By David Hunter
Laredo > Santa Cruz de Bezana 180km
The final week begins with an interesting looking stage up in the north of Spain.
This is the last chance for the pure sprinters, quite a few will already have their bags packed, but will the breakaway steal the day? The stage has a few lumps, but with only 2123m of climbing it can’t be described as hard. Jakobsen is the strongest sprinter, but Démare and Dainese will want another crack at getting a stage win. I would expect to see Deceuninck – Quick Step, Groupama – FDJ and DSM looking to control the breakaway. If they get the start of the stage right, it should be a relatively weak break that gets up the road, but that will take skill and some luck.
Once these teams let it know they’ll be chasing the break, it will scare most from even trying to join it. We do have three unclassified climbs in the final 22km, and I think some will look to attack here, but the problem will be BikeExchange. If it looks like being a sprint, they have to take up the pace at this point and try to make it difficult for the pure sprinters, but that will be tough as the climbs aren’t that hard.
So, we’ll see a stage controlled by the sprint teams, but then the pace will be lifted late on by the teams of the super sprinters before we get a sprint finish. Fingers crossed the crystal ball is working well.
Not as hot as the south, but it will still be warm. The bunch will face quite a strong headwind in the final 50km, bad news for the breakaway.
The finale starts with 1.2km at 6.4%. It’s a straight road and into the headwind.
600m at 7.3% is the steepest of the climbs, but also the shortest.
The final obstacle is 1.8km at 4.5%, this crests with 10km remaining. Will the headwind make it impossible for the attackers?
Relatively straightforward, apart from a big turn with 700 to go. The bunch must double back on themselves, meaning the pace will be knocked off. This is the point where you need a good position.
Fabio Jakobsen – looks the strongest sprinter by a considerable distance. I would expect Deceuninck – Quick Step to go all in for Fabio tomorrow. They’ll get Knoxy on the front early on and he’ll kill the hopes of the breakaway. Once on the late climbs they have riders like Bagioli and Vansevenant to mark out any attacks, setting it up for a big sprint. Last time out the train didn’t work perfectly, although Sénéchal still won, this time they’ll make sure they look over their shoulders! Fabio has to start as the man to beat.
Arnaud Démare – his sprints have been very disappointing in this race, and I don’t see that changing.
Alberto Dainese – DSM will back their young sprinter, it’s their best chance of winning the stage. He doesn’t have a great lead out, which will make it hard to win, but he should be challenging for the podium.
Michael Matthews – can BikeExchange hurt the pure sprinters on the unclassified climbs? I expect them to try, but the climbs aren’t really long enough. If Jakobsen is still there, Matthews will be sprinting for second.
Magnus Cort – see above.
Andreas Kron – late attack option 1.
Stan Dewulf – late attack option 2.
Quinn Simmons – late attack option 3.
The break doesn’t stand a chance, this is a day for the sprinters. I’ll take a win for Fabio Jakobsen.
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