By David Hunter
Monforte de Lemos – Luintra. Ribeira Sacra 163.2km
Another stage with nearly 3000m of climbing, it’s not getting any easier!
With a finish too tough for the sprinters, the puncheurs will be looking forward to this one. The cat 2 climb is 10.9km at 5.1%, so very demanding. A descent follows before a long unclassified climb. It is 15.3km at 4%, which will kill the hopes of the sprinters.
As we approach the finish, it continues to be difficult. The riders have to tackle 2km at 7%, and a 3% final kilometre. This is a tough day in the saddle.
The GC teams will control most the stage, worried about losing time. At some point, a few other teams will need to help in order to get a sprint. BMC, Trek, Sky and Orica are the most likely candidates. All of these teams have GC riders, so they have limited resources to control the break. That hands the breakaway riders a good opportunity. This stage really does look good for the opportunists.
Very good. I would expect to see a number of strong riders trying to make the morning move. The amount of climbing in the final 50km makes it tough to bring the break back. Most teams will try to get away early in the stage, as it looks like a classic breakaway day. Riders like Gilbert and Felline would love it to come back together, but it won’t be easy for one or two teams to control this stage. Even if it is brought back, the reduced peloton will see plenty of attacks inside the final 5km. Think back to Adam Hansen’s win in 2014.
Contenders For The Breakaway Lottery
Pello Bilbao – I’m just waiting for him to win his first Vuelta stage. He’s an excellent climber, with a very fast finish. These characteristics are perfect for a breakaway contender. Caja Rural want a stage win!
Adam Hansen – can’t quite believe it’s been two years since his Vuelta stage win, it seems like yesterday! He’s been looking very strong this week, helping place Tosh Van Der Sande into good positions. Hansen is a breakaway expert, but suffers from being heavily marked.
Fabio Felline – might not wait until the sprint. Trek will quickly work out if it’s a breakaway day. If so, expect to see the Italian try to make the move. He was good today, finishing 2nd, but he would dearly love his first grand tour win.
Philippe Gilbert – he’s in a very similar position to Felline. Fast enough to win the sprint, but good enough to go in the break. He’s been attacking this week, but without success. BMC will try and help Gilbert take another win before he heads off to Etixx. However, if he fails to make the break, watch for Silvan Dillier.
Zdenek Stybar – did an amazing lead-out today. Stybar has played a big part in both Meersman wins and also finished 16th on Tuesday. The Czech star looks to be in good form and a stage win would not be a surprise.
Michal Kwiatkowski – will he be given some freedom? I think the answer is no:(
LL Sanchez – strong today and Astana are now on the hunt for stages. Despite all his success, Sanchez has never won a stage of the Vuelta. He has the same characteristics as most riders on my list; a good climber, with a fast finish.
Jan Bakelants – has worked tirelessly for others all season. The Belgian is a vastly underrated rider. Just for that reason, he’s one of my favourites. He won a stage in the Tour de France, back in 2013, another grand tour win would be a repayment for all his hard work.
Egor Silin – Katusha are out of the GC picture, so they also are hunting stages. Silin is one of those tough Russian riders. He might only have one pro win to his name, but he shouldn’t be discounted, if he makes the break.
Omar Fraile – won the KOM jersey last year, but would dearly love a stage win. He has the sprint needed, if some of the riders above are not present.
Valerio Conti – just 23, but now starting to develop into the rider he wants to become. He was terrific for Ulissi in the Giro, and now gets a chance to ride for himself. Another with a fast finish.
Jose Goncalves – big Jose! It’s now been confirmed that he’s joining Katusha, a wonderful move for him. He was so close to a win in last year’s Vuelta, and I get the feeling he has even better legs this year. If he makes the break, everyone should be scared.
Alejandro Valverde – just in case it comes back together and it turns into a mini-GC day. In that scenario, he wins the sprint.
The break wins. I’ll go Spanish and pick Pello Bilbao, I am a big fan!
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