Locarno > Moosalp 180.5km
The first of two huge days in the mountains. We might only have two climbs, but both are monsters are will seriously test the legs ahead of the Tour de France. With 4162m of climbing, this is a tough day in the saddle.
Another hot day, but temperatures are down a bit thanks to being in the mountains.
First up is the Nufenenpass, which goes all the way up to 2410m above sea level. It’s not the hardest climb in the world, but the altitude will make it harder than the numbers suggest. The gap between the top of this climb and the foot of the next means there won’t be any long-range attacks.
The climb of Moosalp is a monstrous 17.7km at 7.2%, and it finishes at 1927m above sea level. The last 3km of the climb is the easiest, the average before that is close to 8%. It’s a new climb for me, I don’t recall it every being used before. It’s a shame there is no Street View footage of it, without knowing the state of the road and width it’s hard to judge just how hard it is. Purely based on the numbers, it’s going to be carnage.
COVID has done its best to ruin the race, but the show goes on. The main casualty was the race leader, Aleksandr Vlasov, such a shame he couldn’t defend his jersey. This means that Fuglsang moves into the lead, with Geraint Thomas just 1 second behind. Bora are reeling from losing their leader, but they still have three riders in the top 10: Higuita, Großschartner and Schachmann. They are still in the game, but it would be a surprise to see any of these riders win the yellow jersey.
The depleted peloton increases the chances for the break, but with GC teams worried this could be the last stage, I think they’ll race it hard. The flat start is bad for climbers wanting to make the break, it should be easy for GC teams to control and ensure a weak break gets away, setting us up for a GC battle on the final climb.
Once on the climb, we’ll have to see how teams want to approach things. Ineos would normally control, but they only have Fraile, Van Baarle and Martínez as climbing domestiques. Israel still have Neilands and Houle to support Fuglsang, they should be able to last a fair way up the climb. The team with the numbers is Bora, they need to go on the attack and see if the domestiques can follow. With three in the top 10, Schachmann and Großschartner should be allowed to attack, letting Higuita wait in the GC group. They’ve lost their leader, but they need to come out swinging.
Jakob Fuglsang – now sits in the race lead and he’s looked brilliant so far this week. Israel – Premier Tech don’t have the strongest team in the race, but the DNFs from the other teams will help them. The uncertainty about the rest of the race needs to be forgotten about, Fuglsang needs time on Thomas before the TT, he needs to attack. Given his current form, he starts as the big favourite to win the stage.
Geraint Thomas – can he follow Fuglsang? If the final TT goes ahead, he will take a lot of time on the Dane over 25km, which means he can ride a defensive race in the mountains. He has the best domestique in the race, but Dani Martínez hasn’t looked at his best in the opening stages. Thomas was very good at this point last year; he is good at peaking for the summer months. This is a big chance to take the win and the yellow jersey.
Nelson Powless – the American is sitting in a good spot on GC, but the climbs in this stage would normally be over his limit. We’ve lost some of the main GC riders, so he should be able to secure a better result than normal, but I don’t see him winning.
Sergio Higuita – without Vlasov, he’s now the Bora captain. The problem is that I don’t see him as a big mountain climber, but he did climb well in Catalunya. He’s not looked at his best this week, we’ll have to see what he’s got on the climb.
Domenico Pozzovivo – he’s not won a race for 5 years; I’d be very happy if he crosses the line first tomorrow. As he sits a little down on GC, he could get freedom in the closing stages.
Ion Izagirre – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Thibaut Pinot – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Alexey Lutsenko – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Ilan Van Wilder – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Ineos and Israel – Premier Tech to chase the break and Jakob Fuglsang to take the stage win.