Paterna > València 92.7km
The final stage in Valenciana is normally one for the sprinters, but not this year. Just 93km in length, but it contains the hardest climb of the whole race. Given the current GC position, several scenarios can play out during this stage, which should make for fascinating viewing.
Another cracking day with lots of sunshine and not much wind.
First up is the Oronet climb. It’s a gentle 8km at 3.8% and starts after 20km of the day.
The main event of the stage, La Frontera. 5km at 9.4%, which is a serious climb. The road surface isn’t the best, which will make the climb even harder than the numbers suggest. From the crest there’s 43km to go, so we’ll have to wait and see what the GC riders want to do.
It could be a day for the break, or we could see a GC day. I’m going to discount the idea of a big sprint, the climb is far too hard for the likes of Kooij and Kristoff. The GC position is finely balanced, Ciccone has a 4 second lead over Geoghegan Hart, Bilbao is at 7, Vlasov and Gloag at 8, Costa and Landa at 14 and then a group at 20.
Trek-Segafredo are going to come under a huge amount of pressure in this stage, it’s a shame that they have one fewer than the other teams. Most of the big teams have multiple riders still high on GC, this means they can throw caution to the wind. The start of the stage will be rapid, then it will kick off on La Frontera. Believe me, it’s a very difficult effort and a strong group of GC riders will get over the top together.
The uphill finishes we’ve had in this race can’t really compare to this climb; you almost need to forget about them when considering who’s going to be the best on La Frontera. Technically speaking, I would expect Landa, Bilbao, Vlasov, Rodríguez and maybe McNulty. With two riders who cope well with steep slopes, Bahrain could well find themselves in a very strong position once over the climb. Then follows a long descent, and a sprint point just 10km from home, the GC fight will go all the way to the end.
The key thing will be who’s left to chase in the peloton. Ciccone will need Mollema, but some other teams might have to join in if they miss the front group. Ciccone is an interesting one, if he’s at his best, he can make the front group on the climb, but then he’ll come under big pressure from everyone else in that group. I think everything is set up for an exciting stage.
Pello Bilbao – a classic Bilbao stage. Bahrain came to this race to win it; they’ve got one final chance to do exactly that. In the pre-race interviews, they said this stage was one for Fred Wright, but given the GC situation, I think they’ll have changed their mind. With Bilbao sitting just 7 seconds behind on GC, they need to go all in for him. A steep climb, followed by a big descent, it really is a wonderful opportunity for Bilbao to take his second win of the season.
Mikel Landa – has looked nice and strong throughout this race, and he’s one of the best in the bunch on steep slopes. Having two riders in the front group will be key for Bahrain, it will allow Bilbao to attack, and force others to chase. Landa isn’t the best at riding solo, so it’s going to be hard for him to be the one attacking from distance, but you just never know.
Aleksandr Vlasov – he would normally be the best on the climb, but you can see he’s not quite at his very best. However, I would still expect him to be able to be one of the best in this stage. He won’t have any teammates in the front split, so he’ll be a little worried about Bahrain and Ineos having numbers, as this would make it very hard for him to win.
Giulio Ciccone – can he follow the best on La Frontera? However, the stage plays out, he’s going to put under a huge amount of pressure. It’s one of those situations where he’d prefer not to be in the race lead, it’s going to be very hard for him to win this race.
Ineos – have two strong options in Geoghegan Hart and Rodríguez. I would normally expect the Spaniard to be the better on the climb, but Tao seems to have great legs just now. The key for Ineos is to get two men in the front group after the climb, this will put them into a very strong position to win the stage and GC.
Thomas Gloag – 2nd today was a brilliant result, and he’s right in the mix for the overall win. As he won’t have teammates, he could find himself outnumbered, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he approaches this stage.
Alex Aranburu – he’s climbing well, but I don’t see him getting over La Frontera at the head of the race. Aranburu will have to hope that groups come back together, as he’ll be the fastest left in a reduced group.
Bahrain to throw some grenades and Pello Bilbao to take the stage and GC.
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