By David Hunter
Arenas De San Pedro – Plataforma De Gredos 190.4km
One last chance to shake up the GC.
This stage does contain a lot of climbing, but only two cat 1 climbs. Is it hard enough to see big gaps in the GC? The day begins with a short period of flat, then we hit the climbs.
The organisers have decided to split the first climb into two, but I’ve put them both together. 29.7km at 3.6% is a long one, but not terribly hard. The cat 1 section is 18.5km at 4.5%, again, this isn’t very hard. A descent of around 20km follows, before the riders bounce into a cat 2 climb.
4.3km at 7.3% is tough enough, but a GC rider would have to be on a terrible day to get dropped here. We then have a long section of unclassified climbing; this is where the break will hope to build their advantage.
13.5km at 6%, yet again I’m left wishing for tougher climbs. The crest comes with 24km to go. Will we see attacks?
The race ends with 3.8km at 6.5%.
It just doesn’t look hard enough for the GC riders. If riders are really suffering after enduring the last three weeks, of course, they can be put into difficulty. If not, I see the main GC riders arriving together. Astana, and López, have looked aggressive, but now that the Colombian is back in the white jersey, will he continue to attack? He might sense a chance of edging onto the podium, but Quintana will have to have a very bad day to lose out on third place.
Will any of the GC teams chase all day for a sprint? López is still without a win, the only rider in the top five to not claim a stage. Given the way they’ve been riding, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Astana try and deliver another win. The problem is the final climb, it doesn’t really look like his style. That means the break has another chance to win a stage, which would be their tenth win of the race. That is crazy, even by Vuelta standards.
We have quite a strong wind coming from the east and still the risk of thunderstorms.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – has joined the breaks will amazing consistency, but is still searching for a win. Has he got any energy left? As the climbs are a little easier than in previous stages, I wonder if he’ll sense a chance. He packs a fast sprint, and will like the look of the finale.
Ion Izagirre – we’ll have to wait and see if Astana allow any freedom to their domestiques. Izagirre has been consistent in this race, but without looking that great. He is a rider of great pedigree and will hope to be allowed to chase stage glory.
Dylan Teuns – the Belgian will sense the chance of getting into the morning break, winning stage, and finishing in the top 10 overall! Soler is currently in 10th place, but he’ll likely be working for his team leaders. Teuns has looked good in this race, he would love to end it with a stage win.
Mikel Nieve – see above! Nieve is 11th on GC, just 1:07 behind Soler. He has a habit of delivering big results in grand tours, and hasn’t registered one in this race.
Sergio Higuita – took a brilliant win on Thursday, there’s no reason why he can’t double up. The little Colombian is a sensational climber, and his sprint is very fast. He will now be riding with pressure removed from his shoulders, which will certainly make him seem faster on the climbs.
Hermann Pernsteiner – the Austrian has been one of the surprises of the race. He’s not been able to register a big result, but his legs still seem to be good. If he makes the break, he’ll have a good chance of success.
Óscar Rodríguez – another rider who’s been seen in recent breaks. He is desperate to repeat his success of last year, but it’s not looking very likely.
Primož Roglič – given the way he’s sprinting at the end of mountain stages; the Slovenian will actually fancy his chances of taking another win. That would be a ruthless way to show everyone just how strong he is.
Alejandro Valverde – if it comes back together, he would hope to beat Roglič in the sprint.
Yet another win for the break. Looking at the riders in the peloton, I think the win will come from someone in the top 20. I’ll go with Dylan Teuns. The Belgian has enjoyed a wonderful season, this would be a great way to round it off.
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