Ronda > Montilla 168.5km
Another day and another chance for the sprinters. With the fast men looking relatively equal, there should be no shortage of teams to chase down the morning break. This will mean the break will likely contain riders from the Spanish conti teams, and will be chased down with ease, setting up a big finish.
Another hot day in the south of Spain, I’m now starting to get jealous. Much of the day is spent riding into a headwind or cross/headwind, good luck to the brave souls who jump in the morning move.
The final 6.5km falls into the “interesting” category, this isn’t a flat finish. We have three steps that face the riders, but the gradients are never steep enough to put the sprinters into difficulty. The first step is a gentle 1.9km at 2.8%, this is quickly followed by 840m at 5.3%, then it’s a short downhill before the final 800m is at 5%. As I said, it’s an interesting finish.
The finish is a hard one for sprint teams to get right. The second of the steps is the important one, as once you get over it, teams will hold their position for the finish. There’s a fast right-hand bend with 900 to go, which leads into the uphill grind to the line. Up until this point the finish is a headwind, which makes it even harder for those at the front to hold position.
In an ideal world, you get a position in the top 10 wheels going up the second step, then burst to the front just at the crest and have a couple of teammates in front of you. They smash down the small incline just after and hold position for the bend with 800 to go. The issue is that those sitting in the top 10 will all have a chance as the road rises to the line, it’s a complicated finish to get right, especially as GC teams will be in the mix worried about any gaps on the line.
Mads Pedersen – this finish is one he’ll like; this is a big chance to take his first win. Trek-Segafredo have done an excellent job in the sprint stages, Alex Kirsch has done the work of three men in the closing stages. With the green jersey seemingly in the bag, this is a huge chance of getting a win and ticking off his goal when he started the race. On Wednesday he hesitated, he won’t do that again.
Danny van Poppel – if you could design a perfect finish for him, this would be close, the only thing that’s missing is some cobbles. The Dutch fast man is brilliant in uphill sprints, he’s one of the best in the peloton. He possesses a huge amount of grunt, perfect for the final 6.5km of this stage. All throughout this race he’s impressed in the sprints, it’s only a matter of time before he takes the win. If you want a reference point for him, just take a look back at both his wins in Binche-Chimay-Binche.
Tim Merlier – it’s just not clicked for him in this race, often starting his sprint from too far back. He’s another who enjoys an uphill sprint, he was very commanding in winning Nokere Koerse this year.
Kaden Groves – got his first grand tour win on Wednesday and he’s yet another fast man who likes an uphill kick. BikeExchange did brilliant work the other day, if they can repeat that performance Groves has a good shot at his second stage win.
Dan McLay – he’ll be there or there abouts, but I think the finish suits his rivals a little more.
Bryan Coquard – this is a perfect finish for him, but he seems way off the pace just now. He’ll be praying for a good spot for the final turn, then he can sprint for a change.
UAE – they were a shambles on Wednesday, I’m not sure what the hell was going on. At this point, I’ve lost faith in their sprint train and hopes of winning a sprint.
Primož Roglič – it’s not hard enough for him.