Vitoria > Laguardia 152.9km
The first “interesting” looking stage of the race. We are in the Basque Country and are faced with a day that’s too hard for the pure sprinters, and some of the breakaway experts will be licking their lips. Will Jumbo-Visma be happy giving away the jersey? Will other teams chase the break and set up a big finish? We’ll only know once the racing gets started on Tuesday.
Sunny and warm, temperatures will be around 30 degrees.
It’s categorised as a cat 3, but as usual in this part of the world, it’s much hard than it looks. 7km at 5% sounds okay, but the opening 3km averages close to 8% and that includes a flat section. The crest has bonus seconds on offer, and once over the top there’s 15km to go, 10km of which is a fast downhill.
This is the final kilometre, it’s a classic Vuelta finish. The 8% average means it’s too hard for the vast majority of climbing sprinters, but not someone like Ethan Hayter.
Who wants to chase the break? It’s the first time I’ve asked that question in the race, but it certainly won’t be the last. I don’t think Jumbo-Visma will set out with the purpose of holding the jersey, but the composition of the break will decide on their approach. It’s an easy stage to control, just 2490m of climbing isn’t going to worry the domestiques, but will anyone help them? Ineos and QuickStep are the most likely to contribute, the finish is good for them, but QuickStep also have some riders who’ll have a chance from the breakaway.
The start of the stage isn’t ideal for the break, as it’s flat and hard to get off the front. With so many riders still close on GC, plenty will sense a chance of not only winning a stage, but also taking the red jersey. This means the break will take a while to establish, and when it does go it’s either going to be big or small, nothing in between. We’ve all seen enough of these stages to realise it takes a huge amount of luck to make the break, then you’ve got to hope no one chases, then you’ve got to have the legs to take the win. The chance of taking red makes this stage all the more important.
Primož Roglič – he’s won stages like this on a number of occasions, he’s got a brilliant uphill sprint. I have no idea how Jumbo-Visma will approach this stage, but then again, I’m not a consultant. In the past, they’ve taken every opportunity to win stages, especially if the stage has been easy to control. Saying that, if they are going to chase, they would like some help from other teams. If the race is altogether for the final kilometre, it should be a brilliant fight for the stage win, then we’ll see if Roglič is at his best.
Julian Alaphilippe – he’s not at his best, but recent efforts in Tour de l’Ain will have helped him. Normally, he’d be the huge favourite for a stage like this, and QuickStep would ride for him. The team will have a good idea of his current shape, if they think he can win, they’ll chase the break. He sits just 14s down on the race lead, if he performs well in the next two stages, he could be in red on Wednesday night.
Remco Evenepoel – 1km at 8% wouldn’t normally be his cup of tea, but recent work on his sprint has paid off and Remco will fancy his chances of competing with the best. His current form is clearly off the chart, he’s operating at a very high level, but can he beat the experts in this type of finish?
Sergio Higuita – another who’ll love the look of the finish, he’s shown this season he’s got what it takes to win stages like this. Bora don’t have too many men to chase the break, that’s what happens when you bring 3 GC riders. Higuita is their best option, but both Kelderman and Hindley have the punch to challenge too.
Ethan Hayter – of all the quick men, he’s got the best chance of surviving. He’s won finishes like this before, and as he sits just 13s down on Roglič, he’s in with a shout of challenging for the red jersey, with the help of bonus seconds. Positioning isn’t always great, to win this stage you need to start the final kilometre right at the front.
Santiago Buitrago – his recent win in Burgos means he’s one of the men to watch in this stage. Bahrain have the men required to chase the break, but I don’t think they’ll get involved as Buitrago isn’t one of the big favourites. I don’t think he can win against those already mentioned, but he should be in the top 10.
Alejandro Valverde – if only it was a couple of years ago, Valverde has made a career out of winning stages like this. Eventually, it looks like age is starting to catch up with him, but he cannot be discounted. As we are now back on the mainland, Movistar could be one of the teams happy to chase the break, they like the TV time.
João Almeida – has been saying that his shape isn’t where he wants it to be, but I’m not sure if I buy that. He won the final stage in Burgos, that was only just the other day, I think he’ll be just fine in this race. He’s got the kick to win this stage, his sprint finish is amongst the best. If he isn’t at his best, McNulty is another good option for UAE.
Robert Stannard – I think the break would be his best chance, but getting in it will be very difficult. His recent GC win in Tour de Wallonie is a clear sign about his current form, and he goes very fast up hills like the one in the final kilometre.
Fred Wright – another breakaway pick. He was brilliant in the Tour de France, and also impressed in the Commonwealth Games Road Race, but what’s left in the tank? I think he’ll start to get tired the further the race goes on, so he needs to take advantage of his current from in the opening half of the race.
Jesús Herrada – a perfect stage for him. The Spaniard will have marked this stage in the road book, if he makes the break he’ll be hard to beat.
Harry Sweeny – another rider who’s impressed recently, his 2nd place in the final stage of Tour de l’Ain shows what he can do in a hilly stage. Lotto Soudal will be desperate to make the break, the Aussie has the quality required to win this stage.
Rémi Cavagna – the hills might not make him an obvious pick, but Cavagna is climbing better than ever. His success would depend on the type of rider who also makes the break, but Cavagna will be tough to beat.
Paddy Bevin – if a big engine’s required to get in the break, then he’ll be fine. This year we’ve seen him climb very well, his performance in the Tour of Turkey was outstanding. He looks a good breakaway pick to me.