By David Hunter
Vitoria – Zumarraga 170.7km
This stage is brilliant! We have 8 categorised climbs, but all is not as it seems. Both the cat 1 climbs are quite easy and won’t cause any problem.
This stage is all about the short and steep climb, Alto de la Antigua. It’s 2.5km at 9.6%.
The last 500m is at 16%, and it crests with just 3km to go.
Those final 3km is nearly all downhill, with plenty of turns along the way. First over the climb is likely to be the winner of the stage. Joaquim Rodriguez won here in 2011 and he was first over the top. He won from a group of 3 with Sami Sanchez in 2nd place.
The first ascent crests with 30.8km remaining. This will see the peloton thinned out, quite considerably. Next up is an easy cat 3 climb, before a difficult unclassified climb. Then a descent straight into the final climb. This is going to seriously split the race and only the strong will survive.
The climb is short enough to excite, non-climbers. If you can cope with the Ardennes, then you can cope with this. However, last time up, it was climbers that took the day. The top of the climb is brutal and we’ll see riders walking. Yes, it is that hard!
This should be a fight between Quintana, Kwiatkowski, Rui Costa, Rodriguez, Mollema, Moreno, Van Garderen, Majka, Peraud, Talansky, Pinot, Henao and Arredondo. That’s the climbers. Also capable of winning are Slagter, Gilbert, Gallopin, Matthews, Ulissi, Felline, Dumoulin, Wellens and Albasini. That’s one hell of a list!
The approach to the climb will be fierce, with Movistar and Etixx both looking to dominate. Once on the climb, we’ll get a few early attacks but the main attacks will come after a kilometre. Nairo Quintana is a very attacking rider. I was surprised that he didn’t attack on stage 1 but I’m sure he’ll try here. When he goes, Michal Kwiatkowski, will have to follow. Can he follow a sustained attack from the Colombian?
Also in the mix is Rodriguez. Is he really on form? To win this stage, you need to be at 100% and I’m not sure he is. Of the other contenders, the climb should suit Rui Costa and Bauke Mollema.
Having teammates is important but not essential. On this type of climb, it’s rider v rider. This is the type of climb I love!
With a lot of KOM points on offer, expect to see Txurruka and Reichenbach in the break. With Movistar likely to help Orica, we should see the break brought back before the final climb.
I backed him for stage 1 and I’m back again. This is a stage for Nairo Quintana. I expect him to drop everyone and solo to victory. He is that good.
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