The Alto de Bocas is 3km at 6.6%,the Alto Estacas de Trueba is 10.9km at 3.2%,the Puerto de la Braguia is 6.1km at 6.3% and the Alto del Caracol is 10.6km at 5.6%,but it has several sections of 10%.These 4 climbs all come within 70km of each other and will be very demanding,the last 2 the riders go straight into after descents.
After that we have 33km before the final climb of the day.
The Pena Carbarga is only 5.9km but it’s a very difficult climb,with an average of 9.2% and a maximum gradient of 20%.As you can see there is a false flat between 3km and 4km and this brings down the average gradient from over the 10% mark.It is short but an extremely difficult climb.
In 2010,Joaquim Rodriguez won after a blistering attack with 800 metres to go.Nibali attacked out of the small bunch with 1.4km to go and Purito waited before coming across to him.The killer attack came on the 20% slope and this seems perfect for the little Spaniard.
This was the stage where Igor Anton crashed very hard,when it looked like he could win the whole race.
In 2011 Chris Froome beat Juan Jose Cobo in an amazing finish,with Rodriguez in 23rd,more than 2 minutes down.So this climb isn’t always suited to Purito.
The main action won’t take place until the final 1.5km and this means that time gaps will be small,possibly 30 seconds separating the top 4 riders.That means bonus seconds will be important and I expect Radioshack and Movistar to try and keep any break close by.Radioshack don’t seem too strong,especially without Cancellara,so it’ll be down to Movistar to work hard all day,with a little help from Katusha.
With the 4 climbs available for the breakaway I would expect to see Nicolas Edet in the morning break,with a teammate from Cofidis.It could be Mate,Coppel or Zingle.
Other riders for the break will be Intxausti,Cherel,Garate,Santaromita,Txurruka,Ratto,Elissonde,Geniez,Pauwels,Henao,Cataldo and Hoogerland.
Astana won’t mind if the break stays away and takes the bonus seconds,so the start of the race will be very interesting.They haven’t been too keen on big breaks getting away but the final climb is very short so having extra teammates,up the road,won’t be a help to Nibal’s rivals.Therefore,they might let any type of break go and see if Movistar,Radioshack or Katusha really want to work all day.
Euskaltel will be wanting to try and get their 1st stage of the Vuleta and have many cards to play.Watch for Anton,Nieve,Verdugo and Martinez!I don’t think Sanchez can win from this field,so they’ll have to go long.
Interestingly,Alejandro Valverde has never done Pena Carbaga,not even in training.Vincenzo Nibali said today that he likes the climb and Rodriguez has won here before.It does put Valverde at a disadvantage to the others and I’m surprised that he’s never trained on this climb.
How will Chris Horner react?Will he need to put it into the small ring?Will the drugs stop working?
Loads of questions but not too many answers!He has been brilliant so far,so has to be considered for tomorrow.
Pozzovivo is the only other rider I see challenging the big boys.He is very good on steep gradients,due to his size and power.He will be allowed to attack and could steal the stage win.
What will happen?
The break will go and Edet will all but seal the polka dot jersey.A combination of Radioshack,Movistar and Katusha will bring the race back together for the final climb.
Valverde will attack 1st but be brought back.Rodriguez will attack and get away with Nibali waiting for a reaction from Horner.When Horner doesn’t go,Nibali will go away and distance Horner.
Pozzovivo v Pinot at evens(bet 365) 10 points