By David Hunter
Cistierna – Alto Les Praeres 171km
The GC battle continues.
The riders are faced with a challenging stage which features three cat 1 climbs, but also a lot of descending. The day begins with a steep, but unclassified climb. This will help the morning break get a little room, but it’s sure to be another day where the break takes a long time to form. After negotiating the cat 2 climb, 11km at 3%, we have a long downhill before the first real test of the day.
5.3km at 8.1% is a tough climb for the bunch. First over the crest will collect 10 KOM points, which will be keenly fought. It seems that Maté, Mollema and King are going to be the main riders in this category.
Alto de la Mozqueta is 6.5km at 8.7%, which is another tough cat 1 climb. Next up is a cat 3 climb, 5.3km at 6.4%, before the bunch reach the final climb of the day.
Alto Les Praeres is 4km at 12.5%, which is really going to hurt. Such a short and intense climb is a great way to finish a day like this. The climb only drops below 10% in the closing metres, I wonder who’ll be fighting for the win?
Another day, another break. It seems that chasing down the morning move is a thing of the past! Movistar already have two stages, thanks to Valverde, but the other GC riders will surely want to take a win. Cofidis are still in control of the red jersey, but they won’t be chasing. As usual, the burden will fall on the shoulders of Movistar, a team who don’t really like chasing all day. If the break is going to come back, Astana and Mitchelton-Scott will also have to contribute.
Another sunny day with little wind. There will be a constant threat of rain throughout the day.
Nairo Quintana – took a few seconds today and will be itching for a stage win. It seems that Quintana is currently enjoying some good form and he’ll be keen to strike during this period. He sits 8 seconds behind Simon Yates and 1:50 from Herrada, I think Nairo will be confident of moving into the red jersey at the end of this stage. Movistar are nobody’s fool and won’t chase all day long for a stage win, but this will frustrate Quintana. Given the demanding day in the saddle, it would be good to see them take control early in the stage and not allow the break to establish a big lead.
Simon Yates – looked good today, but couldn’t follow the final attack of Quintana. The final climb is 4km in length, this should be in the favour of the Englishman. We watched him do well in this type of finish in the Giro and he has a strong team to help support him towards the end of the stage. Yates will want a big performance, but he knows that Quintana will be watching him very closely.
Miguel Ángel López – dropped some seconds today, but mainly due to a small incident on the climb. I’m not sure what happened, but Lopez was forced off his bike and had to try and chase back to the front group. We won’t know if he would have been able to follow Quintana, but this stage should tell us. The Colombian actually moved up to 5th on GC, but he now trails Quintana by 33 seconds, a gap which he needs to reduce. I want Astana to commit to the chase and set up a big battle on the final climb.
Alejandro Valverde – a climb of this length is music to his ears. The great man already has two stage wins, but his performance today was impressive, even though he finished 17 seconds behind Quintana. As we all know, Valverde is the fastest of the climbers and he’ll be keen on taking a third stage. Movistar will ride for Quintana, but if the main riders cancel each other out, Valverde will be poised to strike.
Vincenzo Nibali – The Shark seems to be finding some form. He’s been active over the last few days, looking to join a number of breaks. This race is all about gaining form for the Worlds and this type of stage is perfect for that.
Pierre Rolland – if released from Uran duty, he’ll like this stage.
Alessandro De Marchi – already has a stage win, but why not chase a second? Ben King has shown that it is possible for a breakaway rider to take multiple stages in this race, in fact, Tomasz Marczyński did the same in 2017. BMC have had a good couple of stages, but I think Dylan Teuns will be in need of a rest, which could free up De Marchi to make the morning move.
The peloton have to start chasing at some point, but is that point now? I think it is and we’ll see a big GC showdown on the final climb. After his performance today, I think we’ll see Nairo Quintana take the win.
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