By David Hunter
Pravia – Alto de la Cubilla. Lena 144.4km
Another tough day in the Asturias mountains.
Just like today, it’s another short stage full of big mountains. The opening 50km is nice and easy, but will be raced very fast as riders try to make the break. Once we get to the first climb, it’s all climbing and descending, with no flat kilometres. This is a stage that’s designed to encourage riders to attack from distance, hopefully some of the GC riders got the memo.
First up is Puerto de San Lorenzo, which is 10km at 8.5%, a brutal start to the day.
After a descent of 20km, the riders then start climbing Alto de la Cobertoria, which is 7.9km at 8.5%. The final 5km of the climb is very difficult and this is where we could see some of the GC riders launching a big move. There is only a short descent of 10km, before the road starts to rise towards our finishing climb. This 15km section is basically on a false flat, which means that any attackers will hope to join teammates who were in the morning break.
17.7km at 5.9%, it’s long and will be harder than the numbers suggest after a tough day in the saddle. First across the line will obviously win the stage, but they also collect 20 KOM points, the most for any climb in the race. This is a bit weird, as we have many climbs that are harder than this one.
Cloudy, with the chance of rain. We’re a long way from the roasting hot temperatures of the Costas.
Hopefully we get a more entertaining day, as today was rubbish! If a GC rider gets some teammates in the break, it is possible to launch a big attack on the penultimate climb, but will someone be willing to roll the dice? López seems to be going backwards, there is no way Astana will work all day to set him up. Movistar have Valverde, there is a chance they work for a stage win, but it’s only a slim one. I think this looks like another good day for the breakaway riders. Expect a huge fight before the first climb, quite similar to what happened today.
The final climb is long and steady, one where riders can settle into a rhythm. Without severe gradients, it’s better news for most of the GC riders, but it will still be selective.
Primož Roglič – super controlled today, there doesn’t seem to be any weakness for the others to feed off. The Slovenian is looking very strong and the 2:25 gap to Valverde looks huge at this moment. If he can get through this stage without losing any time, you can put the champagne on ice
Alejandro Valverde – looked nice and strong today, but he’ll know the he has little chance of cracking Roglič. After gaining time today, he looks secure in second place, which is a magnificent achievement considering his age. Given the look of the final climb, he would be my favourite to win from the GC group, but will the breakaway have already won the stage?
Dylan Teuns – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Jesús Herrada – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Wout Poels – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Jakob Fuglsang – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Yet again, I think the break will take the day. I’ll roll the dice with Jesús Herrada. Back in the GC group, I think that López will end the day back on the podium.
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