By David Hunter
Barcelona – Barcelona 140km
After a surprisingly important stage today, we are all set for some fireworks in Barcelona.
This is a favourite stage for the organisers, with the lap circuit featuring the climb of Montjuic. The riders cover 8 laps of a very challenging route, with plenty of opportunities for those who want to attack.
The race follows a similar pattern to most criterium races, with the pace increasing as we get closer to the finish. The climbs give attackers a great chance of escaping the pack, giving the break a wonderful chance of staying away. As long as no GC threats make the move, I don’t see Movistar overly keen to bring them back.
A number of teams are still wanting to win a stage, it won’t just be the GC riders that like the look of this one. A puncheur, on good form, has a chance of remaining with the front group. They will hope for a steady pace on the climb, giving them a good chance of making it to the sprint with the front group.
Should be a nice day for the end of the race. Sun and not much wind.
Alejandro Valverde – he’s had a brilliant week. This stage is wonderful for him, given the speed of his sprint. He won here in 2015 and starts the day as the big favourite. Movistar won’t go chasing the race, they are only interested in defending his overall position. If the race happens to be all together, they will turn their attention to trying to also win the stage.
Daryl Impey – finished 5th here last year, that was a good result and an indication of what he might achieve this year. He was close in the sprint stages, but will be very happy with an outstanding stage win today. He has a fair chance of making it two in a row.
Jarlinson Pantano – has the sprint, but will be required to do some work for Contador. Trek will try and stretch the race, even though Contador seems too far behind Valverde. Hopefully the Colombian doesn’t have to do too much work and he can sprint for the win.
Petr Vakoc – another rider that is here to build his form. He is explosive enough to cope with this circuit and has a huge amount of power. If he gets a gap on the climb or descent, he’ll be very hard to bring back.
Geraint Thomas – after a disastrous day for Team Sky, I wonder if they’ll be able to strike back. The Welshman seems their best option for a stage like this. It’s a long shot, but you just never know!
Alberto Contador – the stage just isn’t hard enough for the Spaniard.
Marc Soler – after doing a brilliant job for Valverde, it would be nice if he was allowed a little freedom to chase his own win. That really does depend on the race situation.
I think we’ll see a small group escape the peloton and they won’t come back. Winning from the break will be Petr Vakoc, with Alejandro Valverde taking the GC.
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