road. If another team wants the stage win, they’ll need to ride. The weather conditions will add a level of tension to proceedings, especially for the Giro riders who can’t take unnecessary risks with their big objective just one week away. In terms of team strength, I don’t see a dominant team at this race, but some do have multiple riders still in contention. Movistar, Jumbo-Visma, FDJ, Katusha and Bora are the teams with options high on GC, this will give them an advantage over the others.
Once on the mountain, the damage has to be done early. As you can see, the end of the climb is quite easy and favours the climbers who have a fast sprint. If you lack in that department, you must attack on the lower slopes and hope to thin the bunch.
Geraint Thomas – does he really have the form to win this stage. After winning the Tour, the Welshman embarked on a long publicity tour and this seriously impacted his training schedule, including the winter months. When Thomas started the year, I didn’t expect to see him hitting form until June; this is a month early! He looks lean and has been climbing well, but we’ll have to see if he can handle 4000m of climbing in his current shape. Of course, if he’s near his best, he has to be the overwhelming favourite for the stage, especially with the flat finish.
Steven Kruijswijk – square shoulder Stevie is looking in fine form. I predicted that he’d be the winner of this race, and he’s sitting in a relatively strong position. You would expect him to TT better than most of his rivals, apart from Geraint Thomas, he’s the main danger. The stage is good news for the climber, he does enjoy a tough day in the saddle. He would have liked a tougher final climb, but you can’t get everything. Knowing that he needs time on Thomas should see him attack the final climb and go from far out, we’ll have to see if it works.
Emanuel Buchmann – the German is sitting in a strong position, especially as he has Großschartner as a helper, he should last deep into this stage. Bora have enjoyed an excellent season and Buchmann has a real chance of winning this stage. He’s climbing very well and has a relatively good sprint at the end of a tough day. His TT ability is quite good, better than a lot of his rivals, but he would like to gain some time on them in this stage. This is a big chance for him to follow up his Itzulia win with other at the very top level.
David Gaudu– it was great to see him taking his first world tour win today. Regular readers will know of my admiration for him and this is only the beginning for him. This is a climb that should suit him well, especially as he has luxury domestique, Sebastian Reichenbach, to deliver him into a strong position. Gaudu knows his TT ability isn’t good enough, so winning the race will be tough, but he should be confident of taking his second stage and sending out a big message to everyone else.
Rui Costa – usually saves his best stage rides for Switzerland and he’s looked in good form this week. He will look at the finish and hope it’s a sprint from a small group, he would be confident of winning from such a scenario. My only concern is the amount of climbing throughout the whole day, I’m not sure how much gas he’ll have left in the tank after such a demanding day.
Primož Roglič– I did tell you back in my GC preview that the Slovenian was here for training, but he has one stage win and sits in the race lead! I wonder if he’ll be tempted into now riding for the overall and seeing if he can defend his title? What would you do in his position?
Jan Hirt– breakaway pick number 1.
Joe Dombrowski– breakaway pick number 2.
Diego Rosa– breakaway pick number 3.
Given the predicted weather, this is going to be a hugely selective day. The way he was climbing on Tuesday, I’m going with Geraint Thomas. The Welshman doesn’t mind grizzly conditions and he’ll cope better than most.
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