Sama’il > Jabal Al Akhdhar 154.2km
It’s time for the Queen stage of the race, as the peloton head back up the Green Mountain. After a brilliant performance today, Fausto Masnada has a commanding lead, the GC battle is all but over. The Italian leads Anthon Charmig by an enormous 55 seconds, with Jan Hirt a further 3 seconds back. This is unchartered territory for this race, normally the GC is decided in this stage and the gaps are small at the start of it.
Not as hot as previous days, but still lovely and sunny. The wind is coming from the north-east and will reach around 20km/h.
5.6km at 10.1%, it’s a tough old climb. The wide roads always make the climb seem a little surreal to me. Crucially, we’ll have quite a strong headwind this year, it’s going to be very hard for someone to escape the chasing bunch and take a solo win.
100km into the stage the bunch start to head west, which means we’ll have a cross/tailwind from that point until we reach the Green Mountain. With the wind around 20km/h, there will be chances for teams to create echelons and turn this into a very hard stage. It’s highly unlikely we’ll see QuickStep caught out, but some riders in the top 10 could be made to suffer in the wind.
Once on the climb we’ll have to see how the other teams approach it. With a big gap between Masnada and everyone else, it means that someone lower down the top 10 could take the stage win. Masnada will have Schmid to help, but they won’t need to chase all the attacks. Masnada will be keeping a close eye on Charmig and Hirt, but the rest of the top 10 will likely get a little freedom. Wanty are in a strong position, they have two riders in the top 10. The team did a lot of work today, but it didn’t work out for them. I think we’ll see them go all out for the stage win; it would be a good reward for their fine work this week.
Jan Hirt – came very close to winning stage 3 but was caught with 150m to go. Hirt arrived at this race after completing an altitude camp in Colombia, he’s looked strong all week. This climb is one that should suit him, he goes well on steep gradients. As I’ve mentioned, Wanty will be determined to get a stage win out of this race, Hirt looks a strong option for them.
Rein Taaramäe – another good option for Wanty. Like Hirt, he arrived after completing altitude training, except he did his in Rwanda. I don’t think the team will make him work for Hirt, I think both will have freedom to chase the stage win.
Anthon Charmig – he was worked over today; it was a real shame he only had two teammates to help. Charmig already has his stage win, but he’d love another. It will be interesting to see how he copes with this climb, he came close to winning the Queen stage in the 2021 Tour of Turkey, but he attacked too early. The Dane is clearly a big talent, but Masnada will be watching him closely in the final kilometres.
Rui Costa – he’s been up there each day, but without really looking like he’ll win. His current form doesn’t look good enough to win this stage.
Fausto Masnada – it’s all about winning the GC, but that doesn’t mean he won’t take an opportunity if it arises. Masnada is a brilliant climber, I don’t think he’ll be overly concerned about this stage. With Schmid to chase down the moves, he sits in a very strong position. He knows that Charmig and Hirt will look to attack, he simply (easier said than done!) needs to follow the moves and that should take him a long way up the mountain. Once into the finale, if he thinks he can drop the others, he’ll attack and go for the stage win.
Filippo Zana – the talented youngster dropped time today, he should get a little freedom in this stage. Winning will be hard, but it would be good to see him doing well.
Wanty have impressed me this week, I’ll take a win for Jan Hirt.