By David Hunter
L’Eliana – Observatorio Astrofísico De Javalambre 170.7km
Time to head for the mountains.
The first summit finish of the race, and what a beauty. Despite only having three categorised climbs, we have around 3700m of climbing, thanks to a plethora of unclassified bumps along the way.
The cat 2 climb is 5.9km at 4.7%, I think the break will already have formed before we hit this one, expect to see Madrazo there. The rest of the day is constantly up and down, before we hit the big finishing climb.
Not a well-known climb, but those who have been for a recon tell me it’s incredibly difficult. Officially classified as 11.1km at 7.8%, the final 7.4km rises at 9.5%.
The Veloviewer profile shows just how difficult the climb actually is. Coming just five days into the race, this is will be hugely significant in the GC battle, expect to see some big-name casualties.
The final 5km is so hard that drafting won’t really be a big advantage. Having teammates will still give teams an advantage, especially in terms of attacking and forcing team leaders into chasing. Movistar are likely to have multiple representation, the same goes for Astana, EF, Bora, Mitchelton-Scott, in fact, most of the big teams have multiple threats.
This could have a significant impact on the race, just like it did on Sunday. If the right mix escapes, it could stay away all the way to the line. This promises to be a fascinating stage.
Another hot one, I would if any of the north Europeans will wilt in the heat.
The top 55 riders are separated by 5:20, leaving all the other riders far down on GC, including some exceptional climbers. With teams now only having 8 riders, we’ve witnessed a growing trend of breakaway wins in the grand tours, but will this continue in this stage?
Sunweb will want to keep a hold of the jersey, but they don’t have a huge number of riders to chase the break. If a move goes that doesn’t contain a threat to the red jersey, don’t expect them to chase it down. Ineos would normally help with the work, but they are out of the GC picture, which puts everyone into new territory. The bulk of the work will fall on the shoulders of Jumbo-Visma, Movistar and Astana, we’ll have to see what their attitude will be.
Movistar – both Valverde and Quintana were very strong on Sunday, which should be a big concern to everyone at this race with GC aspirations. The steep climb should be music to the ears of Valverde, and he was looking very strong the other day. Quintana also goes well on steep climbs and having two options should be beneficial for the Spanish team. Can they take another win?
Bora – both Formolo and Majka should have license to chase stage glory. The Italian was very aggressive on Sunday, but eventually had to pull the chase group for Majka. It is clear that the Pole is the protected rider, but funny things can happen on a climb like this. I don’t think Majka can win this stage, but Formolo does have a chance.
EF Education First – Urán, Higuita, Carthy and Martinez, that’s one hell of a climbing group. With many cards to play, we’ll have to see what tactics the team decide to employ. Their primary objective is to protect Urán, but this type of climb offers the others some hope. If we get a tactical battle, they have the riders to take advantage of the situation. As we witnessed on Sunday, Higuita has a very fast kick, but this is a totally different finish. Urán knows that a good performance could see him move into the red jersey, which will be a huge motivating factor.
Miguel Ángel López – was outnumbered on Sunday, which left him wasting energy pulling the chase group, something I hope he doesn’t regret at the end of this stage. The Colombian is an exceptional climber, I think you could argue he’s the best climber in the race. Astana have a strong team, but he is their main man, and I expect a big performance from his domestiques after they let him down. This is a climb that suits him very well, and he must be considered one of the big favourites.
Primož Roglič – after crashing on Saturday, Jumbo-Visma have been in an aggressive mood since. They suffered a blow today when Kruijswijk had to abandon, I just hope Roglič doesn’t start to show any injuries after his fall. The steep climb is one that he would normally do very well on, he loves hitting the front and simply letting rip, usually destroying the rest of the field. If 100% he’s one of the men to beat.
Esteban Chaves – I sense a return to form for the little Colombian. Chaves is one of the most popular riders in the peloton, but he’s endured a tough spell in recent years. The chat before the race started was that he was flying in training, he backed that up on Sunday. The steep gradients are to his liking, I wonder if he can claim his 3rd Vuelta stage win.
I think we’ll see enough teams working in the peloton to secure a GC showdown. With so many strong teams, the closing stages will be very exciting to watch. The stage should be won by the best climber, that’s why I’m going with Miguel Ángel López.
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