La Seu d’Urgell > Boí Taüll 167.1km
The Queen stage with 3420m of climbing. We have three big climbs, all of them feature steady gradients, but it’s still a big day of climbing. With so many riders still relatively close to the race lead, this is a stage that could get messy. It’s going to be a long day for AG2R and Ben O’Connor.
Not a bad day, but it will be cold at the top of the mountains. Just like today, there will be a light headwind on the final climb.
The Big Climb
16.2km at 5.7% and it finishes at 1985m above sea level. The opening of the climb is very hard, 4.6km at 7.4%. The next 3.5km is easy, before the final 4.8km at 6%. It will feel a lot harder with a rough road surface and high altitude.
How are UAE going to approach the stage? They have four riders high on GC, but they seem to be favouring the every man for themselves style. Teams without a clear hierarchy rarely win bike races, structure and order is required in a team sport like cycling. They need to have an honest chat in the morning and throw everything behind Almeida and Ayuso.
Ben O’Connor is in the race lead, but there are 28 riders within 1 minute of him. AG2R don’t have a strong climbing team at this race, O’Connor is going to be isolated early on the final climb. When the shots are fired, he’ll know that he can’t follow all of them, he needs to let other teams chase down moves too. The problem will be when teams are out of domestiques, then his rivals will refuse to work, it’ll be up to him. In this sort of situation attack is the best form of defence, he’ll need to attack in order to slim down the front group. This is a complicated stage to be the race leader, especially with a weak team.
The following teams have more than one rider close on GC: Ineos, Jumbo-Visma, UAE, Bahrain, Bora, Movistar, Trek-Segafredo and Uno-X. This makes my job very difficult, predicting this isn’t going to be easy.
What about the breakaway? This could be a good day for them. We have plenty of good climbers out of the GC battle, and not many teams strong enough to chase all day considering the amount of climbing involved. With the opening climb coming 30km into the stage, it’s quite possible we’ll see the group form on the climb, increasing the chances of a strong break getting up the road.
Nairo Quintana – he looked in ominous form today, finishing 3rd in that stage was better than expected. We all know he loves altitude; this is a stage he’ll have marked down before the race started. One issue will be a lack of teammates, that could be a massive problem considering how many teams have multiple options. Going long could be his best tactic, that means almost from the base of the climb. If he puts in a move at this point, he’s strong enough to make the front group very small, which negates his lack of support.
Ben O’Connor – as I’ve explained, this is going to be a tough day out for O’Connor. It’s likely he’ll be forced into covering several moves, using up valuable energy in the process. He’s clearly got very strong legs just now but winning this stage will be incredibly difficult.
Richard Carapaz – he’s another who loves altitude, but he doesn’t look at 100%, due to recent illness.
UAE – Almeida can sometimes suffer on climbs like this, Ayuso could well be their best option. Second today was a tremendous result for the youngster but winning this stage would be an incredible achievement.
Wout Poels – form is good, and he won’t mind if the stage ends in a small sprint.
Guillaume Martin – I do have a soft spot for the classy French climber. He tried his luck today, but the opportunity had already gone. He’s one of the best climbers in the race, he should be challenging for the win.
Ivan Sosa – this should be a good climb for the Colombian, and Movistar have a strong team. They’ll have to decide how they approach the climb, but Sosa must be their chosen man. He would prefer a steeper climb, but he should still be one of the best in this stage.
Hugh Carthy – it was good to see him back at the head of the race today, this climb is much better for him. Hugh won’t be scared to attack from distance, even at the very start of the climb. He trained here last week, with that fresh in the mind, he should be one of the men to watch.
Jai Hindley – I think he’ll be the better option for Bora, he likes this style of climb. He’s not done much since finishing second in the 2020 Giro, but his recent form has been promising.
Jan Hirt – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Joe Dombrowski – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Mark Donovan – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Antwan Tolhoek – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Matteo Badilatti – breakaway hopeful number 5.
The altitude means the winner will come from South America. I’ll take a win for Nairo Quintana, he’s won before in cold conditions and the altitude suits him perfectly.