By David Hunter
Candás. Carreño – Valle De Sabero. La Camperona 174.8km
Time for the GC boys to come out swinging.
The final climb casts an enormous shadow over this stage, but we do have another cat 1 climb to worry about. Puerto de Tarna is 13km at 5.8%, but coming in the middle of the stage, it will only be an issue for those chasing KOM points.
The stage does have a cat 3 climb after just 14km. This is 7km at 3.5%, which will possibly help the break to escape. The climb is rather easy, meaning we could end up with a break full of powerhouses and not climbers, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The climb is one of the steepest the riders will ever face, the final 2km is almost unwalkable! We’ve been here recently, with Lagutin winning in 2016 and Hesjedal in 2014. On both occasions the break took the spoils, will that happen again?
Cofidis are now in the race lead and they have no need to chase the morning move. Are Movistar confident that Quintana can win on this mountain? Are any of the other teams willing to risk taking Quintana to the line?
The next three stages are all big days in the mountains, with this one having the least amount of climbing. This is the easiest stage to control and bring back for a GC fight, but does a team have the will to do so?
There is a chance of rain in the afternoon and a light wind from the north-east. It will be a cross/head on the climb, but shouldn’t impact the riders.
Nairo Quintana – this is a big day in the GC battle and Nairo will be looking to test his rivals. He’s looked in good form, so far, but hasn’t been tested yet. The Colombian usually goes well on steep climbs, but not always. Being small is certainly an advantage, but most of his main rivals are a similar size to him. In Quintana’s favour is having Valverde and Carapaz deep into the stage, as they can chase down any moves. Despite his success in this race, Quintana only one has stage to his name and that was back in 2016. He’ll be hoping for number two.
Miguel Angel Lopez – the pretender to Quintana’s thrown. Lopez is a sensational climber and one with an ever growing reputation. He was third in the Giro, before finishing second in Burgos. Despite being four years younger than Quintana, he has more Vuelta stages than him! Lopez took two brilliant wins in 2017, before finishing eighth on GC. This season has seen him make more progression and he is ready to battle for the red jersey. I think this finish does suit him better than Quintana.
Simon Yates – I don’t think he’s at the same level as he was in the Giro, there you go, I’ve said it. Just watch him prove me wrong! He dropped some time on the last mountain stage, that wasn’t a great sign.
Wilco Kelderman – the one rider I underestimated before the race started. He arrived with a lack of racing in his legs, but instead of suffering, he simply looks much fresher than the others. He lost some time in the crosswinds, which could buy him some freedom at the end of this stage. I think he’ll be fighting for the win.
Rigoberto Uran – after crashing out of the Tour, Rigo is certainly enjoying himself in Spain. EF Drapac have worked well for him in this race, helping to always position him well at the foot of the climbs. Uran is a very classy bike rider and one that many fans love, expect plenty of support for him on this climb.
Bauke Mollema – breakaway pick number 1.
Pierre Rolland – breakaway pick number 2.
Ben King – breakaway pick number 3.
Nico Roche – breakaway pick number 4.
Surely the bunch chase this break down? I’ll go with my gut and say that it comes back together and we get a Colombian super fight on the steep slopes of La Camperona. The winner will be Miguel Angel Lopez.
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