Quintana Martin Galindez > Villarcayo 153.3km
It’s time for the GC battle to start, but with the big climb cresting with 36km to go, will we see any gaps between the main contenders?
A bit more cloud than in previous stages and the temperature will be a lot nicer for the bunch. The wind is light, but it’s still a headwind on Picon Blanco.
The climb of Picon Blanco is well known in this race, it’s a very difficult effort. If the bunch go full, the front group will be small at the top, but will anyone want to take the risk with so much of the stage still to go? The descent is very fast, Bardet crashed on it last year, differences can be made on the downhill.
It might not seem much, but this cat 3 climb is a perfect launchpad for anyone who wants to take a solo win. The section near the crest kicks up to over 10%, and with just 7km to go, it’s possible for the first over the climb to hold off the chasing bunch and take the win.
It’s all to do with numbers, the team with the most riders in the front group after the climb will have a big chance of taking the win. The thing is, most of the main GC teams are here with multiple options, it’s a particularly strong start list this year. Normally, when the big climb happens so far from home, it puts riders off going full gas on the climb, they always want to save energy for what’s still to come in the stage.
The most likely scenario is for the climb to be done hard, but not full, then we get a group of around 10-15riders for the finale. Once off the descent, those with numbers will attack and try to get a strong group away. If you don’t have teammates, this section is a big worry, your GC bid could be over if the “right” group gets away. If the front group is still together, the final climb is great chance to attack and go for the stage win.
Ineos – Rodríguez, Sivakov, Geoghegan Hart and De Plus could all win this stage, they have the strongest team in the race and will likely take advantage of it. Sivakov isn’t always the best descender, he’ll need to be careful coming down Picon Blanco. If it ends in a sprint, both Sivakov and Geoghegan Hart have a good turn of speed for climbers, but Ineos will be looking to attack and get at least one of their men up the road in the closing stages.
Bora – Hindley, Kelderman and Buchmann are their options for this stage, that’s a strong unit, but both Hindley and Kelderman hit the deck today. Hopefully they are fine for this stage, as they need all three options to try and compete with Ineos. Both Kelderman and Hindley have a fast sprint, if it comes down to that.
Bahrain – with Landa losing time, they have Mäder and Poels as their options. I’m looking forward to seeing what Mäder can do, he’s a rider I like watching.
EF – they should have Guerreiro and Chaves in the mix after Picon Blanco, both are good options for this type of stage. As a pair, they rode incredibly well in the Dauphiné, I’m hoping for something similar in this race. Guerreiro has a decent kick for a climber, he’ll be one of the fastest if we get a sprint.
Astana – Nibali and López for them, neither of whom I think will win this stage.
Alejandro Valverde – he’s not looking at his best.
It’s got to be an Ineos win, they’re bound to be the best represented in the closing kilometres. I’ll take a win for Carlos Rodríguez.