By David Hunter
Orihuela – Cumbre Del Sol 174km
After today’s fun, we have a very similar looking stage.
The stage is animated by the climb to Alto de Puig Llorenca. The riders climb it twice, the first time up, the peloton don’t do the final kilometre, that joy is saved for the final ascent.
This is the climb where Tom Dumoulin sensationally beat Chris Froome, back in 2015. It is 4km at 9.1%, with a maximum gradient of 21%. It is a horrible climb for the riders, brilliant for the fans!
The final kilometre isn’t the hardest section of the climb, in terms of the gradient, but it certainly is the most challenging. The riders take a big left turn and they see the road rising up to the finishing line. There is nowhere to hide, on this long straight, it is rider versus the hill. You will see some flying past the others, but some riders will go backwards! Carefully managing your effort is vital.
Very similar to today. The flat stage is bad news for climbers hoping to make the break. The attitude of the peloton will decide if the break wins, does a team want to chase hard and set up a potential stage win?
As Chris Froome took the red jersey on Monday, his team have had to work very hard since. Taking a huge amount of the burden is Christian Knees and Ian Stannard. Day after day, these boys have been on the front of the peloton for the majority of the stage. This is tough at the best of times, but even worse in the heat of Spain. You can see that both are beginning to get tired, which gives the break some hope.
Hot and humid, with a chance of thunderstorms. We also have a wind coming from the north-east, meaning a chance of echelons. The stage is very exposed and I think we’ll definitely see some teams trying to cause havoc, but as the riders bend round the coast, it does become a headwind.
Alberto Contador – the only rider capable of challenging Froome. It’s great to see Contador back to his best, he always seems to perform better on home soil. He did manage to drop Froome today, but then Froome got back and dropped him. Contador is a hard one to predict on these climbs, he can do well, but sometimes disappoints. I hope to see him smiling at the end of the stage.
Chris Froome – I still can’t believe he didn’t win here in 2015. After coming to the front in the final kilometre, he seemed to do everything right. All of a sudden, Dumoulin found some strength and he nipped past Froome on the line. Today, Froome put down a big marker. He easily distanced all but one of his rivals and now has a solid lead overall. Expect to see a similar show of force in this stage.
Michael Woods – he needs to try and take advantage of his good legs. These finishes are great for the Canadian, he’ll struggle when we hit the longer climbs. As I’ve mentioned before, he only has one win in his pro career. Is he unlucky or tactically poor?
Esteban Chaves – looks to have lost a little bit of his edge. I doubt we’ll see him win this stage.
Vincenzo Nibali – not really his style of climb. He will hope to limit his losses and stay close to Froome. He’ll be happy to stay within 20 seconds of the best GC rider.
Darwin Atapuma – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Marc Soler – breakaway hopeful number 2.
George Bennett – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Thomas De Gendt – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Enric Mas – breakaway hopeful number 5.
As long as there isn’t a threat to the red jersey, I think the break will be allowed some space. There is no need for Sky to chase down the move, especially when the finish is short and steep. I think it will be up to the other GC teams to chase. Will Trek or Orica step up?
I think the break will take another stage win and I’ll go with Thomas De Gendt. Back in the peloton, we’ll see Contador going crazy! I think he’ll be the first home, closely followed by Froome. They should take a few seconds on the rest.
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