By David Hunter
Zumarraga – Eibar 162km
Queen stage alert!
The organisers have tinkered with the well known stage, adding in two cat 3 climbs, this year
The final climb is 7km at 6.4%, not the 3.9km at 10.77% as claimed.
This gives a better idea of the full climb. It starts off easy but has a very challenging 3km period. This is why we can see a large group of riders arrive together. If you are a teammate of a lead rider, you have a good chance of being allowed some freedom here.
It always seems like we always have a headwind on this climb but this year looks like a crosswind, with a headwind for the last kilometre.
Before the race started, the GC battle was all about Quintana v Kwiatkowski. It still looks that way as these two riders should TT better than the others. The Colombian will be happy to have taken 7 seconds today, but he’ll want some more. This climb represents his best chance of taking a larger amount of time but it won’t be easy. The Pole will need to hang tough in the 9% section but he managed to do that in 2014, depsite constant attacks from Contador.
Rodriguez and Henao are clearly in form and it’ll be interesting to see how they cope with a slightly longer climb. Team Katusha are in a great position, with 4 riders in the top 17. Rodriguez, Moreno, Spilak and Zakarin are all well placed and I would expect Katusha to try and get the other teams to work. They can attack with multiple riders and wear down their opponents. It will be up to Team Sky, Movistar and Etixx to try and chase. That being said, quite a few teams have multiple riders, making this climb very tactical.
The strongest climbers in the race are Quintana, Rodriguez, Majka, Van Garderen, Mollema, Spilak and Pinot. The Frenchman is 18 seconds down and might get a little freedom. In 2014, just about every rider had an attack. Contador couldn’t get rid of Valverde and he anchored every move. This allowed the other riders some freedom and Poels took the win. We could see a similar pattern this year.
However, Quintana, doesn’t ride like Contador. He tends to put in a sustained attack, instead of many small ones. The Colombian will attack, who will go with him? It looks likely that a Katusha rider will be there and it will probably be Joaquim Rodriguez. We saw today, that Quintana wasn’t too interested in the stage win. As there are no bonus seconds, his goal is to take time on riders with a good TT, namely, Michal Kwiatkowski. Last year, he had Poels to chase down the attacks and he just followed wheels. He doesn’t have that luxury now. The World Champion will have to close gaps himself, if he can. Tony Martin will be with him for a long time but not the full climb.
Rafal Majka is now showing some form. It’s difficult to see him not staying with the top riders and he must be a massive threat for the stage win.
If we get a small group together at the end, then Kwiatkowski, Moreno and Zakarin all have a fast finish.
Looking at the results from 2013 is very interesting:-
Quite a few riders have good memories of this climb. Spilak is one that always seems to do well here. He cannot be underestimated. Another is Sami Sanchez.
The nature of the stage means that the breakaway has an okay chance of success. Two problems are Team Sky and Movistar. Neither have a great record of letting breaks get a big lead. Caja Rural will look to continue in the KOM jersey, so Txurruka or Fralie will be in the break.
Quintana will attack, he needs more time. There is every chance that he drops Kwiatkowski. If he does, then winning the stage will not be too important. That opens the door to one of the Katusha gang. The have 4 of the strongest options here and I think they take the stage. I’ll go with Dani Moreno, but it could be any of them
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