By David Hunter
Aberaeron > Llandudno 210km
In terms of the GC, this is the big day.
We’ll have a relatively easy stage, then all hell will break loose in the final 10km. The final hill is the hardest climb I can ever remember in the Tour of Britain, it looks awful. Most of the day will be spent worrying about it, apart from the handful of riders who’ll enjoy it.
A bit grey, but it should stay dry. We have a lot of crosswinds throughout the day, but it only looks strong enough to split things in the opening half. Despite being by the coast, most of the route is well protected by hedges, I told you they love them here!
I’ve decided to show you the final 10km, not just the last climb. We start by skirting round the edge of the coast, the road is narrow, and the surface isn’t very nice either. The hardest part of this climb is around 1km at 7%, once over the top we get a very fast descent and we’re still on narrow roads.
Then there is a short bit of flat before the hell begins. The final climb starts with 900m at 13.8%, but the maximum is almost 22%. Just under the flamme rouge the gradient starts to get easier, before kicking up again in the final 500. If you have the legs the perfect point to attack is just after the steep section, when everyone else is in the red, but will anyone have the legs to do so?
Position, position, position. I’ll keep saying it. Due to the narrow roads in the final 10km teams will want to control the bunch from around 20km to go. If you get a good position for the first climb it means you can control it, and the fast descent. As the final climb starts with a ridiculous ramp, anyone who starts a little far back will find it impossible to win the stage, they won’t be able to get past all the riders going backwards.
Once the steep section has been dealt with, we’ll see if any teams have two riders left at the front. If they do, they’ll win the stage. The “easier” section is perfect for an attack, we could see the big riders look at each other and the stage disappear before their eyes.
Julian Alaphilippe – this is his terrain, the best in the world on steep slopes, but is he in form? Alaphilippe looked good in Plouay but lost out to Cosnefroy in the sprint. In fact, Cosnefroy almost dropped him on the last climb. That leaves a little doubt in my mind about the world champion, but as we witnessed in Flèche this year, he came pull a big performance out the bag. His team are masters at positioning, he’ll start the climb exactly where he needs to be and then it’s over to his legs.
Wout Van Aert – I would normally think this finish is too hard for him but given the way he was riding in the Tour de France; I’m not writing him off. It wasn’t just his performance on Ventoux, but he followed that up with an incredible ride in Tokyo, I don’t think I can say the finish is too steep for him. With one less man, it’s better for the team to no longer be in the race lead, they can save their men to help position Van Aert in the closing kilometres. The key will be the first 900m, if he gets over that at the front of the race, he’ll be very hard to beat.
Michael Woods – positioning has long been his problem, but surely not in a race of this level. ISUN should be able to get him a good starting position, something he never has in Flèche. With a spot near the front of the bunch, he’ll have a great chance of challenging for the win. Alaphilippe has historically been the best on this type of climb, but Woods isn’t far off. He’ll also benefit from being a little further down on GC, he might get a freedom if the big two look at each other.
Mikkel Honoré – he also goes very well on steep slopes; I think we’ll see him attack on the early slopes and see what happens. There is no point in Deceuninck – Quick Step wasting their tactical advantage, one of their riders must attack early.
Dan Martin – he’s announced his retirement at the end of the season, this is a wonderful chance to take a final win. Just like his teammate, Michael Woods, the Irishman struggles with position when things get a little frantic. If he gets a good spot, I see him attacking from distance, letting Woods try to follow the wheels and attack closer to the finish.
Ethan Hayter – yes, he’s been going great in the last couple of months, but can he really win a stage like this? The short answer is yes, Hayter is a phenomenon. He has a 16 second lead over Van Aert, this means he’ll look to follow the attacks and save his energy for the final 200m. If he wins it will be a huge moment in his career.
Both Deceuninck and ISUN having two options makes this a little tricky to predict. They could attack on the early slopes of the climb, forcing Van Aert to waste vital energy, I don’t think Hayter will be foolish enough to try and cover the moves. Call me an old romantic, but I’ll take a win for Dan Martin.
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