Salobreña > Peñas Blancas 192.5km
We head back to the mountains, or mountain to be correct, with a stage that goes through many towns well known to us tourists from Northern Europe. The peloton spends almost the whole day going in out and popular holiday destinations, the route passes through Nerja, Torrox, Malaga, Marbella and Estepona, I’ve been to almost all these places! It finishes by climbing Peñas Blancas, I remember the last time we were here, Leo König took a monumental win for Net-App Endura. This time round it could be one for Remco, but all riders will be nervous about the wave of COVID currently ripping its way through the bunch.
Cloudy and warm. The first climb is done into a strong headwind until the final 4km.
It’s a pretty steady climb, but it is long. It’s unlikely we’ll see big splits between the top 10.
With fewer and fewer riders left to chase, it’s going to be interesting to see the start of the stage. It’s a flat start and most of the day is done into a headwind; it doesn’t sound good for climbers wanting to make the break.
The conditions are good for those wanting a GC showdown, but it needs a team to chase, something they’ve been reluctant to do in recent stages. QuickStep are now down to just 5 domestiques, and as Evenepoel has won a stage, the pressure is not on them to ride. Jumbo-Visma, Ineos and Movistar are the most likely to chase the break, especially given the route and wind conditions. Okay, it looks almost impossible to beat Evenepoel, but you’ve still got to try.
I would expect someone to control the break, but there is no guarantee in grand tours anymore. Despite the flat start, there’s every chance a large break gets up the road. Those riders sitting just outside the top 10 will sense an opportunity to take a big jump up the rankings, it’s called the Guillaume Martin approach! As usual, the composition of the break and attitude of the peloton will decide the outcome of the stage, I’m not sure which way it will go.
Remco Evenepoel – I’m interested to see his approach this week, will he simply be happy to ride defensively or will he want to take more time? This climb is another that suits him very well, given the way he’s been climbing in this race it’s hard to imagine anyone betting him. He’s now without Alaphilippe, so Vervaeke and Van Wilder will have to do try and go deep into the climb, it’s still important for Remco to have a teammate in the final 10km. Given the GC position, he doesn’t need to worry about many riders, if those further down the top 10 go on the attack, others will need to chase.
Primož Roglič – will he improve throughout the race? At the start of the race, I thought he would, and I still believe so. Roglič has made a career out of winning on climbs like this, but does he still believe he can beat Evenepoel? I would love to see the two of them sprinting for the win.
Jay Vine – it’s not a big day in the KOM battle, but Vine will want another stage win. He’s clearly got amazing legs just now, and he’s got teammates to help get him in the break.
Mark Padun – he’s looking good, maybe not at his very best, but that could come before the end of the race. He’s got a good TT, which will help trying to make a break on the flat.
Gino Mäder – came here with GC aspirations, but he’s now sitting quite far down the rankings, but time wise he’s still quite close to the top 10. Mäder is exactly the type of rider who could see his GC bid benefit from a day in the break.
Luis León Sánchez – I’ve been really impressed by him in this race, he’s finished quite high up in many mountain stages, but he’s now far down the GC picture and will have freedom to jump in the break. Peñas Blancas is a tough climb, but as it’s steady, Sánchez will believe in his chances.
Jan Polanc – if you can win on Etna, you can win here.
Richard Carapaz – now on stage hunting mode but doesn’t seem in great form.