By David Hunter
Ondarroa > Arrate 111.5km
Welcome to hell.
Just 111km of racing, but the riders have to climb 3228m. This stage is just about as hard as you’ll ever find. With the GC situation fascinatingly poised, we’re in for a day to remember.
A steep climb straight from the gun, just a little tester before the day really begins!
20km into the day and we get to our first cat 1 climb. Azurki is 5.9km at 7.4%, already we’ll start to see a big selection being made. A fast, narrow descent follows and bounces straight into the next climb.
Elosua-Gorla is 8.8km at 6.2% and is a cat 2 climb. Steepest at the bottom, this is another tough test. Another fast descent follows, before 13km of flat leading into the hardest climb of the day.
Krabelin is a little bugger of a climb. This was introduced a few years back, basically it’s a cycle path that goes straight up to the top of the hill, instead of looping round the traditional way. Only the strongest will be in the front group at the crest, but there’s still over 40km still to go. Once off the descent there’s around 27km before the final climb, but this road does have a cat 3 climb and a couple of steep unclassified climbs.
We end with the normal Arrate climb, 6.7km at 5.8%, but that does include the downhill run to the finishing line. Last time we were here it was the opening stage of the Vuelta and a certain Primož Roglič took the win.
I’d love to be able to tell you I know how this stage is going to play out, but that would be a big, fat lie! Things which need to be considered:-
- Only the strongest will survive this stage.
- UAE are in charge of the race; they will come under severe pressure.
- UAE are 1st and 5th, Jumbo-Visma are 2nd and 3rd, Bahrain are 4th and 10th.
- Astana are in brilliant form.
- Only one week ago, Adam Yates was flying.
- Valverde is nearly back to his very best.
- Bora cannot be underestimated, Buchmann is looking strong and is 7th.
- No team is strong enough to control this stage.
- Domestiques will be worth their weight in gold in the second half of the stage.
- There are some quality climbers out of the GC picture, looking for a stage win.
- Roglič and Pogačar have already proven they are the strongest, but not by much.
- There could be a surprise, it is not certain that one of the big two take the win considering the tactical position of the race.
- You work it out!
The forecast had been saying rain for this stage for a number of days, but it looks like the bunch could get lucky as the current forecast is just for clouds. Please remember, clouds in the Basque Country can quickly turn to rain.
Jumbo-Visma – in my opinion it was the correct decision to give away the leader’s jersey on Thursday, it would have been almost impossible to defend the jersey in this stage considering the strength of the team. Having Vingegaard so high on GC is brilliant for the team, he is a very strong option for them if things get tactical. If we get a “normal” race, Roglič will be confident about dropping McNulty, then his focus will be Pogačar. He has a 20 second gap to his main rival, that is a lot of time considering the final climb is one that suits him very well. We’ll have to see how the stage evolves, but Roglič is still the favourite to win the race.
UAE – they have a strong team at this race, just as well really. The likes of Conti, Ulissi, Majka, Polanc and Hirschi will be expected to last deep into the race, it’s very important they don’t blow early on. McNulty is currently riding out of his skin, he gives the team a strong option, making it possible for Pogačar to follow wheels and refuse to work. The current race position puts the team into a tricky position, I’m glad I’m not calling the shots.
Bahrain – despite having Bilbao in 4th and Landa in 10th, a win for either would be a surprise. Landa should be their best option, but he rarely beats the best these days.
Astana – they have Izagirre and Fuglsang as their GC options, but Fraile, Aranburu and Lutsenko provide great options from the break. Given the way they’ve raced this week I expect them to be challenging for another win.
Deceuninck – Quick Step – Knox and Vansevenant provide good options, but they’ll need to ride a canny race if they’re going to win.
Adam Yates – he was so good in Catalunya, but couldn’t follow the big moves on Wednesday. Was that a sign he’s lost a small edge since last week? Was he just a little off the pace that day? He’s just over 1 minute down on GC, but he’s still sitting in a dangerous position, especially if he has the same legs he had on Vallter 2000.
Alejandro Valverde – he is looking brilliant just now. The problem he’ll have is Movistar not being very strong at this race, it’s a shame Mas crashed during GP Indurian. Valverde has the legs to win, but he’ll need some luck.
Emanuel Buchmann – it’s been a while since we’ve seen him at his best, he seems to be getting in great shape for the Giro. Winning this stage will be very hard, but he does have a chance.
David Gaudu – the Frenchman is climbing very well just now. He was able to follow most of the moves on Wednesday and given he sits 1:52 down on GC he’s exactly the type of rider who could benefit from the others looking at each other.
Guillaume Martin – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Ben O’Connor – breakaway hopeful number 2.
I have no idea, how about you? David Gaudu to win the stage and Primož Roglič to take the overall. Whatever happens, I’m going to enjoy this stage.
Join us on facebook: Ciclismo Internacional
Copyright © 2012-2021 Ciclismo Internacional. All Rights Reserved