By David Hunter
Llanaras – La Molina 171km
Time for the GC boys to play.
It’s a day with a lot of hills, the peloton will do 4173m of climbing. Most of it comes in the final 100km, setting up a big finish to La Molina. Despite the early climbs, this is all about the final climb.
First of all, the riders face 8.3km at 6.4%. Most of the difficulty comes in the opening 5km, but it’s nothing that will trouble the climbers in the front group. We then have a short, but very fast descent into the final rise.
This finish has been used on countless occasions and nearly always has the same result. A large group of favourites hit the final 1km together, before a big sprint in the final 600m. This is where we’ll start to see gaps as the more explosive riders take advantage of the steep finish.
Sunny, but very cold. There should only be a little bit of wind, it is coming from the north in La Molina, meaning it should be a tailwind.
Alejandro Valverde – Movistar didn’t do very well today. Instead of making the whole team ride for their leader, they tried to lean on the other teams. This plan backfired and Valverde lost the overall lead. It will be interesting to see their tactics in this stage, but as they only seem to have four domestiques, it might actually suit them to not set pace all day. This finish is another that Valverde loves, no one can match his finishing kick. If he wants to win this race, there can be no messing around.
Dan Martin – went head to head with Valverde here last year, but failed. Martin is very quick, but not fast enough to beat Bala. This means UAE will have to think carefully about their tactics. Having Fabio Aru, gives them a great second option. I expect to see them trying to attack from distance and not simply allowing Valverde to have an easy sprint in the final 200m. They need to try and get him to work before the final kick.
Simon Yates – was nice and bold today, a shame he didn’t win. Now that Adam has abandoned, Mitchelton-Scott will throw all of their weight behind Simon. He has a fast sprint, but I think it’s only quick enough to challenge for 3rd place. Hopefully he attacks from a little further out, something he’s known for.
Nairo Quintana – was allowed a lot of freedom today. There is every chance we get a very tactical finish, that will allow the Colombian to cover some moves and refuse to work, as Valverde is behind. This would put him into a strong position, but the finish isn’t perfect for him. Quintana prefers a long climb, rather than this kick in the final 300m.
Egan Bernal – time to see what he’s got. I think he’s capable of making the podium, that would be a huge result for him at this point in his career.
Michael Woods – can he eventually time his attack correct and take a win? Probably not!
Davide Formolo – this is a finish that is well suited to the Italian. He’s enjoyed a fine start to his career with Bora and looks set for another big result. He will be in the mix in the final 500m and could well end up on the podium. That would give him some crucial bonus seconds in the overall battle.
Thomas De Gendt – outstanding from him today, he really is an incredible athlete. I think he’ll struggle to stay in the race lead.
Surely Movistar can’t mess it up again? I’ll stick with Alejandro Valverde, it is a brilliant finish for him.
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