By David Hunter
Samail – Jebel Akhdar(Green Mountain) 152.5km
At last, the big GC day is here.
Nothing much happens until the big climb.
5.7km at 10.5% is a brutal test at this time of the season. Throw in hot conditions and it makes it a very demanding climb.
- Ben Hermans
- Rui Costa – 5 seconds
- Jakob Fuglsang – 13 seconds
- Merhawi Kudus – 21 seconds
- David De La Cruz – 22 seconds
- Romain Bardet – 23 seconds
Romain Bardet – started the race as the big favourite, but has lost some time to his rivals. With 10 seconds for the win, he knows he needs to take the stage to threaten on GC. The Frenchman clearly has the quality to do so, but his performance this week has led me to doubt that he’s ready at this point in the season. He rode an almost perfect race in 2016, but just couldn’t get past Nibali in the final 200m. Can he go one better?
Jakob Fuglsang – one of the riders who has really impressed this week. He put in a solid performance here in 2016, finishing in 3rd place. He likes the race and has a great chance of taking the GC. He is 13 behind Hermans and 8 down to Rui Costa, just like Bardet, he will be eyeing up the bonus seconds. The Dane has a great chance of winning the stage and GC.
Rui Costa – can he hold on? Last year he finished 5th here, losing 54 seconds to Nibali. In 2015 he was 6th, losing 49 seconds to Rafa Valls. The history records are not kind to the former world champion, but he does look in better form than previous years. I think the steepness of the climb is not exactly to his liking, but the thought of winning the race could just spur him on.
Merhawi Kudus – already performed very well this season, he was the only rider capable of matching Quintana in Valenciana, just not the whole way up the climb. He will be hoping to stay in the wheels and last as long as possible up the climb, he might just sneak onto the overall podium.
Ben Hermans – the man they are all gunning for. He is a talented climber and getting better with age, but, I would be very surprised to see him lasting on this climb. Riding in the race lead, teams will lean on him and force him to chase. Looking at his squad, he won’t have much help in the last 3km of the climb.
David De La Cruz – the Etixx man has ghosted through this race and is a threat to the other GC riders. After finishing 7th in the Vuelta, he seems to have maintained his form through the winter. Like Hermans, I think he might struggle to stay with the best climbers in the race.
It looks like being a strong cross/headwind on the climb. That is bad news for those trying to make up time on GC, good news for Rui Costa. I think the stage should be a fight between Bardet and Fuglsang. As the form of the Dane is better, it’s a win for Jakob Fuglsang. Thanks to the bonus seconds, I think he might just sneak into the race lead too.
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