By David Hunter
Arbon – Solden 224.3km
Extreme weather protocol?
It’s 3rd consecutive day in the high mountains. The weather continues to be terrible.
We have two HC climbs on the menu, with the riders having to climb up to 2669m. The opening climb comes after 80km and is 11.8km at 6.4%. We then have a long time until the next climb. At 224.3km, this is a long stage for the bunch, especially considering the terrible weather. Legs will be very tired and a lot of riders will DNF.
The final climb is 10.1km at 12.2%. I will not even try to explain how hard this is!
Jumbo are now in the race lead, with Wilco Kelderman. Similar to AG2R, his team are not the strongest. I get the feeling, he will really miss Robert Gesink. If Kelderman is to survive in yellow, he will need the assistance of some of his rivals. Warren Barguil seems very keen on riding at the front of the elite group, he needs to calm down a little. Given that he seems to have great legs, he needs to take it easy and wait for the right move. If I was Kelderman, I would try to use Barguil’s tactical inexperience.
Kelderman has the following time gaps:-
34s Ion Izagirre
59s Gorka Izagirre
That is 9 men within 1 minute of each other, so this race is still wide open. Kelderman could come under attack from all of these riders. The fact that Thomas was dropped today, doesn’t mean he is out of this. Ion Izagirre was dropped on Wednesday, but had a much better day today. Given the bad weather, anything can happen.
Saturday is a TT, so Kelderman will have to watch the riders who can take time off him. Luckily, he is a good TT rider, but he should still be concerned by Ion Izagirre, Spilak and Thomas. For me, these are the men he should try and mark. If someone else attacks, let the other riders chase them down. The final climb will include many scary moments for the Dutch rider.
Wilco Kelderman – looking super strong just now. Being in yellow is not something he will welcome, thanks to the difficulty of the race. He will be forced to chase on the final climb, making it hard to take the stage. Might need to attack, instead of defending.
Warren Barguil – continues to surprise me. As I have already said, he needs to calm down. His legs look great, so be more patient and wait for the right moment. When it comes, put in a huge attack. Stop with the little moves!
Andrew Talansky – another rider that is making a mockery of my opinion! Has the luxury of some teammates, something that the other riders don’t have. Joe Dombrowski was great for him today and he could do with him again tomorrow. The weather does concern me, with his crash rate being quite high.
Ion Izagirre – bad day on Wednesday, much better today. Due to his excellent TT ability, he still has a great chance of winning this race. He will count upon the help of his brother as they look to play some tactical games with the other contenders. He’s a fan of the double digit slopes, so watch out!
Superman Lopez – again impressed today. He looks like he’s enjoying himself, but could do with a little freedom. If Kelderman marks the “bigger” GC rivals, the Colombian might just get away. If he does, they won’t catch him.
Simon Spilak – not great on Wednesday, much better today. As the fatigue sets in, he will start to look even better compared to the rest. Loves riding in this horrible weather and I think he’ll go even better tomorrow.
Geraint Thomas – these climbs just aren’t his cup of tea. Thomas would prefer longer climbs, with gradients of around 6%. He does struggle on the really steep stuff, but cannot be written off. Now he’s a little down to Kelderman, it will be very interesting to see his tactics for this stage. He has such a strong team, they must have something up their sleeve.
More thunderstorms and rain is predicted.
Good, yet again! No one wants to chase the break and the team in the lead continues to be weak. With Sky and BMC losing ground today, I don’t see the peloton interested in chasing the morning move. The fight to be in it should be fierce, but well worth it.
I spoke to Tiesj Benoot tonight and he was very happy with his climbing. He told me that he was angry he missed the morning move. The Belgian rider has crashed twice this week already and has experienced some bad luck. He loves these conditions and I think he’ll go for the break tomorrow. He sits 5:34 down, so Kelderman won’t be overly concerned if he gets away. It is unlikely the break wins by that amount, plus they will expect to make time back on Benoot on Saturday and Sunday.
Looking to join him will be plenty of climbers like Peter Stetina, Michele Scarponi, David Lopez, Kenny Elissonde and Kristijan Durasek.
The break survives again and I’ll go for Tiesj Benoot. This would be some way of getting his first pro win.
Back in the bunch, anything could happen. Kelderman should be good enough to hold onto yellow, but he’ll come under serious pressure.
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