By David Hunter
Gstaad – Leukerbad 155km
The first of the GC days.
The riders begin climbing from the gun, something that will please the breakaway riders.
Col du Pillon is 6.8km at 5.2%, not sure how they reckon this is a cat 1 climb, it would be unclassified in the Basque Country! There are a few steep sections and this will encourage the climbers to try their luck in the morning move. The problem is that once over the top we have a lot of time before the next climb.
The Montana climb has been classified as HC, despite being 13.5km at 5.8%. The climb can be split into two halves, the opening section of 7km is demanding with gradients around 7%. The second half is very easy and nothing to worry the GC riders.
The problem with this climb is the descent, as it is very technical. If we have wet roads, this will be a very important point in the race. We then have the mountaintop finish.
The climb to Leukerbad is 14.1km at 4.5%, which doesn’t sound very difficult. The hardest section comes with 8km remaining, when the road averages around 6.5% for 5km.
The final three kilometres are straightforward, with shallow gradients, but the final kilometre does kick up to 5%. It’s a strange climb to have as a mountaintop finish. It is certainly not a finish that suits the big GC riders, it’s just not tough enough. Expect to see a group of around 30 riders approach the line together, but the closing stages could see a rider steal the stage with a late attack.
Much like today, if it rains, it will pour!
Mixed. The climbing start is good news for some, but the hopes of the break will rest with the GC teams. As the finish is relatively easy, it could be a day where the peloton take it easy and let the break have some fun, as long as there are no threats in the morning move.
Diego Ulissi – perfect for this type of stage. Ulissi is a master of the uphill sprint, especially a long mountain like this. He will easily stay near the front of the bunch and he’ll unleash his kick with 200m to go. One problem for Ulissi is that he’ll be keen on some of the fast finishers not being at the finish, but his team don’t look strong enough to dictate the pace of the climb.
Wilco Kelderman – first race for a very long time, but he’s looking good. Kelderman is the fastest finisher of the GC riders, but it will be hard for him to beat a rider like Ulissi.
Michael Matthews – it wouldn’t surprise me to see him at the finish. The Aussie is developing into a magnificent climber and he’ll sense an opportunity to take his first road stage of the season. Is the climb too hard for him?
Michael Albasini – it’s nice to see him back in form after a tough season. He’ll like the look of the final climb, but he’ll be concerned about Matthews and Sagan. Despite his amazing success in Romandie, he hasn’t won a stage of this race since 2012.
Peter Sagan – the problem for Sagan will be the Montana climb, quickly followed by the final climb. I think he might just run out of steam.
Enrico Battaglin – one of many riders who will hope that Sagan and Matthews are dropped. He is one of the few who will be confident of beating Ulissi, but he has no chance against the faster finishers. The Italian was in fine form during the Giro and he’ll hope to have Giro legs!
Omar Fraile – can win from the break, can also win from a reduced group. The Spaniard covers most bases.
Romain Sicard – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Eddie Dunbar – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Victor De La Parte – breakaway hopeful number 3.
The likes of Sagan and Matthews will survive deep into the final climb, but they tough 5km section will be too hard for them. The GC riders will cover each other and Diego Ulissi will emerge victorious from the sprint.
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