By David Hunter
Loule – Malhao 179.2km
The race ends with the Queen stage. It’s the normal stage that ends with the climb, Alto do Malhao.
After an easy start to the day, the riders are faced with a very demanding 80km. It’s in that period they are either climbing or descending, there are no easy kilometres. The lap circuit means they do the “big” climb on two occasions. It ensures a small peloton as we approach the final ascent.
The climb is 2.6km at 9.2%, that is tough! It also includes a short downhill section as we approach the final kilometre, before it kicks up again for the final 600m. The last ramp is perfect for a big attack.
Primoz Roglic – has a 22 second lead on GC to Michal Kwiatkowski, he is the only real threat. That means the Jumbo man can ride a defensive race and simply mark the moves of the Pole. Doing that will sacrifice his hopes of a stage win, but it’s the sensible tactic to employ. Expect to the see Roglic shadow Kwiatkowski’s every move.
Dan Martin – due to his terrible TT, the Irishman will be allowed freedom to attack. He already has a stage win, but he would like to add a second. The length and gradient of this climb is prefect for the Ardennes specialist. He starts the stage as the big favourite.
Michal Kwiatkowski – it is great to see him back on form. He was 3rd on Thursday and then put in a solid TT, finishing 4th over the 18km. The Pole really is a sensational talent and this is a great sign for what could lie ahead in 2017. He knows that 22 seconds is a lot to make up, but if he takes the stage win, he’ll get a 10 second bonus. It still won’t be easy to put time into Roglic, especially as the Slovenian climbed better than him on Thursday.
Amaro Antunes – the Porto man was again showing off his stripes on Thursday’s stage. After impressing there and in Valenciana, he really is getting people to ask why he isn’t riding at a bigger team. Another big result in this stage and I’m sure a few teams will already be enquiring about his services for 2018. He is a great climber and deserves to perform on a bigger stage.
Tony Gallopin – the Frenchman currently sits 19 seconds behind Castroviejo and the podium. This stage was too hard for him in 2016, he finished way off the pace in 15th position. He looks to have started the year in good form and when he is 100%, he would love a finish like this.
Tiesj Benoot – 10th in Foia wasn’t a bad start for him, especially as he’s just here to gain condition for the Belgian races. This climb is much better for him, short and punchy. The unbelievably talented Belgian is still to win his first pro race, I think he won’t be far away here.
This climb is even better for Dan Martin than the Alto da Foia. I think the Irishman will win with room to spare. Roglic wins the GC. He clearly is the strongest rider here.
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