By David Hunter
Sevilla – Alcalá de los Gazules 192km
The end of this stage is amazing!
The profile is dominated by the cat 1 ascent to Puerto de las Palomas, which is 12.5km at 6.5%, quickly followed by 2km at 5.9%. This crests with 80km remaining, meaning the bunch are likely to ride tempo up the climb, which is good news for the non-climbers in the peloton.
After a long descent, the rest of the stage certainly looks bumpy, with lots of uncategorised climbs, before the final kicker to end the stage.
Given the route, a breakaway would normally have a decent chance, but Astana look in dominant form. They will want to try and control the break, in the hope of setting up the stage win.
To see the final 1.4km, go to 8:30 in the video clip.
As you can see, this is much more difficult than it looks on paper. Officially 1.4km at 10%, but we have very narrow roads, incredibly poor road conditions and one of the craziest descents I’ve ever seen! This is a ridiculously difficult end to the stage, making it possible to see big gaps between the GC riders.
Another beautiful day for the peloton, with temperatures around 20 degrees.
Luis Leon Sanchez – this is a stage he’ll be looking forward to. Sanchez has always been better on shorter climbs, thanks to his explosive kick. He was close on Thursday, where he was able to match Poels for the majority of the climb. After a strong start to the season, he would love to take another victory.
Jakob Fuglsang – just like Thursday, Astana will be able to use both men in the closing stages. The Dane was the early attacker the other day, he’ll probably be used in the same role in this stage. A former mountain biker, he’ll love this surface, not something that could be said about some of the others.
Wout Poels – sits in the overall race lead, thanks to a brilliant win on Thursday. After a poor performance in Valenciana, this will have helped with his confidence. You wouldn’t normally associate Poels with this type of finish, but he has spoken about wanting to challenge in Flèche Wallonne. Sky have a strong team, capable of controlling the bunch and covering any attacks. That should leave Poels against his main rivals in the final 200m. We shall see if he can repeat that brilliant acceleration.
Tim Wellens – this climb screams Tim Wellens! He surprised a few by his performance on Thursday, and now has a great chance of winning the race. He’ll love the road surface on the final climb, something that should give him an advantage over the other GC riders. He’ll get good support from Jelle Vanendert, another rider that will love this finish. Expect to see Wellens fighting for the win.
Mikel Landa – considering this is his first race, he coped well on Thursday. A short climb like this is great for him, but the road surface is a concern. Landa is tremendous on double digit slopes and should be better with Thursday’s stage in his legs. Do not write Landa off!
Simon Clarke – the surprise of Thursday’s stage. The Aussie is a good climber, but I was very impressed with his 12th place. This climb should sort suit him better, given his explosive nature.
Oli Naesen – this is ideal preparation for Omloop. The uphill climb, basically on cobbles, is perfect for the Belgian champion to test himself ahead of next weekend. A formidable rider, he will relish the opportunity of chasing a result, after riding for others in recent races. If he wins, it will send a big message to his classics rivals.
Sacha Modolo – of all the quick men, he has the best chance of surviving the final climb to the finish. Modolo enjoyed a success classics campaign in 2017 and does like a challenging finish, but this is right on his limit. The problem he will have is all the GC riders looking to attack each other. With such difficult road conditions, this will be a very hard stage for him to win.
This is a Flemish climb in Andalucía and I think we’ll see Tim Wellens take the win. Expect a brilliant battle on the final climb, this should be a memorable finish.
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