By David Hunter
Eibar – Eibar 118km
Time for the final stage.
A short and crazy stage to end with. Just 118km long, but the organisers have packed in six categorised climbs. The hardest hills come in the middle of the stage, which the organisers hope will force the riders into attacking early.
The first of the cat 1 climbs is around 7.1km at 7.4%, but that includes 3.5km at 9.3%. After a fairly long descent, the riders have to think about the hardest climb of the day.
5.3km at 8%, featuring a maximum of 31.2% sounds horrible to me. This climb is one you have to see to believe. The road is about two bikes wide; the surface is weird and it’s brutally steep; I love it! The crest comes with 40km remaining, I hope the riders aren’t put off attacking from distance.
The final categorised climb isn’t as hard as the previous two, but it’s certainly not easy. Overall it is around 4km at 7%, but the hardest section is 3.1km at 8.1%. By this point riders will be very tired, not just by this stage but the whole week of racing. Once over the crest, the road immediately kicks up again for around 1km at 6%, once over this, the riders have just 12km to go.
The final climb of the race is one of those beautiful unclassified Basque climbs! 400m at 11.4% presents one last chance for a rider to escape the bunch, there is only 3km left from the top of the hill.
Sunny and warm. Bet you weren’t expecting that!
Over to Astana. They made a royal mess of today’s stage, gifting Buchmann the stage and yellow jersey. Izagirre now sits 54 seconds behind the race leader, that’s a big gap to make up, but this is the stage to do it in. This means we’ll see Astana go really hard, early in the stage. They’ll blow it to pieces and hope to isolate Buchmann, which could happen as Schachmann has already gone very deep this week.
Once that happens, they’ll hit with the Fuglsang option, he sits 1:32 back and must be covered, but Bora will expect Patrick Konrad to be there. The Austrian will be hugely important if Buchmann is to win the race, but this isn’t going to be easy. I could imagine the Astana meeting after today, they’ll be motivated to get things right and take the yellow jersey. Hoping to take advantage of this situation will be Adam Yates, he’s clearly on great form.
Ion Izagirre – the Basque rider is desperate to win his home race, but it won’t be easy. The stage is very good for him, especially with his domestiques to blow it to pieces. Once we get on the steep climbs, Izagirre will come to the front and do his thing. To win the race, he’s going to have to take some risks. He has a fast sprint, which will help in trying to win the stage and take 10 bonus seconds, but there is no guarantee he wins the stage. Izagirre could well have to do a lot of work himself, but as long as he wins the GC, he’ll be very happy.
Adam Yates – super strong just now, such a shame he lost time due to a puncture. Yates was the only rider able to follow the Astana duo today, he’ll be confident of doing the same again and challenging for the win. If he can escape with Izagirre, I’m sure they’ll come to an arrangement if the Basque rider is going to win the GC.
Jakob Fuglsang – plan B for Astana. It’s likely he’ll have to do work for Izagirre, but you just never know how this stage will play out, especially after today.
Time to be bold…
Adam Yates to win the stage and Ion Izagirre to win the GC.
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