2022 Vuelta a España Stage 6 Preview

Bilbao > Pico Jano 180.8km

After today’s breakaway stage, Rudy Molard is in red, a tremendous moment in his career. He’s only 2 seconds ahead of Fred Wright, both will be trying their best to finish the stage in red, it’s all to play for. With FDJ in the race lead, we’ll have to see what happens in terms of the breakaway. It’s the first summit finish of the race, but it’s not the hardest.

Weather

Looks like rain and temperatures will be down on previous days. 

The Climbs

The first cat 1 climb of the day is Collada de Iguña, it crests with 35km to go. 6.3km at 8.6% is a tough effort, it will certainly put some fatigue in the legs.

Pico Jano is a new climb to the race, it’s not one I know. Overall, the climb is 12.5km at 6.6%, but there are two clear sections. It begins with 6.5km at 7.9%, then there’s 1km of flat, before 4.85km at 6.1%. It’s a funny climb, the opening 4km are the hardest, the rest of it shouldn’t give the top GC riders any problems.

Tactics

FDJ are in control of the jersey and they’ll ride to maintain red. The good news for them is that the breakaway contenders are all over 5 minutes off Molard, it should be a relatively easy stage for them to control. Once on the climb, it’s all about watching Fred Wright, he’s going to try something. Technically speaking, Molard should be better on a mountain like this, but Wright is enjoying a fine spell and he’ll hope to hang tough and take the red jersey.

The breakaway riders will sense another chance. FDJ won’t chase down the break, Jumbo-Visma aren’t going to ride, they gave away red to allow their domestiques a couple of easy days. All eyes will be on Bora, Ineos and QuickStep but will any of them commit to a long day chasing? The issue is the difficulty of the final climb, most won’t waste energy chasing all day just to have a relatively big group all finish on the same time, but that’s not to say someone won’t decide to go for it.

The final kilometres of the climb give a chance for teams with multiple options to exploit their numbers, but that won’t be easy against a strong Jumbo-Visma. Bahrain have a few options, it could be a chance for someone like Buitrago to take a little time back, but I doubt any of the big hitters will create significant gaps.

I think the break will take a while to establish, there’s a climb of 5.3km at 4.4%, which comes after 30km of racing. Although not a difficult hill, this is a good chance for the break to form. If it doesn’t go at this point, it should go soon after, as the climb will line out the bunch and make it easier to snap the elastic. Once it does go, we’ll have to see if Ineos, QuickStep or Bora want to chase, I’m not so sure. On the final climb I’d be surprised to see any real gaps between the best climbers, it doesn’t look hard enough to me. If the break is caught, it’s either a sprint from a small group or someone who isn’t a real threat on GC nips away and steals the win.

Contenders

Primož Roglič – we’ve already seen there’s no worries about injury, he looks at his best. The climb isn’t one that will worry Primož, and given the race situation, there’s no need for him to attack. With Harper, Oomen and Kuss to support him on the climb, it’s unlikely he’ll need to use up any energy until the final kilometre. The finish is flat, it’s going to be hard for anyone to beat him in a sprint.

Remco Evenepoel – I thought he would have been much better than he was on Tuesday, but at least he finished in the front group. After the stage he said he was happy not to lose time, I guess he realised that climb wasn’t ideal for him, but this one is. His recent performances have been excellent, but can he really beat Roglič in an uphill finish? We’ll get that answer tomorrow.

Ben O’Connor – I was delighted to see him challenging on Tuesday, his injury problems seem behind him. This is a good climb for the Aussie, especially as he’s not scared of launching an attack from distance. With some of the big names looking at each other, there’s a chance of sneaking away in the closing kilometres and grabbing the win that would complete his grand tour trilogy. 

Enric Mas – he won’t get any freedom, so winning the stage will be hard as he can’t beat Roglič in a sprint.

Esteban Chaves – late attack option 1.

Gino Mäder – late attack option 2.

Jan Polanc – breakaway hopeful number 1. 

Jay Vine – breakaway hopeful number 2.

Alexey Lutsenko – breakaway hopeful number 3.

Rein Taaramäe – breakaway hopeful number 4.

Mark Donovan – breakaway hopeful number 5.

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