Archidona > Alcalá la Real 150.5km
After today’s craziness, we go again. It was a perfect example of why riders go in the break, even when everyone thinks it doesn’t stand a chance. Hats off to all the breakaway riders and Rune Herregodts. It now means that Sport – Vlaanderen – Baloise are in control of the race, they will ride to defend the jersey, even if there isn’t much chance of them holding onto it.
This stage has a similar finish to the stage Ethan Hayter won last year. It’s a lumpy day, but without any significant climbs, that’s until we get to the end.
Beautiful sunshine, hardly any wind.
The final 2.7km averages 6.1%, but that doesn’t do it justice. The final 500m averages around 16% and the last 100m is on nasty cobbles. Last year the road continued on for another 300-400m. This year they approach the steep section from another road, so the climb is much longer than before. If you want a direct comparison, last year was 900m at 11%. This year is a little easier, but the riders are already climbing for around 2.5km before hitting the steep section.
The last 90km is constantly up and down, there will be opportunities for teams to attack, I don’t think we’ll see everyone happy just to wait until the finish. The steep finish suits the riders who finished high up today, GC riders like Lutsenko will want a hard race. Adding to the chaos is that Sport – Vlaanderen – Baloise aren’t the strongest team, it will be hard for them to control attacks.
UAE should be one of the teams looking to help, Covi has a little advantage over the rest, and he’ll fancy his chances of doing well in this finish, and they also have Trentin. The parcours in this race are perfect for attacking racing, there is no guarantee the race goes a particular way.
What about Astana and Ineos? Rodriguez did okay here last year, but it’s unlikely he’ll win the stage if it comes down to a “sprint”, the same goes for Lutsenko. Will they look to attack early and split the race up? I really hope so.
Matteo Trentin – finished well today, but will he cope with the steeper finish? The cobbles won’t be a problem, but in fairness, they only last for 100m and won’t really have an impact. UAE are in a good position, with Trentin and Covi, but they only have five men in the race. Controlling the race for a sprint will be tricky for them, expect to see Covi used as an attacking option.
Gonzalo Serrano – “won” the sprint from the peloton today. Last year he finished this stage down in 11th place, it would be some turnaround if he can win this year. The problem is the steep section of the climb, the Spaniard usually prefers something less steep.
Alexey Lutsenko – watch him attack from distance. The penultimate climb is the perfect launchpad for those who would like to go to the line with a smaller group. López was second here last year, both riders will look to be active in this stage.
Benoît Cosnefroy – I thought he’d win today, but he didn’t. The Frenchman finished 3rd from the peloton, I think he’ll fancy his chances in this finish. He loves steep gradients, but does he currently have the legs to win? I don’t think he’s at his very best but should be better than he was today.
Simon Clarke – he’s started the season in brilliant form, he’s been a great signing by Israel – Premier Tech. He’s a good shout for a solid top 10 finish.
Dries Devenyns – rarely gets a chance to ride for himself, but QuickStep don’t look to have an outright leader for this race. He always goes well on steep slopes, it’s just that he’s usually leading out Alaphilippe. If the race breaks up before the finish, QuickStep will be there, looking to take advantage and win the stage.
Simon Yates – finished well today, and he’ll like this finish even more. BikeExchange did a fair amount of work during the stage, I’m taking that as a clear sign Yates is on good form.
Wout Poels – another rider who’ll be happy with a hard race. Bahrain have both him and Haig as options for this stage, neither will win if it’s all together for the final climb.
Time for Astana to come to the party. I’ll take a win for Alexey Lutsenko.