By David Hunter
Zernez – Solden 160.8km
Another big day in the GC battle.
A boring day, until the big climb.
The climb to Solden is a well used climb in this race. It is a monster of a mountain, with some ridiculously hard gradients, especially in the opening half of the climb. Overall it’s 14.3km at 10.3% and is the hardest climb of the whole race.
Once we get over the first half, the front group will be around 10 riders. With most on the limit, a rider on a good day can gain a big time gap. That means a number of riders can still challenge for the overall lead.
The climb takes us into Austria, expect to see Marco Haller in the morning break. Last year, Brandle was the Austrian in the move and he started the climb with around 8 minutes of an advantage, but still finished 55th!
The difficulty of the climb means that a break of non-climbers require a lead of around 12 minutes, that sounds crazy, but it’s true! The flat start makes it hard for climbers to get in that morning move, it really isn’t a day for the break.
Some sunshine, but also some rain. The temperatures should be a little cooler than they were today.
Simon Spilak – was dropped today, but managed to fight bravely and re-joined the front group. He then dropped Kruijswijk and Caruso on the descent. The Slovenian sits 22 seconds down on GC, but he does possess a very strong TT. Being dropped today is a worry, as we move towards an even harder climb. He normally goes well on this mountain, but he needs a huge performance to win the stage. He’ll be happy to see that we might get rain.
Steven Kruijswijk – the Dutchman continues to ride strongly. He attacked a few times today and covered some moves, but tried to get Caruso to cover Pozzovivo. Kruijswijk is just 13 seconds behind Pozzovivo and Caruso, and he has great TT. No doubt the others will want to drop him, but I’m sure he’ll be hoping to gain time on them. The question that surrounds Kruijswijk, is whether he can continue this form? After the Giro, you would expect to see him fade, but maybe he can hang on.
Ion Izagirre – was back to his best today. He will be very frustrated that Caruso refused to let him get clear, something that really confused me. This climb is good for Izagirre, as he does well at high altitude and likes double digit gradients. Sitting 3:47 off the race lead, he is not a threat to the overall and this should buy him some freedom. If it does, he has a great chance of getting away.
Damiano Caruso – he made some poor choices today. Vital energy was wasted chasing Izagirre, meaning he couldn’t follow Pozzovivo. He has lost the overall lead to the Italian, although they are joint on time. I think this is a good thing, allowing his team to sit back and save energy for the climb. In Van Garderen, BMC have a rider capable of putting many others into the red and setting up a Caruso attack. I don’t think he needs to drop Pozzovivo, as he has a better TT, but he might be worried about those sitting just behind him on GC. I doubt he has the climbing ability to win the stage, but he just needs to follow the wheels. Sounds easy!
Domenico Pozzovivo – it looks like he’s not going to get tired! The little Italian was at his brilliant best today, taking his first win since 2015. It sets him up to potentially take his first GC win since 2012. His TT can be erratic, he will certainly want some more time on his nearest rivals. Of the top 4 on GC, Pozzovivo has the poorest TT, he needs to attack in this stage. His team was great today, sending Bakelants in the break and forcing BMC to chase hard. Expect to see them dictate the pace of the day and gradually increase the difficulty on the climb. Mathias Frank will surely be used to attack and make the others chase, before Pozzovivo attacks himself. He will sense a chance to take another stage win.
Given his climbing performance today, I think Ion Izagirre will win the stage. There is no need for the GC riders to chase him down. Back in the battle for the overall win, I think we’ll see small gaps between the top 4 riders.
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