By David Hunter
Bern – Villars Sur Ollon 143.2km
The GC battle begins.
The riders are faced with a relatively short stage, but the mountains are calling. We have two categorised climbs, Col des Mosses(6.7km at 4.4%) and the ascent to Villars Sur Ollon(10.2km at 7.9%). Neither climb goes into high altitude, that happens later in the week.
The final climb is long and demanding. The hardest sections all appear in the opening 6km, with most of the final 4km around the 6% mark. As the final half is a little easier, it increases the chances of a small group being together for the final kilometre.
Thanks to a number of crashes, we already have big gaps on GC. That will allow freedom for a number of riders, but the flat start is bad news for the climbers. As I’ve said many times, climbers find it incredibly difficult to join the morning move, when it’s a flat start. This is much more suited to the power men of the bunch, but they will struggle on the climbs. This makes it hard for the break to stay away, but it really does depend on the attitude of the bunch. Does any team have the squad to chase down the break?
Those riders that completed the Giro, will be looking to take advantage of good legs. In my overall preview, I discounted these riders from challenging for the title, but I think they could well take this stage. I doubt even they know what to expect. Take a look at Van Garderen and Monfort, both lost time on Sunday and Reichenbach dropped down today. It is very hard to predict how the riders will react to this race.
Another day where the forecast predicts thunderstorms. When Froome won here in 2016, it was a horrible day. Some riders will hope the predictions are wrong, others would love some rain.
Tom Dumoulin – he will take it day by day. That is what Team Sunweb are saying about their superstar. He had to go so deep in the Giro that he must be very tired, even with a couple of days rest. I don’t see him coping later in the week, but this is a chance for him. If he is still near his Giro standard, he clearly has a big chance of taking the win.
Rui Costa – was very unlucky in the Giro, finishing 2nd on three occasions. Unlike some of the GC riders, he did have many days of rest during the race. Coming into this race, that should allow him to compete with the very best. This climb should suit his characteristics, especially if a small group approach the line together.
Domenico Pozzovivo – very similar to Dumoulin. AG2R have Mathias Frank as their team leader, but the Italian will be given freedom if his legs are good.
Mathias Frank – of all the stages this week, this is the best for him. The Swiss rider can struggle at high altitude, he’ll prefer this climb to those later in the week. At his best, Frank can compete at this level.
Patrick Konrad – another of the Giro hopefuls. Will his legs respond?
Lachlan Morton – the Dimension Data rider did okay in California, finishing 7th overall, but he wasn’t at his very best. After a brilliant 2016, he’s still waiting to find his best form. He’s one of those riders that can struggle to cope with pressure, but he doesn’t start this race as one of the big favourites. I hope to see him do well in this stage.
Carlos Betancur – this will be a true test of his current shape. He has slimmed down and impressed in the Hammer Series, but that was on short climbs. Now in the proper mountains, we will see if he is at his very best. He’s not Movistar’s only option, as both Victor De La Parte and Marc Soler have a good chance in this stage.
Ion Izagirre – comes here with an eye on the overall title, but the Tour de France is also in his thoughts. The Basque rider is developing into one of the very best stage races and he knows that his TT skills are better than most of the contenders here. Izagirre just needs to follow the wheels and finish with the front group. He also has a fast finish, making him dangerous if the front group arrive together.
Steven Kruijswijk – I was impressed with him on Sunday. After a bad crash in Yorkshire, and another one at the foot of Mount Etna, the Dutchman didn’t enjoy his Giro. He had a couple of days off his bike and changed his focus. Like the other Giro riders, he will hope that his legs respond in the right way.
Jan Hirt – despite “only” finishing 12th in the Giro, he was one of the most impressive riders. After promising much for the last couple of years, it was great to see him taking some big results. Can he get one more result out of his legs?
Simon Spilak – loves racing in this country! The Slovenian rider usually saves his best for Switzerland and he has a big chance of doing well in this race. 2016 was a bad year for him, but there have been positive signs in 2017. He has as good a chance as any of taking this stage.
Mikel Nieve – I love when the Basque rider gets to chase personal glory. One of the unsung heroes of Team Sky, he has a big chance in this race. A wonderful climber, he will look to expose some of his rivals. His TT is very poor, making it unlikely he wins the overall title, something that could allow him a little freedom.
Jarlinson Pantano – my original pick for the title. He had to endure stomach problems on Sunday, meaning he lost all hope of challenging of the overall win. He looked much better today, but this stage probably comes a little early for him. He should have fully recovered for the mountain stages later in the week.
Tim Wellens – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Gianluca Brambilla – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Jonathan Castroviejo – breakaway hopeful number 3.
I’m not sure what team will try and control this stage, making it good for the breakaway riders. After losing time on Monday, I think this stage has Tim Wellens written all over it!
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