Barcelona > Barcelona 138.6km
Well, that was bonkers! The rain poured down and two wee guys from South America stole the show. Sergio Higuita is the new race leader, he is 16 seconds ahead of Carapaz, with Almeida sitting 52 seconds down. You might think the GC is over, but not with the Montjuïc circuit to deal with. Both Higuita and Carapaz used up a lot of energy today, how much will they have left for the final stage? It’s going to be a brilliant watch.
Much nicer than today, with sun and pleasant temperatures.
The climbing starts after 19km of the stage and the next 20km is tough. I like that the organisers have made the start of the stage more complicated, I think they’re hoping it kicks off the GC action before the lap circuit.
The circuit is very hard, especially as they have to climb all the way to the cable car station, just like last year. The descents are rapid, the climb is punishing, this is a perfect circuit.
Are Bora strong enough to control the race? They are not. Poor wee Higuita is going to be in for a torrid day. On the plus side, he does have Jai Hindley, but the rest of the boys won’t be staying around for long. This is going to be a tough stage for Higuita to successfully navigate.
What about Ineos? They are in a worse position, Carapaz only has two teammates left in the race. Okay, both Castroviejo and Rodríguez are strong, but they won’t be making the race. Both Ineos and Bora know that they’ll come under fire from every rider who wants to win this stage, but Bora will also come under fire from Ineos. Carapaz is very close on GC, he’ll sense a huge chance of taking the win, especially as Higuita won’t have much help.
What about the breakaway? This is a stage that always gives a chance to the early attackers, the winner has come from the breakaway in the last two editions and three times in the last five. This year the early part of the route has been made harder, but I’m not sure that helps the early moves. Looking at the riders still in the race, but out of the GC fight, I don’t see many with the climbing ability required to win this stage.
The good news for the breakaway is the lack of domestiques left to chase. Most teams are now severely depleted, and even with a full team, the circuit is very hard to chase down the move. Despite today’s shambles, UAE still look the strongest team, but they got it all wrong today. How they approach the stage will likely decide the type of winner we get. The bonus seconds on the line could be handy, but will they want to chase the break? I don’t think they will, they’ll try and get a man in the move and put as much pressure as they can on Bora.
The lap circuit will be bonkers as no one has the men required to control the attacks. I think everyone in the top 10 will still have hopes of claiming the race lead, especially as Carapaz and Higuita will surely be tired after today’s gargantuan effort. I’m not going to even try to predict how the stage will develop, it’s simply too hard.
Juan Ayuso – the local boy will be super motivated for this stage. Born in Barcelona, it would mean a huge amount to win in front of his friends and family. Today he descended like a stone, he can use that to his advantage in the lap circuit. Almeida is their main threat on GC, but they’ll need to use both as attacking options if they want to try and win the stage and race.
João Almeida – has the fastest sprint of the GC men, but will it end in a reduced sprint? Despite losing the race lead, he’ll still have hopes of taking the overall win. It won’t be easy, but UAE will ride an attacking race and try to exploit the lack of numbers Bora and Ineos will likely have.
Ben O’Connor – just like his win on La Molina, he’ll attack early and see what happens.
Tobias Johannesen – I’ve been very impressed by this young man so far this week. Not only does he cope well with big mountain passes, but he is very explosive, which is great for this stage. At 1:13 down on GC, he might get a little freedom compared to some of the other contenders, he’ll sense a chance of taking his first world tour win.
Carlos Verona – he’ll fly under the radar, but I expect him to go well in this stage. He rarely gets a chance to ride for himself, but he now has a chance to chase some personal glory. This is a stage he knows well; I think he’ll have a good day.
Giulio Ciccone – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Hugh Carthy – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Esteban Chaves – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Andrea Bagioli – breakaway hopeful number 4.
The current GC position is bad news for the breakaway riders, I would expect attacks before we reach the lap circuit. If that happens, the break doesn’t stand a chance of taking the win, it will go to one of the GC riders. I’ll be all romantic and go for the local boy, Juan Ayuso. The GC title will go to Richard Carapaz.