By David Hunter
Busto de Bureba > Espinosa de los Monteros 172km
The first of the GC days.
The organisers have thrown a curve ball, making the riders descend to the finishing line. As we’ve seen in other races this will probably lead to less attacking and a larger group than normal together for the finish. This doesn’t always happen when they don’t make it a mountaintop finish, think Simon Yates in the Tour of the Alps, but it’s what usually happens.
Most will be wondering why they’ve done this. I don’t have any concrete answers, but I suspect it’s something to do with stage 3 of the Vuelta finishing at the top of the climb in just over a week. Hopefully we still see attacking racing, but I have my doubts.
Another nice day for the bunch. The wind isn’t strong, but it will be a cross/headwind for the big climb.
Picón Blanco is a monster of a climb, 7.3km at 8.9%. Last year we saw Remco Evenepoel blow everyone away on the steep slopes, it is perfect for an aggressive climber. Exposed to the elements, the climb will be very hot and will test the riders in many ways. From the crest there is 17km to go.
A very easy day to control, but will some of the big teams try and jump in the break? The GC is wide open after a crazy opening stage and Movistar have no need to chase any break, they won’t be in the race lead after the stage. When the break forms they could be allowed to build a nice advantage as the bunch look at each other and decide who will chase.
BikeExchange, UAE and Bahrain will likely look to control proceedings, but what will Ineos do? Due to the big crash on Tuesday, Sivakov is their only hope on GC, but he clearly wasn’t the main plan. Their attitude will depend on how Bernal and Yates have recovered, both came here looking to test their legs before the Vuelta starts, they’ll still want to do this. If they are fully fit, I don’t see them simply riding at the front for Sivakov.
Put simply a few teams will group together and chase down the break. We’ll see less attacks than normal due to the descent to the finish, and the Ineos approach will depend on how Bernal and Yates are feeling, I expect one of them to attack and chase the stage win.
Ineos – despite crashing in the opening stage both Bernal and Yates are the big favourites for this stage, especially now as those going for the GC don’t have to chase them. Their chances of success will depend on how they’ve recovered from the crash, we won’t know that until we get onto the climb. Sivakov also provides the squad with another option, it will be interesting to see if he gets full support, with Bernal and Yates riding for him in a mountain train. I suspect their main cards will be allowed to chase stage glory, leaving Sivakov to see what he can do in the GC battle.
Bahrain – Landa and Padun are their best options. Landa has only just returned to racing following his crash in the Giro, but he looked good in the opening stage. This is a climb he knows well, but he would prefer the race to finish at the crest. Landa will sense an opportunity to win the GC, but that won’t happen in this stage. After his double success at the Dauphiné it feels like the whole world is watching Mark Padun, but he’s yet to get anywhere near that level. We’ll have to see what he can do, but Padun is a rider who normally suffers in the heat.
Simon Yates – in my overall preview I said that Yates was looking cooked, this stage will show if I was right. He’s raced an awful lot in the last couple of months, but you just never know.
Romain Bardet – he looked great in the opening stage, a positive sign for the rest of the race. The downhill finish is good news for him, he’s one of the best descenders in this peloton. He was looking good in the Giro, if he has the same legs, he must be one of the men to beat in this stage.
Hugh Carthy – lost some time in the first stage, but don’t let that put you off. Like many of the climbers he’d prefer the finish to be at the top of the hill, not 17km down a descent. He loves these types of climbs, hopefully we see him attack from distance and unsettle the others.
Gregor Mühlberger – his move to Movistar hasn’t really gone to plan, but he’ll hope to be challenging in this stage. The Austrian is a good climber, and he descends well.
Aleksandr Vlasov – like the Ineos riders it depends on how he is after crashing on Tuesday. If 100% he’ll be challenging for the win.
David De La Cruz – the descent to the finish kills his chances of taking the win.
Miguel Eduardo Flórez – every so often the Colombian pops up with a big result, he shouldn’t be underestimated. The early part of his season was ruined by injury, but with recent racing in the legs he should be ready to challenge in this stage.
I’ll take a little risk and say that Egan Bernal will win the stage, hopefully he’s okay after his crash. In the GC fight, Romain Bardet will end the day in the race lead.
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