Lana > Villabassa 154.4km
Guess what? That’s right, it’s another flat finish! This is the easiest of the GC days, but it still contains a rather nasty climb, and this time it’s closer to the finish. It should be another fun day out in the Alps.
There’s a small chance of a rain shower in the afternoon, fingers crossed it stays away.
5.8k at 8.3%, it’s a nasty one. There’s lots of double-digit sections for the climbers to get stuck into, and as the road rises for 10km before the climb, it should see quite a big selection. From the top there is 24km to go.
Step forward Pello Bilbao. It’s steep and very fast, perfect for the man from the Basque Country. Once off the downhill, there’s around 13km left in the stage.
Bahrain are now in control of the race, Bilbao already has a nice gap to his main rivals. This is another stage that suits him down to the ground, so it’s likely we’ll see Bahrain attempt to control the morning break. 50km of flat to open the stage isn’t ideal for those wanting the break to be strong, but with so many riders far down on GC, plenty will still want to give it a try.
Once the break forms, we’ll then see if Bahrain want to chase it down. They do have a strong team, but with a very hard stage on Friday still to come, they won’t drive their men into the ground. If they don’t chase, I can’t see anyone else taking up the gauntlet. Everyone will look at the finish and think that Bilbao will win, it doesn’t make sense to chase on his behalf.
The cat 1 climb is very difficult, this is when we’ll see the GC action. This race will billed as Bahrain versus Ineos, and it’s turning out to be exactly that, especially now that López has fallen out of the GC picture. Ineos have Sivakov, Porte and Dunbar as their three GC options, I think Bahrain are now all in for Bilbao. Ineos will use this stage as a chance to attack and see if they can put their rivals into difficulty, but Buitrago, Landa and Pernsteiner are all looking nice and strong just now. It’s hard to imagine Bilbao will be isolated on a climb of less than 20 minutes.
If there is a gap over the top of the climb, expect Bilbao to close it down on the descent. In this field, there aren’t many who can follow him going downhill, but the flat finish does open the door for someone to clip off the front in the closing stages, especially if Bahrain are down to just two at the front. We have a small group of riders sitting around 1 minute down on GC, they’ll get some freedom in the closing stages, but the problem is that Ineos won’t be happy unless they get someone off the front. The closing stages should see a fascinating tactical battle.
Pello Bilbao – he’s clearly the fastest GC rider in a sprint, the others can’t really get close to him. To win this stage, Bahrain need to make sure the break is relatively small. They have a strong team, but with only six riders it means that they don’t want to commit more than one to chasing in the early section of the day, they need to save their men for the big climb. Once there, Landa seems to be climbing very well, he should be able to control things for Bilbao, and then he can use the descent to attack, he might not even wait for the sprint this time round. Yet again, he starts as the favourite to win the stage.
Ineos – Sivakov will likely feel today’s effort in his legs, but he would normally be their best option in this type of stage. Porte seems to be climbing well, but the descent and flat finish makes it hard for him to challenge for the win. Dunbar also provides the team with a good option, he’s dangerous in a finish like this. The problem is that Bahrain will be watching all of them closely, they’ll be no free passes handed out.
Romain Bardet – he’s a good enough descender to go with Bilbao, but he’s not fast enough to beat him in a sprint.
Clément Champoussin – late attack option 1.
Sean Quinn – late attack option 2.
Fabio Felline – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Lennard Kämna – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Lilian Calmejane – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Chris Hamilton – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Stage 4 is the one everyone has marked down as the breakaway stage, but this one could surprise, it really does depend on who makes the morning move. As I’ve already mentioned, with Bahrain down one man, they won’t overcommit to chasing the move. Will another GC team step up despite the stage looking perfect for Pello?
I’ll take a breakaway win for Chris Hamilton. Back in the GC fight, I think a small group will crest the climb together and Bilbao will drop most of them on the descent.