Mataró > Vallter 165.4km
The first of the big GC days. Roglič and Evenepoel finished one and two in today’s sprint finish, what’s the chances of a repeat?
Another nice day for the riders and there’s a gentle tailwind on the climb.
Vallter 2000 is a climb most of this bunch know well. Officially it’s 22.2km at 5.3%, but the final 9.3km averages 7.3%. This is a tough climb and finishing at 2120m above sea level makes it even harder. Last time we were here, Adam Yates won solo, the time before he won a sprint from a group of five. Expect to see gaps between the top 10 riders.
It’s not a great start for the breakaway, climbers will find it hard to make the move. Most of the stage is easy enough to control, it will only take a couple of riders if the break is relatively small. Jumbo-Visma are in the race lead, they’ll control the break and Soudal – Quick Step will likely help.
Once on the climb, there will be a gradual elimination of the weaker climbers. The toughest section of the mountain comes with 9km to go, but this is quite far out for a GC rider to attack. Both Jumbo-Visma and Soudal – Quick Step have the domestiques to ensure the climb is done at a fast pace, making it almost impossible for attackers to get a gap on the group. I would expect the main moves to come in the final 3km, but who’ll pull the trigger first?
If you aren’t Roglič or Evenepoel, attacking while they still have domestiques is a suicide mission, but the same can be said about waiting too long. This is the conundrum these riders face, getting it right and challenging the big two is going to be incredibly difficult.
I expect a controlled climb, a good old fashioned mountain train will take Primož and Remco all the way to the top. The final 3km will show us who’s the strongest just now, I don’t expect much between them.
Primož Roglič – got the stage win today, that’s four wins from four opportunities this season, quite an incredible record. After racing Tirreno, he could have a little fatigue in his legs, it’s all about how he recovered in-between the two races. Normally speaking, this is exactly the type of mountain finish he enjoys, he’ll go into this with confidence. He’s got an excellent climbing unit to support him, including his trusted lieutenant, Sepp Kuss. This is a big moment in the season, strap yourself in for some fun.
Remco Evenepoel – he would have likely won today, if he started the sprint from a better position. Usually, no one gets close to Roglič in that type of finish, it was impressive to see how fast Remco finished. He arrives after a period of altitude training, which means he should be fresher than Roglič, but that doesn’t guarantee the win. He’s won 38 races in his short career, but only one of them has been a traditionally hard mountaintop finish, Picón Blanco, back in the 2020 edition of Vuelta a Burgos. Some of you might claim his win in the Vuelta was one, but that finish was 13.3km at 5.9%, so I don’t count it as a hard mountaintop finish. Make no mistake, this is a big moment in Remco’s career, a win would be huge.
João Almeida – the human yo-yo. He’ll get dropped, fight back, get dropped again, fight back, and maybe get dropped again. If the big two don’t mess around, he won’t be getting back.
Jai Hindley – he needs to be on Giro winning form to go with the best, that would be great to see. Will he be at that level? Probably not.
Mikel Landa – I liked what I saw from him in Tirreno, he should be up there fighting for the podium. This type of climb is perfect for him.
Guillaume Martin – exactly the type of rider who won’t be afraid of attacking early. Winning will be tough, but at least he’ll try and win and not just ride for a top 10.
Adam Yates – crashed hard today and lost a whole heap of time. This will give him freedom, but he’s likely to be sore and looking to recover before going for a stage later in the race.
We never got to see them go toe-to-toe in last year’s Vuelta, but now we will. I can’t wait to see Roglič and Remco battle it out, especially as both as relatively close to their best level.
I’ll take a win for Remco Evenepoel, his freshness just edges it for me.
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