By David Hunter
Mondoñedo – Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañón 181.1km
Another one for the sprinters.
A stage which spends a long time near the sea but does feature two categorised climbs. Almost straight from the gun we have the opening climb of the day, which is 5.8km at 6.4%. The break could go at this point, but there is no guarantee. Why could see another long fight to join the morning move.
A long flat section follows before the final categorised climb of the day, this time we have 7.7km at 5.1%, which would certainly be a cat 2 in most races. Cresting with 50km remaining, I think the bunch will ride this at tempo. The categorised climbs might be over, but we still have five uncategorised lumps to deal with. The main issues are 2.5km at 5.6%(with the final 700m at 9%), 1.5km at 5% and 2.5km at 4.8%.
I was approaching this thinking it was a standard sprint stage, but the Vuelta always likes to surprise. You will notice a tight left turn with around 1.5km to go, this takes the riders from a two lane road, onto a very narrow single track. The finish line is beautiful, but this is a dangerous end to a sprint stage, as the road is narrow and downhill. You certainly need to be fearless to win this one.
GC riders hold onto your hats, it’s to be a little windy! Coming from the North-East, it’s perfect for echelons as the riders head along the coast. The only thing saving some of the riders is the fact that the best sections come a long way from home. We shall see if any of the teams fully commit to a long range attack. Not only that, but there is a threat of rain for the majority of the day.
The profile disguises it well, but there is a little climb before the flamme rouge. The finish is wonderful for a rider to attack in the last 2km, that road is incredibly narrow and any chase will be very difficult to form. If you can get positioned at the front of the peloton, you have a great chance of escaping the bunch, but the sprinter teams will know this too.
Elia Viviani – the QuickStep lead out on Tuesday was simply amazing. They led the bunch for the final 3km and were simply unbeatable. After a couple of stages of getting it wrong, the team responded in the right manner. Looking at the final 60km of this stage, they’ll find it harder to control the finale. I would expect QuickStep to lose some of their lead out men as they try and control the unclassified climbs. Heading into the final two kilometres, they’ll need a huge shift from Michael Mørkøv, as Sabatini might already be dropped. To win the stage I said you need to be fast and fearless, Viviani is both of these things.
Peter Sagan – just imagine how many stages he would have won if 100% fit? The world champion continues to grow stronger, but is still considerable slower than Viviani. The downhill sprint will be good news for Sagan, I think it will bring his top speed closer to the Italian. The problem is positioning, as Sagan seems to only have the option of following the wheel of Viviani, the problem is the speed of his sprint train. It’s going to be hard winning the sprint from that position.
Danny van Poppel – was massively out of position on Tuesday, but still managed a strong finish. The Dutch sprinter is one who has impressed in this race, possibly his best stage race of the season. He has the power required to challenge, but really needs to be well positioned. If he starts the sprint at the head of the race, he could cause a surprise.
Late attack – it could happen, possibly from a sprinter who doesn’t think they’llroad is very narrow and easy for a team to block and let their man escape.
This finish really is crazy. I think in the confusion, we’ll see Danny van Poppel take a big win.
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