Nice > Col de la Couillole 142.6km
It was meant to be the big GC day, but it seems like we’ve already had one of those. Col de la Couillole was used back in 2017, when Richie Porte destroyed the rest of the field and took a very impressive win for BMC. It’s a tough climb.
Sunny and the wind is still up, but nothing like today. Up on the climb the wind will be 17km/h and another fucking headwind. My soul weeps.
15.2km at 7.3% and there’s plenty of sections that are 8% and over. Back in 2017 we saw big gaps between the best riders, that was a harder stage, but I’d still expect the same this time round.
Does the breakaway stand a chance? Yes, it does. With big gaps on GC the right break can go a long way, but you need to be a good climber to have any hope of winning this stage. It really is a shame about the headwind on the climb, winning from the break just got even tougher.
Who’s going to chase in the bunch? The obvious answer is UAE, why wouldn’t they chase and go for another stage win? The stage is pretty simple, there’s a flat start which makes it harder for climbers to make the break, and they might even get a hand from FDJ.
Tadej Pogačar – ahead of the final stage in Nice he’d like more time on all his rivals, especially David Gaudu. UAE don’t have the same team they’ll be taking to the Tour de France, only Großschartner is a recognised top-class climber in their squad at this race, which could mean Pogačar is alone for much of the climb, but riders like Wellens, Bjerg and Novak will hope to last deep into the stage. Normally, being isolated wouldn’t be a big issue for Pogačar, he just goes on the attack, but the headwind will complicate things.
Jonas Vingegaard – he would like to respond after getting dropped on Wednesday. His DS already pointed out that attacking was probably a mistake, but I liked it, even if it cost him some energy. In this stage we’re likely to see Vingegaard take a more defensive approach, he won’t want to make the same mistake twice, and the headwind will also be a concern. Beating Pogačar given his current form will be very hard, especially as Jumbo-Visma don’t have a second option to attack with.
David Gaudu – he was very clever on Wednesday, launching his attack just after Pogačar and Vingegaard were brought back. He didn’t quite manage to beat Pogačar in the sprint, but he rode a near perfect race. He now sits just 6 seconds behind the yellow jersey, he’ll believe in his chances of pushing him all the way. Now that he’s the main threat to Pogačar, he’ll be followed wherever he goes, it’s going to be hard to win this stage.
Gino Mäder – made a welcomed return to form on Wednesday, aside from Romandie, 2022 wasn’t great for him. Mäder will have his sights set on the podium, it’s now a realistic goal for him. If he continues to climb well, he’s the type of rider who could challenge for the stage win, especially as he’s 1:21 behind Pogačar.
Dani Martínez – he seemed to grind up the climb on Wednesday, he didn’t look at his best.
Romain Bardet – allez Romain, I love it when I hear the fans shout that. Got the quality to win, hopefully he can give the home fans something to shout about.
Simon Yates – disappointed on Wednesday, but this is another day. This type of climb suits him well, he should be one of the best. Like most others, he’ll hope that the headwind brings everyone closer together and Pogačar focusses on defending yellow rather than chasing another stage win.
Aurélien Paret-Peintre – I could listen to his name being whispered into my ear all night long. Started the race with the goal of finishing in the top 10, and that’s well within his grasp. He’ll hope that when the big names look at each other, he can sneak off the front and take the win.
Matteo Jorgenson – currently sitting 8th on GC, and he should be looking at trying to move up a few places. The American has already impressed this season, he’s climbing better than ever. Winning on this type of mountain will be tough, but I hope to see him riding an attacking race.
Thomas De Gendt – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Nick Schultz – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Vadim Pronskiy – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Fred Wright – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Is it inevitable Pogačar takes another win? I don’t think so. He’s obviously the best in the race by a considerable distance, but the headwind on the climb could stop him from riding away from the rest. If he doesn’t have teammates in the final 4km, he’ll choose to mark Gaudu and Vingegaard, which will open the door for someone a little further down on GC to attack and potentially take the win.
I’ll take a win for Gino Mäder.
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