Monthey > Leukerbad 153km
After today’s brilliant win, Mattias Skjelmose is in the race lead, but Evenepoel and Ayuso aren’t too far behind. We now have big gaps on GC, some will be eyeing up a win from the break, will any of the GC teams chase from the peloton?
Sunny and fairly hot.
After just a few weeks away, Crans-Montana is back, but from a different side.
This is the start of the cat 1 climb, 8.1km at 7.9% is hard, but cresting with 15km to go could put riders off attacking. A short descent follows, before the road rises again.
This is the section up to the KOM point, which comes with just 3.5km to go. Notice the double-digit section in the final 500m, perfect for those wanting to attack and not wait for a sprint. The road then does downhill for 2km, before the final 1.2km averages 5.5%. If you remember the finish from previous editions, the riders re-join the usual route with 600m to go. If it ends in a small sprint, a good position for the roundabout with 400 to go is vital.
Who will chase the break? Trek-Segafredo might want to, but I don’t think they’ve got the team to do so. Soudal – Quick Step should be interested for Evenepoel and UAE for Ayuso, but they disappointed today, some riders were clearly still sore from the crash on Monday. The good news for the GC teams is the flat start, but this won’t be like today, more riders will want to try and make the move.
I would also expect Ineos to work in this stage. They have Sheffield and Pidcock finish well today, as the final rise to the line is “only” 5.5%, this is a stage they’ll have an interest in.
The gaps on GC are quite big, even in the top 20, which is perfect for those a little down to launch an attack. The good news for those trying this approach is the lack of domestiques in today’s finale. If something similar happens in this stage, the final 10km will be chaotic.
Mattias Skjelmose – today’s win was brilliant, the biggest of his career. This is another stage that suits him well, he has a very fast sprint finish, but it won’t be easy. As he’s now in the race lead, all eyes will be on him, and I think he’ll be isolated in the final 15km. The good news is only five men are within 1 minute of him, he doesn’t have to follow all the attacks, he can allow others to chase those sitting further down the top 10. If he plays his cards right, the stage will end in a sprint, and he’ll fancy his chances of a second win.
Remco Evenepoel – tested his legs today but came up a little short. I did think he wouldn’t be at his best and that’s clear to see, but what will happen as the race progresses? He could improve with racing in the legs, but he could also have a bad day as he’s not ready for consecutive mountain stages. It would be wise for him to ride a negative race and wait for a sprint, he finished very fast today. This isn’t his natural style; we’ll have to wait and see if he changes his approach.
Juan Ayuso – looked in trouble for much of the early slopes of today’s final climb but seemed to ride into it and ended strongly. Just like Remco, it doesn’t look like he’s at his best, but he’s another who could get stronger with every passing stage. Ayuso has a very fast sprint, I’m not sure who would win out of the three riders already mentioned.
Felix Gall – another strong effort today, he really is enjoying a fine season. This finish isn’t great for him, he should look to attack near the crest of the cat 1 climb and try to get away from the faster finishers. He’s also a little down on GC, not someone that Skjelmose must follow.
Magnus Sheffield – of all the performances today, he surprised me the most. We all know he’s a good TT rider and can handle punchy climbs, but this was the first time he impressed on a big mountain, a positive sign for the future. He’ll hope to hang in on and battle for the stage win.
Tom Pidcock – he finished 47 seconds down today, not a bad performance by him. His chances in this stage depend on how the bunch ride the two cat 1 climbs, he’ll hope they are done steady, and the stage ends in a GC sprint, much like it did when Ulissi won here. The issue is the opening slopes of the final cat 1 climb, it looks perfect for the stronger climbers to attack.
Romain Grégoire – the young Frenchman has a lightning-fast sprint, but just like Pidcock, it all depends on how the GC riders approach the final climb. If he’s around for the finish, he’d be very hard to beat.
Sébastien Reichenbach – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Lilian Calmejane – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Given that the domestiques are still fresh, I think the break will be chased down, setting up a GC finish.
I think we’re likely to see a sprint of some kind, possibly from a group of 10-15 riders. If that happens, I think Tom Pidcock will take the win.