By David Hunter
A boring day, with a big old mountain to finish. The break will be allowed to take a big gap, as they’ll need over 6 minutes of a head start to survive the climb, if it’s full of rouleurs. I remember one year a group starting the final climb with over 8 minutes and still not surviving to the end.
8.2km at 8.9% is a proper test of climbing legs. The easy day won’t be to the liking of all the climbers, most of them would prefer a tougher day in the saddle. The climb is unforgiving, with few easy sections. This is will explode the bunch and lots of riders will fall out of the GC picture. As the final 2.5km averages 11%, I think we’ll see most of the riders waiting until near the end before launching attacks, you must save energy for a demanding finish to the climb.
Cool and wet, quite a culture shock after the last few days of glorious sunshine. Some riders will love this, others won’t be so keen. There is also a real chance of thunderstorms during the race, something similar to the Dauphiné stage on Saturday. We also have a relatively strong headwind for much of the climb.
Tiesj Benoot – did someone say cold and wet? After crashing out of Paris-Roubaix, Tiesj took some time off the bike before heading back to Granada for an altitude camp. The camp was a huge success and he feels fresh and ready for his next block of racing, which includes this race and the Tour de France. The Belgian is an underrated climber, despite some impressive results in World Tour races. The bad weather is to his liking and he’ll hope for an impressive performance.
Hugh Carthy – another rider who won’t mind a bit of rain. After a successful Giro, he arrives here looking to take advantage of some good climbing legs. His performances in Italy has made him a firm favourite with many fans, his attacking style is to the liking of most observers. Carthy is a very talented climber and his aggression is something that could work in his favour. As the other riders look at each other, don’t be surprised to see him launch a long-range attack.
Egan Bernal – now that Thomas is out of the race, Bernal is the sole leader for Team INEOS. A training crash caused the Colombian to miss the Giro, allowing him the chance to ride for personal glory in this race and the Tour de France, now that Froome is out. The word on the street was that he was flying in training and starts this stage as the big favourite. He’s enjoyed a fine season, winning Paris-Nice and finishing 3rd in Catalunya, but he’s yet to taste stage success. In fact, it’s been over a year since he raised his hands in glory.
Enric Mas – was brilliant in the 2018 Vuelta and I’m very excited to see what he can achieve in the Tour de France. Before we get there, he has a big chance of success in this race. The Spaniard is a brilliant climber and a relatively light race schedule means he should be very fresh for this race. He’ll have Kasper Asgreen to help guide him into position and I hope to see him go toe-to-toe with Bernal.
Domenico Pozzovivo – rode the Giro in support of Nibali, but now gets to ride for himself. The little Italian shows no sign of slowing down, despite entering the twilight of his career. He has a good record in this race and the final climb is ideal for him, being small will certainly be an advantage given the gradient. He’s a great climber, but not a rider who wins very often.
Patrick Konrad – speaking of riders who don’t win very often, Konrad has never won a professional race. Now 27 years old, I think it won’t be long until he takes that first win. The Austrian is a solid climber, but his start to the season wasn’t very impressive. A strong Ardennes campaign seems to have put him back on track and I think he’ll be challenging for the stage win.
Simon Špilak – another rider who’ll love the cold and rain. The Slovenian is one of the best riders in tough conditions, which is why he always does well in Switzerland. Katusha have not enjoyed a very good season and there will be pressure on Špilak to step up and deliver a big result in this race. He has the experience and the race craft to ensure he competes for the win.
Carlos Betancur – 11th in Romandie was a positive sign for long suffering Betancur fans. Such a talented rider, but also a frustrating one. I think we’d all love to see him back to his best; he is a magnificent climber on his day. Movistar have Soler and Betancur, which could give them an advantage towards the end of the stage. Hopefully the Colombian can remind everyone just how good he is.
Wilco Kelderman – it’s always hard to predict how a rider performs after a long spell out, but he certainly should be fresh. This is his first race since Catalunya, which was back in late March. If you forget about the injury for a minute, you might remember that he’s a fantastic climber and packs a fast sprint. If his legs respond well, he has every chance of challenging for the win.
Rui Costa – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Simon Pellaud – breakaway hopeful number 2.
This is a weird day to predict. Basically, the peloton will simply roll around for 3 hours and then climb for 30 minutes. We also have a group of talented climbers riding their first races since injury, some riders who arrive here to prepare for the Tour and some who have just done the Giro. Team Ineos are in need of some good news and Egan Bernal will deliver for them.
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