By David Hunter
Sion > Thyon 2000 162km
The big day.
162km in length and 4133m of climbing. That’s what you call a tough day in the saddle.
First up is the Anzère climb, 14.5km at 6.6%. The climb starts after 30km, the climbers will hope the break forms here.
With over 30km in valley between the first two climbs, there is lots of road for the GC group to claw back some time on the break, if they want to. Then comes the climb to Suen, with the opening 11.1km at 7.6%. The climb goes on for another 3km, but this section is easy.
The final climb of Thyon 2000 is hugely demanding. Not only is it 20.9km at 7.6%, but it also climbs to 2090m above sea level. This is a proper mountaintop finish, only the best will survive.
Due to a snowstorm, the stage starts earlier than planned. The forecast is for rain, but this could be snow up at 2000m. There will also be a slight headwind on the final climb, fingers crossed the stage goes ahead as planned.
Better than normal considering it’s a MTF. The good news for the break is that Movistar are in yellow, they don’t have the team to chase down a strong move. Will Ineos take up the pace? Not being in yellow means that Ineos can sit back and wait for the second climb before coming to the front. Will the break manage to create a big enough gap to hold off the pack?
Movistar taking yellow has thrown a spanner in the mix, it made me rewrite this section! They won’t be chasing the break, and today’s stage means that we have some big gaps on GC. If they ensure the break doesn’t contain anyone within 4 minutes, they can sit back and ride tempo. At some point, probably the second climb, we’ll see other teams take up the pace setting. Ineos will be the most likely to take up the pace, but they aren’t as strong as usual. I think they might just wait until the final climb before hitting it hard.
So, we’ll see Ineos take up the pace on the final climb. They’ll look to drop as many domestiques as possible before Porte launches his attack. Thomas will get a ride over to him on someone’s wheel, then he’ll go. We’ll see if anyone can respond and tow Porte across.
Geraint Thomas – his form has been growing over the last couple of months, he doesn’t look far off his very best. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen him at his best, he was edging that way last year at the Giro but had to abandon after crashing in the Mount Etna stage. If I was being brutally honest, I’d say we’ve not seen the best of him since he won the Tour in 2018, that’s a long time ago. Fingers crossed he’s back at that level, I like watching him fly up mountains.
Richie Porte – another rider who seems in great form. Porte doesn’t have a sprint finish, to win the stage he needs to arrive solo. Team tactics will be interesting, I’m not sure how Ineos will approach the closing stages. If we see attacks, will Porte ride for Thomas? No doubt the legs will decide, this is a team that doesn’t do sentiment.
Sepp Kuss – did someone say a finish at over 2000m? Sepp will love this final climb; he’ll relish the chance to go up against the Ineos boys. He was very close in Catalunya, but just couldn’t follow Adam Yates, but there’s no shame in that. This is a huge chance for the American to take a big win.
Michael Woods – looks in great form, but he’s never won a big mountaintop finish like this from the GC group. If he does take the stage, it will be a watershed moment in his career.
Lucas Hamilton – one of the young guns hoping to impress. After finishing 4th in Paris-Nice and 10th in Catalunya, it’s a chance to net another impressive result. He should be challenging for the top 5.
Ion Izagirre – the bad weather expert will be licking his lips at this one. When others will need to take a deep breath to look out the window, Izagirre will leap out his bed and run over to take a look. He’ll find it hard to win, but he should be fighting for the podium.
Simon Pellaud – the local boy and my breakaway hopeful number 1.
Jack Haig – lost loads of time today, breakaway hopeful number 2.
Tekay Van Garderen – class is permanent, breakaway hopeful number 3.
Seb Reichenbach – another local, breakaway hopeful number 4.
There just aren’t enough good climbers far down on GC for the break to survive. We’ll see Ineos do what Ineos do, I’ll take a win for Geraint Thomas.
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