By David Hunter
Cullera – El Puig 175.5km
One of the easiest sprint stages you’ll ever get in the Vuelta.
There’s very little to say about the route, we only have one cat 3 climb, very un-Spain like.
8km at 3.8%, which shouldn’t cause any problems, but expect to see Jumbo-Visma attack it anyway. After crashing during the opening stage, the Dutchies look angry, they want to explode the race whenever they can. This should be a stroll in the park for the riders, that’s until they see the weather forecast.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms are predicted for the vast majority of the stage. This will turn an easy stage into a crazy day, one where riders could easily lose ground in the GC battle. There is also a lovely section of exposed road from 4km to go, until 2km. The wind is coming off the sea and is around 18km/h, just wait for Jumbo-Visma to hit it hard.
Count them in folks, that’s 6 roundabouts in the final 5km. This would be a tricky finish in dry conditions, but as the roads are going to be wet, most riders will be fearful of the finish. The roundabouts all have just one side open, which means the peloton will be stretched out in one line for the final 5km. GC teams will want to be right at the front, as they must stay safe and out of trouble. This finish will be chaos!
Sam Bennett – took a dominant win today, his top speed is too much for his rivals just now. Bora have a strong team to support him, and if he loses them, he is brilliant at jumping onto other trains. The bad weather isn’t ideal, but he did win a 2018 Giro stage in filthy conditions. Hailing from Ireland, Sammy B doesn’t mind a bit of rain.
Fabio Jakobsen – did someone say filthy conditions? Coming from Holland, Jakobsen won’t mind some rain. Also, QuickStep aren’t here to fight for GC, they can throw all their resources behind their sprinter and make life difficult for everyone else. He was dropped on today’s climb, but he shouldn’t have to waste any energy during this stage.
Trek – will it be Theuns or Degenkolb? Fast Eddie was a brilliant 2nd today, after a wonderful lead out from Degenkolb. As the German is leaving the team, you might assume he won’t get a chance to sprint, but we’ll just after to wait and see what the team decide.
Fernando Gaviria – looked off the pace today, I don’t see him turning things around in awful conditions.
Luca Mezgec – doesn’t mind a tough day in the saddle. He finished fast today, edging onto the podium. Going into this stage, he knows that Bennett is faster than him, but given the crazy finish, there is no guarantee that Bennett will be in the best position. This is a real chance for Mezgec to take his second grand tour victory.
Late Attack – given the number of roundabouts, and heavy rain, the attackers will sense a chance of upsetting the sprinters. Keep your eyes on Philippe Gilbert!
Despite the weather, I think we’ll get another sprint, and another win for Sam Bennett. His current form is very impressive.
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