Grenchen > Brunnen 192.2km
A day where if you simply look at the altitude gain you could end up with the wrong conclusion. We have just over 2000m of climbing, the easiest stage in the race, but it’s unlikely to be a day for the sprinters. It’s all to do with the placement of the climb, the organisers have been devilish.
The heatwave in central Europe is starting to kick in, temperatures will get up to 30 degrees.
As you can see, the full climb is 4.7km at 6.3%, but the opening 3.5km averages 8%, with a few double-digit gradients. This is the problem for the sprinters, GC riders will want to attack and test the legs.
The final 14km will be over in a flash, someone with a gap on the climb could stay away until the end. It takes place on a very wide road making it hard for the good descenders to create any gaps.
Yet again I must ask the question, who wants to control? QuickStep, Bora and Ineos look like the obvious candidates, and this stage is a very easy one to keep the break under control. Who knows, we might even see BikeExchange control for Groenewegen! Alternatively, the GC teams might decide not to bother chasing as they don’t think it’s possible to create gaps between the best and the break takes the day.
We are only talking about a cat 2 climb, one that crests with 15 to go. The next three stages are all hard, given the heat, it might be wise to allow domestiques a chance to rest. As Schachmann crashed today, Bora will have to wait to see how he is before deciding on their approach, but they are one of the teams who can win this stage.
In the first stage we saw which riders looked the best, that gives us a good indication for this stage, but some might start to suffer in the heat. However, some who suffered in the opening day will now be acclimatised and go much better. The climb in the opening stage is fairly similar to this one, but the hard section was 1km shorter. If QuickStep are here to win a stage, this is the easiest one to control. Okay, it could all come back together on the descent to town, but 3.5km at 8% screams Remco to me.
Remco Evenepoel – it’s not perfect for him, that would be if the stage finished at the top of the climb, but it’s still a good stage for him. He looked very easy in the opening stage, gapping the peloton with a seated attack, but it wasn’t meant to be. If QuickStep can drill into the climb, not many will be able to follow Remco when he attacks. We saw in Norway that his recent work on his sprint has been effective, he won’t be scared going to the line in a small group.
Bora – a lot will depend on how Schachmann is after his crash today. He was up fast and didn’t seem to be badly damaged, but they’ll have to wait and see how he is in the morning. In the opening stage they managed to get Vlasov, Schachmann and Higuita in the front group, but couldn’t deliver the win. As the climb crests further from the finish, it presents a team with numbers a great chance to take the stage win. It’s up to the other teams to make sure this doesn’t happen.
Marc Hirschi – can he get through a stage without a bike change? I don’t know what’s going on with his equipment, but it certainly doesn’t look good. Form is good, and this is a stage he’ll like the look of.
Andreas Kron – it depends how fast the GC boys go up the hard bit of the climb. Kron will hope no one launches a huge attack blowing the bunch to pieces. Even if he does get dropped, he’ll hope to descend like a stone and get back to the front before the sprint.
Stevie Williams – given the way he sprinted in the opening stage; he can’t be written off. He’ll hope that Mäder can survive the climb, he’ll need someone to cover moves in the closing stages, otherwise everyone will lean on him.
Tom Pidcock – I fancied him for the opening stage, but he was nowhere. He sprinted well today, but he needs to climb better if he wants to win this stage. It could be a simple case of needing a few days to get legs back into road mode, he’ll hope to be challenging for the win.
Søren Kragh – the final climb reminds me of his stage win in 2018, that day the stage finished at the top of the hill, and he won from the breakaway. If he wants to win this one, it’ll need to be from the break.
Benoît Cosnefroy – tried for the break today but reacted too late to the initial move. I speculated about his health, due to his rotten performance in the first two stages, I hope he’s feeling okay as this finish is great for him.
Krists Neilands – finish is good for him.
Alessandro Covi – he’ll go to the well once again and see if anything is left.
Pascal Eenkhoorn – if Bahrain decide to let the jersey go, he’s the type of rider who can benefit. He’s climbing better than ever but needs a favourable breakaway group.
It all depends on who is in the break. Bahrain would love a day off, but we still have 43 riders within 3 minutes of yellow. You can’t just go round everyone in the neutral zone and asked them not to attack, cycling doesn’t work like that. Despite that, I’ll take a breakaway win for Benoît Cosnefroy.