Unley > Mount Lofty 112.3km
It’s the final stage and everything is still to play for. Jay Vine is in the ochre jersey, and he leads Pello Bilbao and Simon Yates by 15 seconds, in terms of the GC they are the only realistic challengers. The race ends with a lap circuit featuring Mount Lofty and 2541m (if you remove the neutral section) of climbing in just 112km of racing. It’s going to be a full gas kind of day.
Cloudy sun and temperatures will hit around 25 degrees, and not much wind.
The Mount Lofty climb can’t be called hard, it’s only 8.5km at 3.1%, which is nothing for a professional cyclist. However, the culmination of repeated ascents is what should help this be a relatively selective day, but I don’t think anyone really knows just how selective it’s going to be. In terms of the finish, the hardest section of the climb comes in the final 3km, this is where the gradient kicks up to over 10% for a short section, before levelling out for a flat finish.
Jay Vine is looking strong, and the same goes for his team. In my humble opinion, there’s no chance of him losing the ochre jersey. Of course, the other teams can’t think like this, they must try and attack him. If Bilbao can take the first sprint after just 16km he can start to put Vine under some pressure, it’s possible for the Basque rider to take the jersey by hoovering up all the bonus seconds on offer throughout the stage, but that won’t be easy.
The stage begins with a climb of 8.8km at 4.2%, this will test some legs as the pace is likely to be very high. As the stage is only 112km teams can afford to ride very aggressively and not worry about conserving energy. We’ll have to wait and see when the break forms, and who’s in it, this is a stage where the break could take a surprise win.
Once the race settles down, we’ll see Jayco, and Bahrain look to attack. This is a stage that suits Michael Matthews very well, but I would imagine Jayco will go all in for Simon Yates, he’s the one who can take the ochre jersey, not Bling. Ineos are another team who’ll want to challenge for the stage win, it’s been a little on the disappointing side for them this week, despite Sheffield being in the white jersey. I expect Plapp to be allowed to attack from distance and try to get in the morning break, he’ll likely be joined by Mikkel Honoré, he’s trying to secure the KOM jersey in his first race for EF. A strong break has a good shot at going the distance, if it doesn’t contain a GC threat.
The problem the other teams will have is the strength of UAE, it’s hard to imagine a situation where Bennett and Hirschi aren’t around in the final 20km, putting pressure on Vine is going to be incredibly difficult. Vine doesn’t need to win the stage, he just needs to cover the moves of Yates and Bilbao, but he’ll take the chance if it appears.
The stage could end up being a reduced sprint, there’s bound to be a few fast men around at the end. Someone like Ethan Hayter comes to mind, but there’s a certain wee Aussie who’ll be backing himself to survive and take his first win of the week. As I’ve already said, no one really knows how a stage like this will play out at his time of year, that’s what makes it so exciting.
Pello Bilbao – the harder the race the better for him. We’ve already seen he’s got the fastest sprint of the GC contenders, but to win this stage he’ll need the sprinters to be dropped. He’ll be hoping to secure enough bonus seconds to take the ochre jersey, but that’s going to be complicated as his team aren’t strong enough to hold the race together. However, if he takes another stage win it will have been an excellent week for Bahrain.
Jay Vine – has look brilliant this week. Yes, his focus is the ochre jersey, but he’ll also be keen on winning a stage.
Michael Matthews – will Jayco save him for a sprint or go all in for Yates? On paper, this is a perfect stage for Bling, but the team will still have hopes that Yates can win the ochre jersey. As they are already down one man, going all in for Yates means that Matthews will have to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. We’ll have to wait and see how they approach the final 50km.
Ethan Hayter – form doesn’t seem to be as good as he would like, but he can’t be written off. Just like Matthews, this is a perfect stage for Hayter. If we get a sprint from a group of around 30 riders, he’s bound to be one of the quickest, I think Ineos will save him for exactly this scenario.
Caleb Ewan – he’s cut a frustrated figure at times this week. It’s too easy to have a go at him about poor positioning, having one teammate to help makes it almost impossible to get a good position in a hectic bunch. This is a stage Caleb would like to do well in, but he’ll need other teams to work and ensure we get a sprint, so there’s an element of luck required.
Corbin Strong – I don’t see him getting dropped in this stage, he should be around for the finale. The podium is a realistic ambition for him.
Ben O’Connor – he’ll be one looking to attack in the final 20km, it’s what he does best.
Luke Plapp – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Mikkel Honoré – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Max Schachmann – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Luis Léon Sánchez – breakaway hopeful number 4.
I’m having a hard time trying to predict this one.
Right, I think it’s going to be raced hard and Jay Vine will take the stage win. He’s been the strongest rider all week and deserves a stage win to go with his ochre jersey.