Ambri > Malbun 195.8km
On paper, it’s a good-looking stage for the breakaway. The downhill start means the peloton will likely stay together until we get to the first climb of the day, that’s when the attackers will hope to form a strong break and disappear up the road never to be seen again. The GC riders will be looking at the final climb and hope to save all their energy for it, they know they’ll need it.
Another roasting hot day with temperatures hitting 30 degrees in the valley.
First up is the Lukmanierpass, which if you classify it from the bottom is a whopping 40km at 3.8%! This should be used by the break to build a nice advantage over the peloton.
The final climb of the day is up to Malbun, not a climb I know, but it looks beautiful to me. The opening 8.3km averages 9.1%, before 2km kilometre of near flat road, but just wait for the final kick. As the riders get closer to the top, the mountain really starts to kick, with the final 2.4km at 10.4%. Given the racing we’ve had this week, this climb will see big gaps between the top riders.
Such a small peloton creates difficulty in terms of chasing down the break. Israel – Premier Tech don’t need to chase, Ineos are really the only team who could decide to do something, but even they don’t have the men to chase a large break. This stage should play out the same as yesterday, with a large break escaping and fighting out the win. We have some very talented climbers out of the GC picture, they should all make the front selection, which will make the final climb excellent viewing.
Back in the GC group, tomorrow’s TT looms large. In a normal 25km TT, Geraint Thomas would be confident of taking a big chunk of time on Fuglsang, the Dane needs to strike a blow today. Küng is also a concern, he’s still just 49 seconds down on yellow, but given the severity of the final climb, I would expect him to lose more time today.
Bora still have two options for yellow, both Higuita and Großschartner are in with a shout, especially as the Austrian is good on his TT bike. The problem for both is that they are already down on Geraint Thomas, and they won’t beat him tomorrow. The fight for yellow is between Thomas and Fuglsang, everyone else is fighting for the podium.
The good news for Thomas is the presence of Martínez, when Fuglsang attacks, he’ll be able to use the Colombian to try and cover the move, before having to do anything himself. Thomas doesn’t need to beat Fuglsang, he “just” needs to follow him. The pressure is all on the shoulders of Fuglsang, I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s got left after a heavy week of racing.
Thibaut Pinot – survived with the GC riders yesterday, a clear sign he was testing his legs before this stage. We’ve had a very hot week, Pinot usually doesn’t go very well in such conditions, but yesterday would have given him hope. In some teams he would be instructed to stay with his GC leaders, but Pinot is the main man at FDJ, he’ll have freedom to chase a stage win, but can he cope with another hot day in the mountains?
Alexey Lutsenko – gave it a bash yesterday, a classic example of a move that leaves everyone scratching their head. He crashed earlier in the race, and is still wearing the bandages to show it, but his legs seem to be good. He must be in the morning break, and the final climb is one that suits him well. He always seems to cope extremely well with very steep gradients, much better than some give him credit for.
Ion Izagirre – crashed yesterday, but it’s nothing to worry about. He had a terrible start to the week, losing lots of time in the opening stage. Since that point, it’s all been about saving energy for the mountain stages. He’ll give it his all to make the break, then it’s up to his legs. He’s another that goes well on steep slopes, this is big chance for him to take the win.
Ilan Van Wilder – I would like to see him in the break, he’s a very talented young man. He doesn’t have the pedigree of those already mentioned, but I think he could go far in this stage.
Jakob Fuglsang – the pressure is on; he needs to put over one minute into Thomas. On the final climb we’ll see Neilands and then Houle come to the front and set a fast pace, then the Dane attacks. He’ll hope that the work of his teammates will have dropped Martínez, but I think that’s very unlikely. He’s looked brilliant so far this week, but he struggled to cover Thomas in the final 200m of yesterday’s stage, was that a sign of weakness?
Geraint Thomas – just needs to follow, but that’s easier said than done. He knows the attacks will come from Fuglsang; can he follow the Dane? Even if he does get dropped, he’s excellent at riding at his own pace, he’ll be confident of taking at least one minute back in tomorrow’s TT.
I’ll take a breakaway win for Alexey Lutsenko, there’s not enough men left to chase down the break. Back in the GC group, the riders will be scattered all over this final mountain, but with Martínez by his side, Geraint Thomas will limit his losses and not lose too much to Fuglsang.