By David Hunter
Fuengirola – Granada 197.6km
The race begins with a demanding day in the saddle.
The riders climb from the gun, ensuring the break is made up of climbers, as we have 5km at 7.6%. Talk about a tough start to a race. As the bunch head along the coast, we have easy roads, but once they turn inland the road starts to rise.
Puerto de Zafarraya will be a hard climb for all and the place where the bus starts to form. The next couple of climbs are easy, I would imagine the bunch will still be relatively big at this point, but Alto del Lucero will see another selection made. This climb is 4.3km at 6.3% and with lots of tired legs, this is where the bunch could be made a little smaller. The final climb is easy and crests with 20km remaining.
An easy finish for the peloton, we’ll just have to wait and see how many riders make the cut.
It all depends on Astana and Sky. It looks like they have the most to make out of a hard day. If they can hurt the teammates of their GC rivals, they will sense an opportunity to gain some time. If the bunch is small heading towards the finishing line, there will be a chance to attack and gap the bunch behind.
Another potential scenario, is that a team decides to try and set an easy pace up the big climb, in the hope of setting up a sprint victory for their fast man.
Yet another potential scenario is that the morning break develop a big advantage, as no one wants to chase, and they steal the stage. It is a day where anything could happen.
A pleasant day in the saddle and a light wind coming from the north-west.
Tim Wellens – the Belgian comes into this race after enjoying success in Mallorca. Looking at the other riders, he would be confident about beating most in a sprint. We all know that Wellens loves to attack, I’m not sure if he has the patience to wait for a sprint. Lotto also have Tosh Van Der Sande as another option, if the group is around 50 riders big, but this should be a good day for Wellens.
Wout Poels – I would expect to see him follow LL Sanchez very closely. After letting Astana get away in Valenciana, I can’t see Sky making the same mistake twice. Their squad isn’t as strong as in Valenciana, but they should still have plenty of riders left for the finale of this stage. Remember, Poels actually has a fast sprint, especially after a tough day in the saddle.
Luis Leon Sanchez – starts the stage as the favourite, thanks to his brilliant form. Astana are fans of aggressive racing, there is every chance of them blowing the race apart on the cat 1 climb. They will be keen to remove any sprinters, who can survive some mountains. Sanchez is quick in the sprint, but Astana have already shown that they don’t always wait. We could see Sanchez and Fuglsang going long, just like in Valenciana.
Oli Naesen – the Belgian champion is climbing well just now. He is exactly the type of rider who would benefit from a tough day in the saddle, but not too tough. If the bunch is around 30 riders, Naesen will be one of the fastest left. He would certainly back himself in a sprint against GC riders.
Kristian Sbaragli – if the pace is relatively easy, the Italian is the type of sprinter capable of holding on.
Koen Bouwman – breakaway option 1. Good climber, fast sprint and not a threat overall.
Preben Van Hecke – breakaway option 2. Already got in loads of breaks in Mallorca.
Astana to go for it! They will blow the race apart on the cat 1 climb and then attack on the cat 2 climb. That should seriously slim down the bunch and Luis Leon Sanchez will take the win from a small group.
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