Lagoa > Malhão 172.8km
The final stage in the Algarve is the traditional finish at the top of Alto do Malhão, but this year it already feels like an anti-climax. Remco Evenepoel destroyed everyone today, it looks like he’s got the race in the bag. The breakaway has won this stage in the past, but only if it features strong riders. QuickStep don’t need to make the race; they can sit back and allow others to do so. Ineos do have several options to play, they’ll want to try and see if they can put pressure on Remco, even if it looks like the race is over.
Cloudy sun and not much wind.
As usual, we do two ascents of Alto do Malhão, the first one crests with 24km to go. It’s 2.3km at 10.2%, one for the proper climbers.
This little climb is also done twice, the final time crests with 10km to go. 1.2km at 8.8%, it’s not very long but you can drop domestiques here.
Over to Ineos. They have Martínez at 1:30 down and Hayter at 1:06, two options are better than one! The start of the stage is flat, it’s almost impossible for Ineos to get an important rider in the break. What they’ll have to do is wait for the first ascent of Alto do Malhão, then attack. QuickStep have Asgreen and Vervaeke as their climbing domestqiues, but it’s important that Lampaert lasts deep into the race. Remco has a commanding lead, but they don’t want him to be isolated until the final climb, Vervaeke has a very important job to do.
Some riders will look to attack before the finish, this is their only hope of winning the stage. The problem will be Ineos, they are the team with the numbers to chase attackers. They must take the initiative and go for it before the final climb, using riders like Pidcock and Van Baarle, which will force QuickStep into chasing. The best strategy for them will be to chase the stage win, it might sound a bit negative, but Remco looks untouchable in the race lead. Martínez and Hayter are going well, but neither of them are likely to win from the main group. Riders like Gaudu, McNulty, Foss and Higuita will be hoping it comes back together and they can attack in the final kilometre.
Ineos – having the numbers is one thing, beating everyone else is another. As I’ve said, they need to attack early, using riders like Pidcock and Van Baarle. The long-range attack could work, if it doesn’t it will force QuickStep into chasing, and then they’ll need to see if either Martínez or Hayter can take advantage on the final climb. Neither look capable of beating Remco unless he’s forced into chasing and using up valuable energy.
Remco Evenepoel – what a stunning TT performance, but the signs were there from the start of the race. The power displayed in the sprint train and the fact he climbed Fóia with his mouth closed told me this was inevitable. He starts the stage as the overwhelming favourite, when he lights it up on the climb who will be able to follow?
David Gaudu – has one stage win and the final climb is a good one for him. He’ll be in the mix for the win if everything goes according to plan.
Sergio Higuita – looked like he would have won in Fóia but crashed with Foss. He has a very fast uphill sprint, and this climb should suit him very well.
Brandon McNulty – he’s got the form; this is a stage he should be challenging to win. Having no teammates is a big disadvantage.
Tobias Foss – I’ve been very impressed by him this week; he’s looking in good shape. He would have finished on the podium in Fóia, I think something similar is likely in this stage.
Ineos to attack, the race will come back together, and Remco Evenepoel will destroy everyone on the climb.