Novelda > Alto de Pinos Benoisa 177.7km
Time for a big day of climbing, 3567m to be exact. Not only do we have an uphill finish, but we also have Cumbre del Sol. This stage will start to shape the GC, but the race still has a long way to go.
Nice and sunny.
Do you remember the battle between Froome and Dumoulin on this climb? Crazy to think it was 2015. The climb is 3km at 9.2% and crests with 33km to go, so it’s unlikely to see any moves by the main GC riders.
The stage finishes on Alto de Pinos, I don’t remember ever seeing this climb before. It’s 3km at 7.5% but that’s because of the flat sections that are hidden in the climb. There are lots of very steep sections, but they don’t last too long, we’ll have to wait and see how hard this climb is. As the final 350m are flat, having a sprint will help.
Several teams are packed full of climbing talent, so I’m expecting a controlled stage and a big finish. 3km at 7.5% suggests that we’ll see a group of GC favourites sprinting for the win. The front group will likely see a few splits, but given the climbers at this race, I don’t see big gaps on this climb.
Brandon McNulty – I like this finish for the American. He wasn’t at his best in Mallorca but improved as the week went on. His uphill sprint is underrated, mainly due to him not getting the chance to sprint very often. With racing already in his legs, he should be one of the best on a finish like this.
Aleksandr Vlasov – 2022 was a brilliant year for him, he made a massive amount of progress and can now be counted as one of the best in the world. He’s a brilliant climber, but he’s also got a hugely impressive punch. This is his first race of the season, so he won’t be 100% sure of his current shape, but he’ll still start as the man to beat. It will be interesting to see if Kämna is allowed to attack on the climb, with Vlasov waiting for the sprint.
Pello Bilbao – it looks a good stage for the Basque climber. He’s already got a win this year, but he’s not won an uphill finish since 2019, he normally wins tough stages that end on the flat. Now, this stage does end in a flat finish, if he’s at the front for the final corner, he’ll expect to win.
Giulio Ciccone – despite a Giro stage win, I’m going to say 2022 wasn’t a great year for the Italian, and neither was 2021. He’s a brilliant climber, and he needs to get back to his best, hopefully he’s had a good winter.
Rui Costa – given the way Wanty are riding just now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him win. The team are flying, and that will give the riders extra confidence and belief.
Anthon Charmig – goes very well in an uphill sprint like this one, but I do worry the steep sections of the climb will be too much for him.
Carlos Rodríguez – lost 1m42s seconds today, I assume he had a mechanical just before the 3km to go sign. However, I’ve seen footage which suggests he arrived safely in the bunch, so I expect the GC result to be updated. The Ineos youngster is going to be a huge star of the sport in a few years, expect to see him fighting for the win in this stage.
I think we’ll get a sprint from the GC group and a win for Brandon McNulty.
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