Primiero > Lana 154.1km
This stage has the most amount of climbing in the whole race, it’s not an easy day out for the bunch.
Cold at the top of the first climb, but the rest of the day should be nice and pleasant.
Straight from the gun the bunch are faced with this bad boy. 21km at almost 6% and the climb goes up to almost 2000m above sea level, this is a tough way to start a stage. Coming at the start means it’s unlikely we’ll see big GC attacks, but those teams with multiple options might just roll the dice and put pressure on some of the other squads.
The first cat 1 climb of the race. This one is 15km at 6.7%, but cresting 50km from home could discourage some from attacking, but I hope not.
The final kilometre averages 2.4%, it’s a bit of a grind up to the line.
AG2R have the race lead, it’s their responsibility to control the race, but that’s going to be very tricky for them. They do have good climbers in the squad, but they’ll want to protect Bouchard, Gall and Champoussin. That leaves just four men to ride, and not all of them are strong enough to survive the first climb. When we have a team not strong enough to control the race, it usually leads to chaos.
The big teams will have the same plan, get someone in the breakaway and force AG2R into chasing. Ineos still have four GC options, the same goes for Bahrain. They are the dominant teams; both will be very happy if a strong break disappears on the first climb, and it features one of their chosen sons. The issue for the big favourites is how long is still left to go in the stage. It would be a very risky move for someone like Porte or Landa to attack on the first climb, considering how much work they’d need to do throughout the rest of the day. It would make more sense for the teams to look towards the likes of Dunbar and Pernsteiner, they are “disposable” in the nicest possible way.
Astana will need to be careful in the opening stages. López is their only proper option for GC, but they do still have Dombrowski and De La Cruz high on GC. They can’t let Ineos and Bahrain escape up the road without joining in.
Okay, enough chat, what’s going to happen? It’s hard to say, it really does depend on who makes the break. A strong one, featuring the big teams, will go all the way. If it doesn’t contain a good option for Ineos or Bahrain, it’s likely to be chased down. AG2R are no mugs, they’ll be more than happy to get someone in the move and force the others to chase.
Bahrain – they did a lot of work today, but letting the gap go over 7 minutes came back to bite them on the bum. On the plus side, Bilbao is looking nice and strong and already has 6 bonus seconds to his name. After the opening stage they sit with Bilbao, Buitrago, Landa and Pernsteiner all high on GC, that gives them multiple options for a stage like this. Allowing the likes of Buitrago and Pernsteiner to attack on the opening climb would be my tactic, saving Bilbao and Landa for later in the day.
Ineos – they also have four riders high on GC: Porte, Sivakov, Dunbar and Swift. They are in the same position as Bahrain, Swift and Dunbar should be allowed to attack early, saving their real GC cards for later in the stage. I was impressed by Porte today, he looked incredibly strong.
EF – they might only have five riders, but they still have four of them high on GC. I don’t see a clear hierarchy in the team, I think all of them will be allowed to play their cards. Caicedo and Quinn should go early, saving Carthy and Chaves for later in the day.
Romain Bardet – just back from altitude camp and he’ll like the look of this stage. He’s good going uphill, fast on the downhill and packs a good sprint. DSM will look to try and get him into a race winning position, then it’s over to him.
Miguel Ángel López – this is a dangerous stage for him, Astana need to be careful about who goes in the morning break. The team do have some strong climbers to support López, but this will be a hard stage for him. The aim will be to stay on the same time as his main rivals and wait for the harder stages later in the week.
Lennard Kämna – the type of rider who’ll sniff a chance to jump in the morning break and stay away until the end. Despite being a very good climber, I don’t think he’s a genuine threat for the overall title, that could buy him some freedom.
This is a tough one to try and work out, the parcour is perfect for exciting and unpredictable racing. Having multiple options is important, those teams have the upper hand over the others. The cat 1 climb is a proper tough one, only the best climbers should be left after it’s been crested. The descents aren’t overly technical, but those who are better descenders will still have a little advantage. Given team strength, I’d be amazed if the winner doesn’t come from Ineos or Bahrain. I’ll take a win for Pello Bilbao.
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