By David Hunter
Ulrichen – Ulrichen 101 km
The original stage had to be altered, but the plan B is just as hard as the original route. We have just 101km of racing and three HC climbs, this is going to be three hours of pain for the riders.
The peloton immediately head uphill, with the Nufenenpass, which is 12.8km at 8.5%. This is where we should see the morning break get away from the peloton, but will they ever be seen again? This is an awful climb, just ridiculously tough from bottom to top. About 20km of easy descending follows, before we head back up the Gotthardpass, remember this was the end climb in Friday’s stage.
Not much to say about this, we all saw how difficult it was just the other day. The top of the climb is the halfway point in the stage, I can only imagine how tired most of the riders will feel. Another easy descent follows, then a short section in the valley, before the final climb of the day.
The Furkapass is actually the easiest climb of the day, but it’s still 11.6km at 7.4%. From the top, we still have 25km left of the day, which does increase the chances of riders re-joining the front group.
The climb might be the easiest of the day, but the descent is the hardest. We have a number of technical sections and gaps can be created by the speed demons of the bunch, before 8km of flat road to the finishing line.
Nice and sunny
Egan Bernal nailed his TT today and leads Rohan Dennis by 22 seconds. With Patrick Konrad sitting 1:24 behind Dennis, this is a battle between the two of them. Bernal has consistently climbed better than the Aussie this week, he’ll be confident of holding onto the yellow jersey.
An unfortunate puncture for Domenico Pozzovivo not only ruined his TT, but denied Bahrain having two men still in GC contention, giving them a tactical upper hand. As the Italian is nearly three minutes behind Bernal, there is no need for Ineos to worry about chasing him down.
The final climb crests with 25km remaining, it is unlikely we’ll see someone go solo from the top. A small group should come to the finish together, or possibly a rider escapes close to the finish. If Bahrain have two men in the front group, they’ll have a huge advantage over the others.
As I’ve mentioned in other previews, most teams don’t arrive with lots of climbing domestiques, which is great news for the morning break. I think only Bahrain would be interested in chasing the morning break, but that could all change if a GC rider tries a bold move, something we’ve seen before in these short stages.
Egan Bernal – the little Colombian is in sensational form, but winning this stage will be complicated. He knows that he doesn’t need to win the stage, and as he could be forced into pulling the bunch in the closing stages, he is unlikely to take his second win of the week. This won’t be an issue for him, his sole focus will be holding onto the yellow jersey.
Domenico Pozzovivo – he’s been the second-best climber this week, only beaten by Bernal. The Italian has managed to hold his form after the Giro, and he’ll be hoping for a chance to take a rare win. If Bahrain have him and Dennis in the front group, they’ll have a tactical advantage over their rivals. The problem is that Pozzovivo doesn’t have a particularly fast sprint.
Rohan Dennis – he’ll be disappointed not to have beaten Bernal by more today. Given the amount of climbing in this stage, it would take a miracle for him to take yellow off Bernal. If the Aussie survives in the front group, it will be a huge performance, possibly his best ever. I have my doubts, but hope to be proven wrong.
Enric Mas – arrived here looking to build his form, something he is doing. He put in a solid attack on Friday, but Bernal was just too good. The Spaniard will like the look of this stage and a big performance would certainly boost his confidence ahead of the Tour. Mas has a relatively fast sprint from a small group.
Patrick Konrad – probably has the best sprint of the GC riders, but there is no guarantee that we’ll get a sprint. The Austrian is sitting in 3rd place on GC, but only has an eight second advantage over Tiesj Benoot. It will be interesting to see if Konrad risks it all for the stage win, or plays it safe for the podium.
Tiesj Benoot – the Belgian is on the verge of his best ever result in a mountainous race. A crash ruined his hopes in Paris-Roubaix, but it gave him a break from cycling, which seems to have agreed with him. After a successful recent spell at altitude, Tiesj is now looking at a potential podium performance in this race. If it ends in a small sprint, he’ll back himself to take the win, remember he once finished 4th in a Dauphiné sprint stage.
Rui Costa – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Mathias Frank – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Merhawi Kudus – breakaway hopeful number 3.
The short stage and lack of a mountaintop finish means we should see the breakaway win. After getting sick at a recent altitude camp, a certain rider started this week a little off his best, but he has improved as the race has developed. I think we’ll see a win for Rui Costa.
Back in the GC group, I think Dennis won’t survive with the front group and Bernal will easily hold onto yellow. Keep your fingers crossed that Tiesj manages to finish on the podium.
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