Diezma > Alcalá la Real 155.9km
The second stage finishes in Alcalá la Real, which is where Covi won in 2022 and Ethan Hayter in 2021. The finishing location was different in those two editions, the organisers have decided to go back to the 2021 finish, which means the final 500m on horrible cobbles.
Quite a nice day, but still under 15 degrees.
Puerto de la Hoya de Charrilla is the penultimate climb of the day. It’s classified as a cat 2, but it starts with 1.7km at 14.5%, then a short downhill before 2.5km at 7.6%. This is where the KOM points are handed out but there’s still another 1.5km at 5.7% before the descending starts. It’s a nasty wee climb.
This is the horrible rise to the line. 1.1km at 9.9% doesn’t really do it justice, it is awful. When the riders hit the cobbles with 500 to go, they are faced with rough cobbles but also a brutally steep gradient. Last time we were here, Ethan Hayter powered away from everyone to take the win. Seated power is key.
With big gaps on GC, the break has a chance. Who in their right mind will help UAE chase the break? The finish suits Pogačar, he’ll put more time into his GC rivals in this stage. There’s no point in someone like Movistar or Ineos helping chase the break and set up another Pogačar win, if UAE want another win, they’ll need to do all the work themselves.
This could happen, it’s all about race management in the opening kilometres. The first 40km are downhill, it’s always difficult to get a working break away when the road goes down. However, if every team apart from UAE want in the break, there’s every chance a nice group gets away and builds a big advantage. I wonder if UAE will also look to get someone up the road, that would be perfect for them. They could then let the break get a race winning gap, and then think about how they’ll approach the finale. The final 30km is hard, UAE might want all their domestiques to control the attacks, that’s bad news if any of them fancied some freedom.
Chris Juul-Jensen – was in the first break today, but it was brought back. That’s a sign that he’s going to be active this week and will try again for the break.
Brent Van Moer – I’ve been really impressed by him so far this season, he seems to have improved his climbing ability. Van Moer is an excellent breakaway rider, and now that he’s climbing better, it gives him more opportunities for success.
Dries Van Gestel – the type of classics rider who’ll like the look of the finish. The cobbled climb can be compared to the Muur, but it’s not as long.
Samuele Battistella – 3rd in the final stage in Valenciana was a great result, it was a nice way to start the season. The Italian is climbing well, and he packs an explosive finish.
Omar Fraile – he should be the Ineos break option. Was on the attack today, and looked quite good, the finish is a good one for him.
Matej Mohorič – will Bahrain allow him some freedom? They should do, riding for 2nd place is boring.
Tim Wellens – was super strong today, but will he get his own chance in this stage? Pogačar has a good gap on GC, but not good enough that he can take it easy. Given the current GC position, I don’t think Wellens will win this stage.
Dylan Teuns – steep climb specialist. He could well push Pogačar all the way.
Tadej Pogačar – uphill cobbles, perfect preparation for his return to the Tour of Flanders. He flew up the Koppenberg back in April, this finish won’t give him any problems.
I’ll take a breakaway win for Brent Van Moer.