By David Hunter
Weesen – Amden 162.8km
Day 2 in the mountains.
The riders are faced with another day full of climbing.
Easier than today, but still tough. We have 1 HC climb and we finish with a cat 1 climb. The HC climb is 23.3km at 6.2%. The cat 1 climb is 6.9km at 12.1%.
Despite saying the climb is 6.9km, the picture shows it’s 1km longer. You can see it’s consistently over 10%, making this a very hard finish to the stage.
Today set the tone for the rest of the week. Of the pre-race favourites, Thomas and Van Garderen looked good. Both Spilak and Izagirre suffered. Putting themselves up into frame were Rui Costa, Barguil, Latour, Talansky and Lopez.
We saw a huge break today, with other 20 riders. With AG2R in the race lead, they will be keen to hold onto the jersey. If a rider close on GC goes for the break, it will be closed down. Thankfully for the break, most riders have already lost big time!
AG2R are not the strongest team. Latour will look towards Peraud, Riblon and Dupont to help on the climbs. Dupont should be able to last a long time, Latour will need him. If the young Frenchman is put under pressure, he needs to have a calm head. He is not the favourite to win the race, he needs to get Thomas and Van Garderen to work. It will be interesting to see if he has the balls to do this!
There is a big gap between the HC and cat 1 climb, which should allow a number of riders to rejoin the front group. Once on the final climb, the race will explode. The opening half of the climb is incredibly steep. Team Sky will look to dominate the climb and keep Geraint Thomas in contention. He lost a little time today, but that won’t be a huge concern for him.
It will be up to the other teams to try and make Thomas suffer. Can they?
Tejay Van Garderen – was crazy to see him attacking and bringing the bunch closer to Atapuma. I’m not sure what he was doing. He put in two big attacks, but was closed down by Rui Costa and Geraint Thomas. He attacked again with 400m to go, eventually gaining 3 seconds on Thomas. He looked strong, but wasn’t the best tactically.
Geraint Thomas – looked at ease today. He didn’t attack once, just followed wheels and closed down an attack by Rui Costa and another by Van Garderen. Could he have attacked? Thomas clearly has the strongest team here, but I still have a few questions in the high mountains. His performance today did answer some of those questions. This stage should suit him and I look forward to him attacking.
Rui Costa – looked strong on the early slopes. He was riding near the front of the bunch and put in a few big attacks. When Van Garderen attacked with 400m to go, he didn’t have an answer. Despite that, he’ll be happy with his day’s work.
Wilco Kelderman – he was the surprise of the day. Climbed brilliantly and never looked in trouble. He is equal on time with Latour and would love to move into the yellow jersey. He has every chance of doing this.
Superman Lopez – put in a big move today, but was chased down. He looks in good form, so the others will have to watch him closely.
Warren Barguil – hugely impressive today. As he isn’t perceived as a threat to the overall title, he got a little freedom. As we witnessed, he has a fast kick, so cannot be given too much room. He is an attacking rider, so expect him to keep trying.
Pierre Latour – a great performance today and is now the race leader. With all that extra pressure, he will settle for staying in the lead by the end of the stage. He is on equal time with Kelderman and 5 seconds ahead of Thomas. It will be a huge battle to stay in yellow.
Darwin Atapuma – has to be tired after today. Will surely be on Van Garderen duty from now on. Or will he!?
Similar to today, the break has a great chance. Some riders who attacked today, will now have to work for their team leaders. Polanc and Atapuma, will be two riders that will now have to follow team orders. Others like Elissonde and Benoot should be free to attack when the want. With some good quality climbers losing time today, watch out for Zoidl, Dombrowski, Hollenstein, Villella, Albasini and Westra.
The chances of the break will depend on Sky, Astana and BMC. They are the teams with the riders capable of controlling the stage. Their decision will make or break the move.
Get An Eye On
Ion Izagirre and Mathias Frank – both suffered today, but cannot be written off. The will both like the double digit slopes of the final climb and could bounce back into contention.
I think it’s another day for the break. Given the severity of the final climb, I’ll go with a big strong rider. Lieuwe Westra will be my pick.
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