Tour of the Alps 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

By David Hunter

Bolzano – Cles 165.3km

After a big day in the mountains, we return to a well used stage.

For the last two years, this has been the final stage. As the organisers have lengthened the race by one day, it settles into a new position. They might only have given it 3 stars, but this is includes two difficult climbs.

Climbs

The Passo Mendola comes right at the start of the stage, that means you must be a good climber to make the morning break. It is too early for the GC riders, unless someone channels their inner Contador!

Now, this is what you call a climb! It is 5.8km at 10.6% and is a real tough one for the riders. Even though it crests with 34km to go, it will still have a big impact on the race. Last year we had a sprint between a small group of GC favourites, the year before was a day for the break.

Tactics

Team Sky are now in the overall lead and have been strong all week long. Even though they only have six riders, they have dominated both climbing stages. Looking at the other squads, it doesn’t seem likely that anyone is strong enough to go on the opening climb. To do this, you require a number of strong teammates to support you throughout the whole stage.

Instead, the other teams will be forced into attacking on the final climb. That is not ideal for them, as Sky will have Landa to help Thomas chase down the final attacks. If you remember back to last year, Landa’s performance on this climb was one of the best I’ve ever seen! In fact, I fully expect another two Sky riders to rejoin the pack on the run for home.

It will be very hard for any team to pressurise Sky, instead, they will chase stage glory. If you have a fast finishing climber, you want a sprint. If not, you need to attack in the final 10km. The finish is set up well for an exciting end to the day.

Breakaway Hopes

With big gaps on GC and a stage that begins with a long climb, this is a perfect day for the attackers. Team Sky are not usually known for letting breaks stay away, but as they only have six riders, they might just be happy to let the attackers take the stage.

Weather

Should be a sunny day for the bunch, but it will still feel a little cold.

Contenders

Geraint Thomas – the Sky leader is looking very strong just now. He and Landa seem unbeatable and I doubt they will have any moments of worry in this stage. The Welshman packs a good sprint too, capable of taking more bonus seconds and firming up his grip on the stage.

Phil Deignan – I was hugely impressed by his long pull today. When he is in form, the Irishman can do a mini Kiriyenka! I have a theory that the Sky boys will rejoin the front group and help to control the attacks. If that happens, some of their “lesser” riders might just be allowed to attack. It would be a nice reward for their hard work.

Thibaut Pinot – sprinted to 2nd place on Tuesday and will be confident of another podium spot. Today he was left without any help late in the race, he would dearly hope that either Morabito or Ludvigsson gets over the final climb. He will need someone to hold the race together for a sprint. With another big climbing day on Friday, he will not be allowed to get away by the Sky riders. He’ll have to be happy sprinting for the win.

Hugh Carthy – another rider that impressed me today. He should be part of the elite group that gets over the final climb and Cannondale have had some serious numbers this week. If they have three riders in the front group of 10, the odds are in their favour. Taking turns at attacking will gradually wear down the other riders, eventually leading to one of them getting away. Carthy, Formolo and Rolland will hope to take the win.

Alexander Foliforov – the current leader of the KOM category, he will want to be part of the morning move. The Russian has looked in good form this week, it’s been a while! You will remember his TT win in the 2016 Giro, possibly the biggest shock of the whole season. A prodigious climbing talent, he will dearly hope that Team Sky give him some freedom.

Stefano Pirazzi – a truly enigmatic rider. The Italian is capable of big results and loves a day in the break. He has already tried a few attacks this week, but they haven’t worked. He will do his best to make the morning move and take another daring win.

Prediction time

I have a feeling the breakaway might just have a good day out. For them to succeed, they will need representation from some of the World Tour teams. If that happens, I’ll go with Alexander Foliforov. He’s impressed me this week.

*Overall Preview

David Hunter

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