Circuito San Juan Villicum > Barreal 196km
At last, a stage with a bit of something in it! After three sprint stages, this is the first day which will realistically give the breakaway some hope, but it all depends on the attitude of the world tour teams. If they decide to go for the break, it will happen, but they could also decide to ride for another sprint. The climbs aren’t overly difficult, but I’m hoping it’s enough to put off the likes of Jakobsen and Bennett.
Temperatures are around 30 degrees and there should be a light tailwind for most of the stage.
The opening 10km are uphill, but nothing too serious. The first of the climbs comes after around 50km, and as you can see it’s a long one. The gradient won’t scare the world tour riders but as they climb to 2000m, it will seem harder than the 3.2% suggests. A short flattish decent of 7km follows before the next climb.
7.7km at 3.6%, so it’s another steady effort. The crest comes with 108km still to go, will the peloton start the chase at this point?
It could be a breakaway day. It could be a boring sprint stage. It could be a day where some sprint teams lift the pace on the climb to try and drop Jakobsen and Bennett.
For the break to succeed, it needs to contain riders from the world tour teams, but it can’t include someone who is perceived as a GC threat. You’ve got to be good, but not too good. It really is a delicate balance.
The world tour teams will already have had a chat about the stage they want, I get the feeling they’ll all be happy giving their domestiques some freedom, the opening kilometres of the stage will tell us everything we need to know.
Straight, but the road isn’t the widest, and it has nasty looking gravel at either side. Near the end, there are lampposts in the middle of the road, I pray that the organisers have barriered off one of the lanes, or we could see some crashes.
Pieter Serry – the day he wins his first bike race is the day I buy him a bottle of champagne. I’m a huge fan of Pieter Serry, he’s a brilliant pro. This is a day where he can get the chance to chase his own result, and his whole team would love to see him getting that first win.
Yves Lampaert – when he goes in a break, he usually wins. Lampaert is another brilliant option for QuickStep, not only is he very strong, but he has a great tactical brain.
Quinn Simmons – does he fancy two in a row? He’s probably on the limit of being allowed in the break. Quinn climbs very well, but Alto del Colorado will be too hard for him, but I’m not sure the likes of Ineos and QuickStep will want to take that chance.
Jonas Koch – probably the most likely Bora rider to go for the break.
Yuriy Natarov – doesn’t have many good results in the pro ranks, but the Astana man does have a lot of experience. In what could be a weird looking break, Astana will want an option in it.
Vinicius Rangel – it would be cool to see the Brazilian champion in the break, although, he might not get a lot of support from the locals.
Kevin Vermaerke – the American is a touch of quality, but he’s yet to set the world alight at this level. The good thing for him is that he’s still got age on his side, he’s just 22. If he makes the break, he’ll be one of the best.
Stevie Williams – he’s already lost some time, which is important as he’s a very good climber and the other teams won’t underestimate him. He was one of the riders let down by the B&B disaster, luckily, he was picked up by Israel – Premier Tech. Williams is a hugely talented rider, but he’s been dogged by injuries over the last number of years. I’m hoping he stays injury free this year and he can show just how good he is.
Davide Bais – loves a break.
Daniel Oss – why the hell not!?
As you can see, I’m all in for the break.
I’ll take a first professional win for Pieter Serry. The champagne is on ice.