By David Hunter
Tortosa – Reus 190km
After a big shake up on GC, we have another day where we could see some movement.
We start climbing immediately, but the opening cat 3 is quite easy, so it’t won’t just be a break for climbers. After a period of calm, we have two cat 3 climbs in quick succession. The second of these is 3.2km at 7.3%, that will test some legs, before the cat 1 climb of Alt de la Musara. This climb is 10.6km at 5.2%, not a hugely difficult climb, but there is still a chance of attacks.
Once the climb has been crested, there is a section of false flat, that really is a killer. Riders much prefer an immediate descent, so this represents a dangerous period of the race, before we start a long descent to Reus.
The road does rise before the finishing line, but the gradients are only around the 2% mark. The run for home is very easy, with just one turn with 2km remaining.
A lot of riders will have marked this page of the roadbook. Coming towards the end of a tough week, we have big gaps on GC and most riders will be allowed freedom. It also comes between two very demanding stages, that means a lot of teams will be happy with an easy day. All of this is great news for the breakaway riders. The final cat 1 climb means that it will be tough for a non-climber to win, but that really does depend on the composition of the group. Expect a fierce fight and many kilometres before the break is established.
Looks like a nice day in the saddle.
Rein Taaramae – as Katusha are devoid of a leader, since the DNF of Zakarin, it opens the door to some attacking riding. Something similar happened in the 2016 Giro, and Taaraame won the next stage. The Estonian is a wonderful breakaway rider, one that isn’t scared of attacking from distance.
Gianluca Brambilla – made the initial move on the stage to La Molina, but went back into the pack. The Italian is perfect for a stage like this, but it certainly won’t be easy making the break. Unlike other teams, QuickStep have riders able to help their chosen rider make the initial move. That puts them at a huge advantage.
Pierre Rolland – was in the break in the opening stage, and today, I sense he would like another go. The Frenchman hasn’t won a world tour race since the 2012 Tour de France. That win to Les Sybelles was incredible, such a shame it’s his last big win. He is now 30 and it’s starting to look like his best days are behind him. I am a big fan of his, I hope he can rediscover his form of old.
Jelle Vanendert – another rider that is struggling to find his old form. I still remember him winning an awesome stage to Plateau De Beille, but that was way back in 2011. This is contract year and unless he delivers some big results, I don’t see him getting a new deal.
Natnael Berhane – the Dimension Data rider had been battling for the KOM jersey, but decided to sit out of today’s break. With a big cat 1 climb in the stage, he’ll be very keen to make the move. He really is a talented climber and a threat for the stage win.
Maciej Paterski – loves a break! Was unlucky to miss the podium during his breakaway stage in Andalucia, but that’s cycling. Of all the PCT riders, he is the one that can surprise the big names. The Pole has a lot of power in his legs.
Alejandro Valverde – if the break doesn’t win, the Spaniard is the huge favourite for the stage. The climb is too hard for most riders, it would be a sprint between the top 20 GC riders. As a brilliant descender, he might just sense the chance of gaining time over his rivals and attack as the road slopes down.
It looks like a perfect day for the breakaway. It’s rare a rider wins from a PCT, so I’ll go with a World Tour rider. My pick is Gianluca Brambilla. He can climb, descend and sprint. Perfect!
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