By David Hunter
Bressanone – Andalo 132km
A short stage. Expect some fireworks.
The day after the rest day is always a worry.
The length of the stage should mean very attacking riding. The climbs might not be cat 1 but they’re still tough.
A downhill start will present a challenge to get in the morning break. As Jumbo are now the race leaders, they will have to think carefully about their early tactics. They don’t have the strongest team, so I think they will be keen for the break to get away. That means they can ride tempo and save as many men for the final climb. The first climb is very long, so Astana can apply pressure. The short stage does beg out for Astana to smash the first climb!
The 2nd climb is where we will certainly see some fun. It might only be a cat 2, but this is the final week of a grand tour. If this was a one day race, the outcome would be completely different. With legs already tired, we should see a big selection on this hill. It doesn’t look hard enough to split the top 6 riders, but a rider could fall out of the top 10. After a great start, it would be terrific to see Bob Jungels last the distance. The opening 8.5km of the climb is at 7.9%, it should really be a cat 1. Riders who have suffered in previous stages are sure to find the going tough.
The road rises up towards the finishing line, with the steepest section appearing in the middle, 2.5km at 6.2%. If the pink jersey group is small, expect lots of attacks. The finish is great for Valverde and Chaves. It is very likely that Kruijswijk will have no teammates left, so he’ll be under massive pressure. In situations like this, attack is the best form of defence. I would love to see the Dutchman attack and slim the group down further.
None of the teams have a second rider high enough on GC to pose a threat in the morning break. The race to get into the morning break will be fierce and it could take quite a while to establish a gap. We have 43km until the climb, the break might not actually form until we hit the climb. That would change the type of rider who will make the move. Then again, the first break of the day could get away. The beauty of a grand tour!
With the break away, the second climb is where the GC battle will take place. Astana are the team of the moment and we should see their normal train: Zeits, Kangert, Scarponi and Fuglsang. As in previous stages, the work of these men will blow the peloton apart. However, there are serious questions about Nibali’s ability to finish off their work. His TT was poor, it doesn’t matter about his bike change. You can never write a rider like him off but the signs are not very good.
The other contenders will sit in the wheels and let Astana do their thing. They will hope to survive and have some fun once Nibali has attacked. In grand tours, riders usually start to protect their own spot on GC. When Nibali attacks, I wonder if Kruijswijk will have the balls to force others into chasing. It’s not a position he’s experienced before, so we’ll have to wait and see how he responds to the other riders putting him under pressure.
Alejandro Valverde – yet another stage that suits him perfectly. Was clearly out of sorts on Saturday, but used the TT to get back into the race. With Amador sliding out of contention, Movistar are now fully committed to him. Will he be attacking or stick to following wheels?
Esteban Chaves – if he can get rid of Valverde, he has the fastest sprint. Clearly in wonderful form, but the pressure is starting to mount on his shoulders. Will he ride an attacking race and attack Kruijswijk? He might just be happy for a place on the podium.
Steven Kruijswijk – wow! His form is just insane. Now we shall see if he can handle the pressure of winning a grand tour. The last two big shock winners of grand tours were Chris Horner and Ryder Hesjedal. Both men only went into the race lead on the final weekend. It really is a different story leading for the entire final week. His legs are strong but we will see if his brain is too.
Ilnur Zakarin – been massively unlucky but his legs are still good. Will hope for a little freedom from the main riders.
Vincenzo Nibali – so many questions, not many answers! I always thought that we would see the best of him in the third week but now I have my doubts. The Italian cannot be written off as he is a wonderful rider, but I’m starting to lose my faith. Astana will not give up. Remember that Aru went through a bad spell during last year’s race. His team are the strongest but Nibali needs to find better legs.
Rafa Majka – continues to impress and now sits 5th on GC. He will try and get after Valverde’s 4th place, during the final week. I would not be surprised to see him catch the Spaniard. He will not get much freedom from the others, but he will attack.
Another nice sunny day.
Very good! The cat 2 climb close to the finish means it’s very hard for a team to control and set up their own rider. This is a break that should last the distance. Diego Ulissi has been very keen to join moves, he looks like he’s now targeting the sprint classification. Lampre will ensure that he makes the move. His 11th in the TT shows that he is still climbing very well, he should start the race as the favourite.
Cunego is the big favourite for the KOM jersey. With a few easier days to come, expect to see him in the move again, even though there aren’t a massive number of points on offer. His main challengers should be Denifl, Visconti, Atapuma and Nieve. With such a big gap, it would be ill-advised for these riders to burn a lot of matches trying to outsprint Cunego. These riders should all have some freedom, except Visconti. The good TT by Valverde was bad news for Visconti’s own hopes in the final week.
Other riders who have shown good form and a willingness to join the break include:-
Tim Wellens, Maxime Monfort, Matteo Montaguti, Nico Roche and Moreno Moser.
The length of the stage is not great news for the break. If it takes 50km for the break to go, there isn’t much time left to establish a big lead. It will be possible for a team to bring them back, especially a team like Nippo.
Win number three for Diego Ulissi.
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