By David Hunter
Andorra – Lleida 173km
Now that Andorra is over with, most of the peloton can breathe a sigh of relief. Some didn’t make it out of Andorra and their GC dreams are in tatters. There were many questions and plenty of answers. Aru moved into red, with a stunning performance. His only threats are Rodriguez, Majka and Dumoulin. The Dutchman earned even more respect today, time trialling up the final mountain, to remain in contact. The GC riders can have a rest for a couple of days.
The profile looks like a sprinters day. Only one climb and it’s 120km from the finish. This has to be a chance for the sprinters!
The climb is a long one, 15km at 5%. They won’t ride it fast and the bunch will all stay together. It doesn’t look like it from the profile, but it’s an uphill sprint.
The final 600metres rises at 2.6% with a maximum of 5.2%. Nothing too hard for the riders, if we get a sprint!
That’s the dilemma. After so many stages, who will work for the sprint? Giant are the obvious choice. John Degenkolb hasn’t won a stage yet and he wants to. They are free from having the red jersey, so can throw all resources behind him. The stage isn’t long and with only one climb, they might even get a little help from the others.
Kristian Sbaragli won stage 10 and MTN will back him again. They still have a full compliment of riders, but they do love a breakaway. If they break is over 5 riders, it’s hard to imagine them not being in it. They know that Degenkolb is the fastest sprinter, so getting a man in the break is a good move. Forcing Giant to work all day and burn riders, is very important. They can’t allow Degenkolb to have his full lead-out, or they are only fighting for 2nd place.
Danny Van Poppel can compete with Degenkolb. The 22 year old has had a tough race. This stage offers him some redemption. He will be supported by Irizar, Popovych, Zoidl and his brother. This will be his last sprint opportunity until Madrid, he has to take advantage.
The rest of the sprinters are not in the top divisions. We have Drucker, Barbero, Soupe, Reza, Soupe, Reynes, Richeze, Van der Sande, Rojas, Gerrans, Van Asbroeck and Bennati.
Being the last chance of a sprint, for over a week, it should encourage teams to get involved. They need to, as Giant will not work by themselves. The size of the break is going to be crucial, 6 men and under, should be perfect to control. The opening kilometres of the stage will certainly determine if we get a sprint or not.
I’ll stick my neck out and say we get a sprint. I am doing this only so I can talk about sprint trains;)
Giant – Stamsnijder, Mezgec, De Kort, Degenkolb.
Orica – Hayman, Howson, Impey, Gerrans.
Trek – Zoidl, Popovych, BVP, DVP.
MTN – Reguigui, Sbaragli.
Caja Rural – Goncalves, Barbero.
Movistar – Ventoso, Rojas.
As you can see, there isn’t much to talk about. Orica are the only team capable of challenging Giant, but is Gerrans fit enough to sprint. If not, they can turn to Jens Keukeleire. The Belgian is a big fan of the uphill sprint, but would prefer a slope around 6%.
Like Van Poppel, Carlos Barbero has not had a great tour. He is just a neo-pro, so it’s unfair to expect too much. He is probably under team orders to take it easy and wait till others are tired. This is a wise piece of advice. If he has rested up, he’ll be nice and fresh compared to the others. Maybe they have been targeting this stage all along!
Movistar had a terrible day in Andorra and now look towards Rojas. He has worked for the others and now deserves something back. He was 3rd in Castellon and will hope for better here. He certainly knows how to sprint after a tough race, this is his 9th Grand Tour.
Got to be a sprint and Degenkolb can’t make a mess of this one. The others can only dream of his speed and he won’t disappoint again. The big German to take his 10th Vuelta stage.
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