By David Hunter
Barcelona – Barcelona 155km
The race ends with the usual stage in Barcelona.
The riders head out of Barcelona and then loop back round, to tackle the famous lap circuit. The main feature is the climb of Montjuïc, which the bunch tackle on 8 occasions. The climb is 2km at 5.6%, which always allows riders to attack and try to hurt their GC rivals. Once over the hill, we have another short climb, this is where damage can be done, especially if some went into the red zone on the previous climb.
The final rise tops out with just over 2km to go. This sees the riders head downhill on a very fast part of the course. It is possible to escape the bunch, but difficult. Last year, it was Dan Martin and Alejandro Valverde who got away from their rivals, with Valverde winning the sprint for the stage. Can he take consecutive wins?
There is a chance of some rain, but nothing like today. The wind is around 9mph and comes from the north-east, which means that the breakaway have a headwind as they drive towards Barcelona.
Alejandro Valverde – Bala has glided though this race, seeming to not even break sweat! He won this stage last year and starts as the overwhelming favourite to do so again. He currently leads Egan Bernal by 16 seconds, making it almost impossible for the Colombian to steal the jersey. Not only is Valverde the strongest rider, but Movistar are the strongest team. They have Soler and Quintana to cover the attacks and Valverde to finish it off, sounds perfect to me!
Jarlinson Pantano – “won” the sprint behind Valverde, last year. The Colombian already has a stage win and he’ll be keen for another. Not being a GC threat could work in his favour, as Movistar might not chase him, but I doubt it. Pantano has the speed to beat most of the GC riders, but I can’t see him beating Valverde. If he wants to win, he’ll need to attack.
Hugh Carthy – speaking of attacking, big Hugh’s been at it all week. It’s great to see him at the front of the race and giving it all he’s got. Back in 2016, he attacked a few times in this stage, but without success. Sitting in 8th overall, I think we’ll see him trying something in the last lap. EF Drapac could have multiple riders in the front group, as both Martinez and Woods will also hope to be present. Any team with multiple riders has a good chance of taking the stage.
Egan Bernal – he’s going to try and drop Valverde, but it won’t happen. Movistar will offer him no freedom, so he won’t win the stage.
Simon Yates – this is a great stage for him. He has the aggression required to win this stage and does like to attack. He’s far enough down on Valverde to get a little freedom and he looks in good form. Lacking a sprint, he’ll need to arrive solo.
Matej Mohoric – started 2018 in brilliant form. After winning in Italy, he has continued his good form in Spain. If Mohoric can survive with the front group, he will try and attack on the descent. Given his climbing ability, I think it will be touch and go, whether he makes it. Then again, he might risk it all and go for the morning break.
Daryl Impey – another rider in superb form. He survived with the front group in 2016, that will give him a lot of confidence as we approach this stage. He’s been unlucky not to win a stage this week, something he’ll hope to put right. If both he and Yates are in the front group, the team will hope that one of them will win.
Jay McCarthy – was in the break here in 2017, so he knows the challenges of this stage. I think the lap circuit is just a little bit too hard for him.
It’s boring but I can’t see past Alejandro Valverde. There will be enough teams wanting a stage win to bring the break back and Movistar look too strong compared to the rest of the teams.
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