By David Hunter
Hondarribia > Ondarroa 159.5km
A sprint stage?
With 2081m of climbing, this should really be one for the fast men, but only if enough teams want to chase.
Mendexa is the first of three cat 3 climbs, and it’s the hardest. It is 1.3km at 9.3%, but should be taken at tempo as it’s a long way from home.
Next up is Gontzagaraigana, 8.2km at 3.2%.
The final categorised climb, Urkaregi, is 5.2km at 4.6%. The crest comes with 28km to go, lots of time for the quick men to get organised.
In classic Basque fashion the run for home is lumpy. If the sprint teams aren’t very well organised there is a chance for a late attacker to use one of the ramps to gap the peloton and take the day.
This roundabout comes with 800m to go. Going left is significantly faster than right.
With 600m to go it’s another roundabout, the bunch are going straight on, so the left side is again faster. There’s every chance the organisers block off the right-hand side on both of these roundabouts.
With just 300m to go the bunch come off the big road and are funnelled to the right. Going from two lanes to just one means the fight to be at the front will be fierce. The two roundabouts just before this has a big impact on the fight to control the sprint. The last of the little kickers tops out with 1.7km to go, this is when you need to be at the front controlling the finale. If you have a poor position in the final kilometre, it’s game over.
Another mild day with temperatures getting up to 20 degrees. There will be a lot of cloud around, so there is a threat of rain throughout the stage, but it looks like it should stay dry.
It all depends on who wants to chase. Potentially we have four teams who will want to chase, but three of these teams have GC riders who need protected, leaving less men to chase. Apart from these teams everyone else will be looking to get in the morning break. The chances of success will depend on the size of the move and the composition, at this point it’s impossible to tell if they’ll stay away. The good news for the chasers is that the stage is only 160km long. If it takes a while for the break to establish, they won’t have to chase for that long.
The opening to the stage is crucial. If a break of 8, or more, gets up the road, I don’t think the bunch will see them again. Controlling the early stages won’t be easy, none of the sprint teams look strong to me. With lots of riders looking to join the move, it could take quite some time for the break to establish. We’ll then have to see if teams want to chase and set up a sprint.
Magnus Cort – on paper, he’s the fastest in the race. After winning a stage in Paris-Nice, this is a great chance to take another world tour win. EF have Carthy and Higuita as protected riders, which means they only have three others to ride for Cort, this could be a problem.
Dion Smith – he “won” the bunch sprint in the opening stage in Catalunya, but that was only for 5th place. He’s gone close on a number of occasions to winning his first world tour stage, this is another good chance. BikeExchange have a couple of riders to chase the break, but that would leave them short for the finale.
Daryl Impey – he was second behind Sagan in Mataró, a finish that is relatively similar to this one. Israel Start-Up Nation are down to five men, but with no riders challenging on GC they’ll still have to shoulder some of the responsibility to chase the morning break. Impey is fast, but will they commit to a full day of work when a rider like Cort is in the peloton?
Alexander Kamp – fast, but not fast enough to win.
Stefani Oldani – I’ve not really worked him out yet. I had the Italian pegged as a fast man when he made the move to Lotto Soudal, but he’s since developed into more of a breakaway rider. If he gets in a good position for the sprint, he has the speed required to take the win.
Alex Aranburu – the lumpy finale is perfect for the Basque fast man. His win in the opening stage was brilliant, Astana nailed it. He prefers an uphill sprint, but if Astana boss the closing stages he has a chance of taking a second win.
Ide Schelling – another rider who can surprise in a sprint. He was 6th in the big bunch sprint in the opening stage of Provence, he can shift when he sets his mind to it.
Jon Aberasturi – 2nd in Pays de la Loire was a good result for the Caja-Rural fast man, and this is a very rare opportunity to take a world tour win. The problem is that his team isn’t strong enough to chase down the break, and he’ll struggle for position in the closing kilometres.
Josef Černy – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Matt Holmes – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Bruno Armirail – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Astana – breakaway hopefuls number 4-10.
Sprint or break? As most of the sprint teams have a GC rider to protect, I think the break will take the day. Astana simply have to be in the move, I’ll take a win for Alex Aranburu.
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