Venosa > Lago Laceno 175km
Strap yourself in, it’s the first of the breakaway days. Too hard for the sprinters, not hard enough for the GC riders, and Soudal – QuickStep want rid of the pink jersey. You know what this means, the break is going to take an age to go, predicting who makes it is almost impossible. Not only is the stage on offer, but a chance for someone to move into pink and stay there until the weekend. Wearing the leader’s jersey in a grand tour is huge, career defining for most. With so much on offer, this is going to be a great stage.
Cloudy and another day where there’s a chance of rain.
It’s a lumpy start.
This is the first cat 2 climb of the day, there’s a big chance the break goes here.
The second cat 2 climb of the day, which should be ridden at tempo as the break should already be up the road.
The final climb of the day. The opening 3km is just under 10%, to win this stage you’ll need good climbing legs.
Weird things could happen in this stage, Soudal – QuickStep will have to be very aware of who’s trying to jump in the break. Which riders are too good to be allowed to be in the move? Santiago Buitrago, Thibaut Pinot, Patrick Konrad or maybe Ben Healy. The presence of who will trigger a chase from the peloton?
The issue Soudal – QuickStep could have is if a break of around 20 gets a small gap, and it contains someone they’re not happy about, chasing down such a large group will not be easy. The opening hour is where someone like Pieter Serry is worth their weight in gold, he’ll be responsible for marshalling the troops and ensuring the right break gets up the road.
With so much on offer at the end of this stage, the battle for the break will likely go on for over an hour. Teams that want in the break, and have multiple options, will use different riders at different points throughout this period. If it was me, I wouldn’t even try until kilometre 50. This is the point where the cat 2 climb starts, and I think this is where the break will go. This can’t be said with any degree of certainty, no one really knows when the break will get away, that’s the beauty of these stages.
In recent grand tours, teams with multiple riders in the breaks always do well. They can put pressure on others by attacking, forcing them into using energy by chasing. All eyes will be on the final climb, but the winning move could go earlier, it all depends on the composition of the group. If the group is still altogether for the climb, it’s hard enough to ensure the best climber will take the win. Despite 3km of flat to finish the day, first over the climb is very likely to take the stage.
One other thing to note is the battle for the pink jersey that we’re likely to see in the front group. This adds another variable into the mix. The rider in the virtual lead could well see the others trying to apply pressure to them, it definitely makes things more complicated.
UAE – Covi, Ulissi, Formolo and McNulty. This is a good stage for all four of these riders, they are all good enough climbers to cope well with the final climb. With so many options, I’d be amazed if they didn’t make the move, I think the team will be disappointed if they don’t take the win.
EF – Healy, Cort, Bettiol, Cepeda and Caicedo are all good options for the team. After his form in the Ardennes, all eyes will be on Ben Healy. Given the way he’s been going recently, he’ll start this stage as the favourite. The problem is that this tag brings a lot of attention, when he attacks, riders will try and follow. Making the move won’t be easy for him, unless the break goes on the cat 2 climb, then it should be straightforward. Just like UAE, they’ll expect to be in the break and will also expect to win.
Vincenzo Albanese – this is an excellent stage for the Italian, he’s got a very fast sprint and he climbs well. If he makes the break, he’ll be a hard man to beat. EOLO-Kometa won a stage back in 2021, taking another would be huge for the team.
Stefan Küng – he’s going to have one eye on the pink jersey. If he gets in the break, it’s a massive chance to be in the race lead at the end of the day. The final climb won’t be easy for him, but it all depends on who else is in the move. Winning the stage would be nice, but it’s not as important as taking pink.
Lorenzo Rota – a very good stage for the Intermarché rider. Current form is good, he was impressive in Eschborn-Frankfurt. He’s another rider who climbs well, and has a fast sprint, perfect when hunting breakaway stage wins.
Stevie Williams – another who impressed in Eschborn-Frankfurt. His career has been severely impacted by injury, he’s got lots of quality and is much better than his palmarès suggests. If he makes the break, he’ll try and drop everyone on the final climb, but he does also have a decent sprint.
Michael Matthews – took a brilliant win today, and this is another stage which suits him. He won’t be hoping for a sprint, he’ll be looking to jump in the morning break. The final climb is hard, but not as tough as the one in Mende. A confident rider is always a dangerous one.
Patrick Konrad – too dangerous to be allowed in the break? I’m not sure, I think he’ll be trying for the break and then see what happens. He’s another who performed well in Eschborn-Frankfurt, finishing second to Søren Kragh. If he makes the break, he’ll be a hard man to beat.
Andreas Leknessund – he’s got the punch for a stage like this. Last year he picked up a couple of good results, winning a breakaway stage in Tour de Suisse and taking the crown in his home race, the Arctic Race of Norway. He’s a good option for a medium mountain stage like this one, as is his teammate, Harm Vanhoucke.
Santiago Buitrago – another who will likely spark a chase from the peloton, but you just never know. Bahrain have Caruso and Haig as their main GC riders, Buitrago could well roll the dice and see if he can jump in the move.
Remco Evenepoel – if the break contains a GC threat, Soudal – QuickStep will have to chase. If this happens, the stage win comes into play for Remco. He wants to give the jersey away, but sometimes you don’t get what you want!
Given his recent form, I’ll take a stage win for Ben Healy. In the battle for pink, I’m hoping that Stefan Küng emerges victorious.
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