Vufflens-la-Ville > Genève 170km
The race ends with an interesting stage, one with a few possible scenarios.
Cloudy and a gentle tailwind throughout the day.
This is the cat 2 climb, the big moment for the sprinters. It’s tough enough to cause some serious damage. About 20km of descending follows, before bouncing into the next climb.
3.3km at 6% isn’t that hard, but for the riders who’ve already been dropped and are desperately trying to get back into the peloton, this is a disaster.
The bunch will fly into town on a wide highway, and there’s barely a corner in sight.
With so few opportunities for breakaway riders in 2023, people are starting to wonder why. Let me tell you…
The evolution of the “climbing sprinter” is to blame. A few years back, sprinters would look at a stage like this and immediately know it was too hard, so the breakaway would win. Nowadays, climbing sprinters see this type of stage as big opportunity. These guys don’t have the same top-end speed as the “pure sprinters”, a finish without them is perfect. Unfortunately, it means fewer stages going to the break, their opportunities are really getting squeezed. Anyway, back to this stage.
Ineos and EF are going to make it known that they’ll be chasing the break, which will put a few off going for it, but not all. This is the last stage of the race; riders have nothing to lose. The dilemma they are faced with is going for the early break, which is likely to be chased, or waiting until the final 10km and going for a late attack, it depends on the type of rider you are.
Break management will be everything in this stage, Ineos and EF need to ensure the break isn’t too big. Soudal – Quick Step will also be interested in a sprint, but there’s no need for them to chase the break when they know Ineos will smash the climb, they can save their men for later. Make no mistake, 5.8km at 7.5% is a very difficult climb, but there’s still a long way to go in the race from the crest. Vernon will get dropped, am I certain of that, but by how much? With no GC rider to protect, the whole team can drop back and try to help Vernon get back into the bunch. With some other sprinters in that group, they could get some help too. I think we’ll see one of those stages where group 2 try desperately to catch group 1, but will they?
Ethan Hayter – he’s got one stage but will want more. Ineos looked to be going well in stage 1, but I have no idea why they didn’t push on once on the final climb, that decision made no sense to me. In this stage, they need to smash the climb, then have enough men to hold off the chasing group, but is their team strong enough? Wurf and Viviani are not, I have no idea why they ride for a team of this level. Rivera is okay, but he only has a deal because he’s Bernal’s pal, they could well find themselves short in the final 50km. Hayter deserves better than this, I am worried about the way Ineos are going. Once the great powerhouse of cycling, now a lightweight of the sport. The team spend huge money, and for what? They constantly miss out on signing the best riders, have too many young riders who aren’t yet good enough, and have very little hope of winning a grand tour in the next 5 years. Anyway, I digress, hopefully they can help Hayter land a second stage win.
Magnus Cort – hadn’t raced since Sanremo before coming here, it’s not been a surprise to see him a little off his best, but he should be growing stronger. Cort is off to the Giro; this stage gives him a chance for a proper hit out before next weekend. One issue is a lack of teammates, he’s down to just four men to support him. I don’t think they’ll be able to offer too much help in terms of holding off the group containing the sprinters.
Ethan Vernon – his win was brilliant; you could say his sprint was reminiscent of Marcel Kittel. Vernon’s a big guy, despite improving his climbing, I still think he’ll be in a spot of trouble on the big climb. The good news is Soudal – Quick Step are likely to fully commit to him in this stage, they’ll drop back and hope they can chase down the front group. It’s hard to tell if they will, it depends on how many men are riding in group 1.
Thibau Nys – we’ll see how his legs are after a big mountain stage. I doubt he’s fast enough to take the win, but a podium is possible if he survives.
Rémi Cavagna – if Vernon gets dropped, and he’s not called back to help him, he’ll attack in the finale and try to hold off the chasing bunch. It could well be a good move, the domestiques left might not be strong enough to catch him.
This is tricky. Hayter is the safe pick as he’s sure to be in the front group, but if the faster guys get back on, he won’t win.
Ineos to smash the climb, and then hope someone will give them some help in the final 50km. I’ll take another win for Ethan Hayter.