By David Hunter
Onda – Mas De La Costa 183.2km
Time for a muro.
Stages like this are why I love the Vuelta. We have a flat opening, then it really starts to pick up in the second half of the day. The first three categorised climbs are all quite easy, that all changes with the penultimate ascent, Puerto del Salto.
7.1km at 6.2% is tough enough to slim the bunch down and drop some of the deadwood. But this is a walk in the park compared to the finishing climb, Mas De La Costa.
3.9km at 12.3% is going to blow the bunch to pieces. Get ready for some brilliant pain faces and slow-motion racing. I cannot wait!
Another lovely day for the peloton.
The last two days have shown that teams are worried about wasting too much energy chasing breaks, that’s a direct result of the reduction to 8 men teams. The flat opening of this stage should mean it’s very tough for little climbers to make the move, but that all depends on the attitude of the bunch in the opening kilometres. The final climb is brutal, but you don’t necessarily need to be a lightweight to win, remember Lutsenko’s win on a similarly difficult climb back in 2017.
Bahrain are now in control of the red jersey, and Teuns has a gap of one minute to López. This is a climb that should suit the Belgian, despite using energy today, he’d hope to still be in red at the end. That means Bahrain should chase any break that contains a GC rider, but if it doesn’t there’s no way they chase and bring the bonus seconds into play. If the stage win is going to go to the GC riders, we’ll need to see Movistar, Astana and Jumbo do the work. Will they? We’ll have to wait and see.
Alejandro Valverde – we all know that Valverde loves steep climbs, but is this one a little too long for him? He is a master at steep climbs, but once they go over 2km, I always sense a little weakness from him. Saying that, he looks in very good form, which will be a relief after a season of being just a little off his best. Movistar always have Quintana, but he showed weakness on Wednesday, and who knows what’s going on in the team? Valverde has to start as one of the big favourites, we’ll have to see if he can respond when López attacks.
Miguel Ángel López – after a brilliant performance on Wednesday, the Colombian will head into this stage full of confidence. He’s the best of the GC riders, but knows he needs more time on Roglič, thanks to the upcoming ITT. That means we should see the little man on attack mode, something which always gets us fans excited. He is very strong on steep slopes, and it doesn’t get any steeper than this. Can he put Roglič to the sword and take a commanding lead on GC?
Primož Roglič – as I’ve mentioned in other previews, the Slovenian is actually very good on steep slopes, but would prefer it a little shorter. There is no need for him to ride an attacking race, he’ll wait for López to make his move and try to cover it. Even if he can’t match his acceleration, Roglič can try to limit his losses, and then recover them in the ITT. He and Valverde formed a strong alliance chasing López on Wednesday, this is something both riders could do again here.
Esteban Chaves – this is a good climb for him, maybe even the best of the race. The Colombian loves this type of effort, and despite losing time on Wednesday, he should be one of the men to beat in this stage. He should look to attack from distance and hope that the others look to each other to cover the move.
Tadej Pogačar – the immensely talented youngster is one of the next wave of cycling talent. His first season as a professional has been a huge success, and we’re all wondering just how far he can go in his first grand tour. Recent stages have shown that his legs are good, and he’ll want to take advantage before he starts to suffer any fatigue. He could benefit from some freedom as the big GC riders won’t see him as a threat to them.
Tao Geoghegan Hart – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Wout Poels – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Jesper Hansen – breakaway hopeful number 4.
I think the distance of the climb just takes it away from Valverde and into the hands of Miguel Ángel Lopez, but his team need to chase the breakaway. I wonder if we’ll be in for another frustrating day as we all hope for a GC showdown for the red jersey and stage win.
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