By David Hunter
Roa – Riaza 204km
A weird day awaits us. It’s quite unique for a Grand Tour to have such an easy looking final week. Of course, the riders make the race, not the parcours. We could see a surprisingly good day, but I have a feeling a boring day lies ahead.
The final climb is not very difficult. It’s 8km at 5.4%, not really a cat 1 climb. It crests with 13km remaining, which makes it too hard for any sprinters to expect to make the finish. That means it should be a day for the breakaway. After many mountain finishes, the non-climbers will be delighted with this stage, even though we have a cat 1 climb.
Quite a few riders have been very active in this race and look set to continue here. The chance of a stage win will not be passed up, especially for those with good legs. Appearing so late in a three week race, riders with experience are at an advantage. The younger riders will now be getting tired and I expect to see some wise old heads come to the fore.
Most teams have a few options and this won’t be an easy break to make. Due to this, we often see teams having to settle with plan D, rather than plan A! Time to look at the options.
Sky – Roche, Henao, Kiryienka.
AG2R – Cherel, Gougeard, Kadri.
Astana – Please let Zeits off the leash!
BMC – De Marchi, Atapuma, Velits.
Caja Rural – Goncalves, Madrazo, Fraile.
Cofidis – Bagot, Navarro.
Colombia – Quintero, Duarte.
Etixx – Terpstra, Bouet, Verona.
FDJ – Elissonde.
IAM – Chavanel, Coppel.
Lampre – Plaza, Durasek, Conti.
Lotto – Hansen, Monfort, De Clercq.
Movistar – Moreno, Visconti.
MTN – Van Zyl, Cummings.
Orica – Gerrans, Impey.
Cannondale – Drombowski, Moser.
Europcar – Cousin, Gautier.
Katusha – Vorganov, Losada.
Tinkoff – McCarthy.
Trek – Zoidl.
That’s one long list! Simon Gerrans is a rider I’m expecting to attack in the next couple of stages. His season has been ruined by crashes and injury, but he still has one big target….the World Championship. If Gerrans is to prove to the Aussies that he should be a protected rider, he needs a big performance here. Stage 19 looks more favourable, but if the opportunity to attack is there, he will take it. If Orica are chasing this stage, they’ll send a few riders in the break to help.
Adam Hansen is still knocking on the door of another win. He’s just a few days away from completing his 13th consecutive Grand Tour, a win would be lovely! He can climb and the parcours are very good for him. Lotto might just throw a surprise and get Bart De Clercq in the break. That could be enough to move him into the top 10, but teams will ride to protect their places. The same can be said of other riders lying just outside the top 10.
Team Sky want the team prize, so must be in the break. In fact, getting 2 in the break would be perfect. Roche and Henao were their chosen men, when Oliviera won, I see no reason to change that. Roche is a brilliant descender, so the end of the stage is great for him. He is still recovering from his crash, but he has good legs.
Movistar will try and combat this move, by also joining the break. Giovanni Visconti has had a great race, riding for Quintana and Valverde. He deserves his own chance and let us not forget what a dangerous rider he is. Back in 2013 he won 2 stages in the Giro and the KOM jersey, hopefully he is given the chance to chase his own stage win.
Etixx have made nearly every break in the race. This will continue but their choice of rider will be interesting. Terpstra is clearly in good form, but the finish suits Bouet. They are not adverse to sending a few riders in the break and playing the numbers game. Carlos Verona is another in fine form.
The final descent is also great for Sylvain Chavanel. He’s crashed twice in this race and was still finding it sore to breathe, but you can never rule him out. IAM also have Jerome Coppel as a strong alternative to Chava.
Caja Rural have missed a few breaks, with some riders being ill. Omar Fraile still has his sights on the KOM jersey, but with such a big lead he might just wait for the break on stage 20. It would take a serious surprise for him not to win the crown.
The GC battle is fascinating, although just down to the two men now. Dumoulin put in a marvellous TT, but so did Aru. The Dutchman now leads by 3 seconds, but Saturday looms large. Giant are going to be helped by Jumbo, as they want to see a Dutchman take the title. Astana will try attacking, on the final climb, but it’s not hard enough to drop Dumoulin. Saturday is the day to expose him.
I don’t see Astana chasing the break to try and set up a stage victory. The climb isn’t hard enough and the descent is good for Dumoulin, remember he is a faster sprinter than Aru. We might even see the red jersey attack on the downhill. He needs some more time!
The break wins, but it’s a hard one to call. He was very close in Lleida, time for Maxime Bouet to get some redemption!
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