By David Hunter
Caso – Gijon 149.7km
A very dangerous stage.
Only 150km long, but it features four categorised climbs. The worry for some riders is the cat 1 climb to start the day.
You can bet that everyone will be on the rollers before the stage. After a disastrous stage to Formigal, in 2016, will Team Sky make the same mistake again?
The next two climbs aren’t very important, but the final ascent of the day is a tough one. Officially it is 5.3km at 6.8%, but that includes the opening 2km at 2.3%. The riders are then faced with kilometres of 9.2%, 12.5% and 7.5%.
Make no mistake, Froome will come under fire. The problem for the other riders is that he is a difficult man to beat. It seems like he only suffers on 20% gradients.
A straightforward finish for the peloton. Will we see a solo attacker trying to hold on?
A beautiful day for the riders with lots of sunshine and comfortable temperatures.
It all depends on the GC riders. Will they go crazy on the first climb? If not, this is a wonderful day for the breakaway.
This is not 2016, Team Sky are a different beast, there is no way they get caught napping again. However, that will not stop teams from attacking. GC riders are still chasing a stage and moving higher in the overall classification. Make no mistake, we will see lots of huge attacks on the first climb.
Once the first climb has been crested, the riders will evaluate the situation. We could see groups returning to the front of the race, or, we could see the front group pushing on. It really depends on how many domestiques are left. Trek, Bahrain and Astana will all be keen on making this a very tough race.
Alberto Contador – he has to win a stage, otherwise the cycling Gods will not be happy. In his final race, he really does deserve to go out in style. Despite being 3:34 behind Froome, he is getting no freedom. That will not stop him going crazy, it’s just a question of when he attacks, not if. He has looked very strong in the last two days, a great sign for this stage.
Fabio Aru – blowing hot and cold. After being put into the shadows by Miguel Angel Lopez, he managed to escape the chasing bunch today. That was a good sign for the Italian, after struggling in the last few stages.
David De La Cruz – after a difficult period, the Spaniard seems back to his best. He was ultra attacking today, clearly he is happy with his legs again. Sitting in 11th position, he should be allowed some freedom and seems intent on attacking from distance.
Chris Froome – just like today, Froome just needs to ride a defensive race. With his team of super climbers, he only puts himself into the wind at the very end of the stage. If Froome arrives with a chance of taking the stage, he will be ruthless. Do not expect any gifts.
Vincenzo Nibali – so disappointing that he lost time today. For Saturday to be the stage it deserves to be, Nibali needs to be closer to Froome. Currently at 1:37, I hope to see the Shark in attacking mode. This stage is good for him, it reminds me of a one day race and this is when he’s at his best.
Ilnur Zakarin – the Russian has 12 seconds to make up on Kelderman, to reach the podium. Zakarin has looked impressive throughout the three weeks, but hasn’t got the stage he deserves. With his team fully behind him, I expect to see a lot from him in this stage.
Wilco Kelderman – fastest sprint of the GC riders, he’ll hope for a small bunch kick.
King Contador to take the stage.
The others will try and break Froome, but they won’t succeed.
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