Longarone > Tre Cime di Lavaredo 183km
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got a fucking race. With the top 3 separated by just 39 seconds, and Roglič looking better, it’s still a long way till Rome. Okay, this could be due to the negative racing in the opening weeks, but I’m not complaining now. With 5000m of climbing, there’s still lots of opportunities for riders to attack and shake up the GC, all eyes will be on Jumbo-Visma, especially after today. Can Roglič pull something out of the bag? We’ll see on the road, huh.
Another nice day.
Passo Valparola is the first cat 1 climb of the day, it comes after 100km of racing and basically starts the finale of the race.
Next up is the iconic Passo Giau, one of the hardest climbs in Europe. It would be amazing to see GC action here. A long descent follows before the riders bounce straight into the next climb.
Passo Tre Croci would be a cat 1 in most races, but it’s only a cat 2 here. 7.6km at 7.1% is tough, especially at this point in the race.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo will be a grind for the riders, it really is a big day in the saddle. The final 3.6km averages 12.4%, you’d be amazed how much time can be lost in the final 2km.
There are two battles to consider, the fight for pink and blue, I’ll start with blue. Pinot has a 63-point lead in the KOM competition, but there’s still an awful lot of points to fight for. As he sits in 7th place on GC, 4:43 behind Thomas, he won’t be in the break, so how do Groupama – FDJ stop Healy? The team have six men left, but with both Pinot and Armirail still in the top 11, they’ve only got 4 men to work. The “easiest” thing to do is to try and mark Healy, follow him everywhere he goes and try to disrupt breakaway attempts. If it fails, and Healy gets away, they can always resort to trying to chase it down, it should be a fascinating opening section of the race.
Once the break does get away, everyone will be looking at Jumbo-Visma to do the chasing. They have the team for this, but do they have the will? Once thing is certain, Passo Giau will be raced hard, which means the breakaway will need a big advantage at the foot of that climb. Will they be able to establish a big enough gap considering how fast the GC group will race the final 50km?
As I’ve said, Passo Giau is going to be significant, Jumbo-Visma will go hard up this climb and slim the bunch down. With small gaps between the top 3, I wonder who’ll be the most confident heading into the TT? The honest answer is I don’t know. Roglič was happy to attack today, he’s going to try something again as he’d like to be reduce his gap to Thomas before Saturday. Almeida lost time today, and as the final 3km features double-digit gradients, I think he’ll lose more time in this stage. Almeida has also previously shown weakness at high altitude, and as 64km of this stage takes place at over 1500m, it’s going to suit Roglič and Thomas more. For me, it’s a battle between Roglič and Thomas, may the best man win.
Geraint Thomas – hasn’t put a foot wrong in this race, he goes into the final 3 stages sitting in a brilliant position. Despite only having 5 riders left, Ineos are doing a brilliant job of controlling stages. This is a day where they can sit back and let others control, no way a GC threat gets in the break. With De Plus and Arensman to support, Thomas will have teammates all the way to the final 3km, then we’ll see if he can follow Roglič. With a lead of 29 seconds, he’ll be confident going into the TT, but any sign of weakness from him will weigh heavy on Saturday. Despite all his success in his career, winning the pink jersey would be huge.
Primož Roglič – it was brilliant to see him back on form today, but what happened near the top of the first climb? With Kuss by his side, and a final 3.6km averaging 12.4%, Roglič will fancy his chances. His improvement from Tuesday to Thursday was big, just imagine if he makes a similar improvement by tomorrow. With Saturday’s TT taking place on the Slovenian border, he’ll have all the motivation in the world to smash this stage and take time on Thomas.
Einer Rubio – 12th on GC, he should be going for the break. The steep climbs in this stage should suit him well, and he’ll hope to finish the day with a top 10 spot on GC and a stage win.
Ilan Van Wilder – should have been in today’s break, surely, he tries in this stage. He sits 13th in GC, there’s no point in simply rolling in with the GC riders and ending around the same spot. It’s time to throw caution to the wind and go for the break, no matter the consequences.
Santiago Buitrago – tried for today’s break, I think it’s the fourth time he’s tried without luck. With Caruso a little off in the GC fight, Bahrain will allow both Buitrago and Haig to go for the move. We’ll have to see if he’s got the legs to win, he’s not really shown it in the last week.
Lorenzo Fortunato – can’t get near a good breakaway, it’s hard when you’re just a small, little man. He needs all his team to help get him in the break, if he gets there, he’s actually got a decent chance of going for the win. As he’s only been in one break, Fortunato has a box full of matches left, either he uses them in this stage, or he goes home with a shit memory of this race.
Jumbo-Visma to control, the break will need something like 7 minutes at the foot of Passo Giau to survive, it’s up to try and build that advantage.
I’ll take a GC day and a win for Primož Roglič. I think he can drop Thomas and Almeida and set up a Slovenian Super Saturday!