Pszczyna > Bielsko Biala 199km
Ever since introducing this finish to the race in 2018, the organisers have continued to come back and use it time after time, apart from last year. We’ve had a mixed bag of winners over the years: Kwiatkowski, Mezgec, Carapaz and Arndt. It’s a very grippy finish, but this year the organisers have made the rest of the stage much harder, this is a big chance for some GC riders to make a difference before the time trial.
Another cloudy day with a chance of rain.
This is the 2nd cat 1 climb of the day, it’s the steepest one and will help to put some fatigue in the legs.
Next up it’s this climb, which is done before the riders head to the finishing circuit. The length of the climb is the main difficulty, many riders will be dropped if someone wants to up the pace.
This is the circuit which the riders do three times to finish the race. The rise to the line is 2.3km at 4% into a headwind, it is very grippy and last time up many riders find themselves with no legs in the sprint, but the descent shouldn’t be underestimated. Riders can hit silly speeds; positioning is very important in the final lap.
Mohorič is in the race lead, he sits 10 seconds ahead of the UAE duo, Majka and Almeida, but is that enough with a 16.6km ITT still to come? Almeida will fancy his chances of beating Mohorič by more than that, it means that the Slovenian could really do with gaining more time in this stage, but it won’t be easy. The worry for Bahrain is the presence of Majka, he gives UAE a great attacking option, Bahrain are likely to come under pressure in this stage. They’ve got a good team, but a lot of the covering work will have to be done by Caruso in the closing stages, and he can’t cover everything.
Given the race situation, this opens the door to someone sitting 5th – 20th on GC to attack and go for the stage win. Every time we’ve been here, the stage has ended in a sprint, Carapaz pulled a fast one in 2021 by attacking just before the sprint finish. With UAE and Bahrain locked in a fight for the stage and GC, there are a few riders who’ll look to benefit by attacking before the final lap and seeing if they can stay away and take the win.
If it does end in a sprint, it’s a very hard one. With 3168m of climbing in the legs, the rider who wins will have a lot of strength in the legs, and there could be a surprise, it’s not an easy finish to get right. Stages 2 and 3 will be used as good reference points, but this stage finishes on a 4% ramp, which is totally different to the other GC days.
Matej Mohorič – it’s another stage that suits him very well, but being in the race lead brings an added complication for him, as he might need to cover a few moves himself in the final lap. The descending in the circuit is good for him, I wonder if he’ll throw caution to the wind and attack himself, looking to put UAE and Ineos under pressure. I doubt he will, he knows that he’s got a good chance of winning this stage from a sprint.
Michał Kwiatkowski – he’s won here before, and Ineos always do well in this stage, they know how to win here. He’ll have been a little frustrated on Monday, he seemed to be blocked by Majka in the closing metres, he’d love to win this stage and gain some time before the TT. Kwiato has always had a fast sprint, he’ll hope his team can help get him in a great spot for the final kilometre.
UAE – Majka to go long (he’s not too far from home), Almeida to wait for the sprint. Despite being the best mountain climber out of those already mentioned, I think this flatter finish is good for Almeida, he’s got a very fast finish and will be happy with the shallower gradient in the final two kilometres.
Ilan Van Wilder – very consistent this week, but I think he needs to go early if he wants to take the win.
Eddie Dunbar – exactly the type of rider who could try a Carapaz.
Marijn van den Bergh – he climbed very well on Monday, he was right up there near the end of the final climb, eventually finishing in 14th. He’s a sprinter who seems to be getting better and better at climbing, but even still, winning this stage would take an enormous ride. Only one sprinter has won here before, and that was an easier stage, and a shorter run to the finish. If van den Bergh wins this stage, everyone better sit up and take notice.
UAE have the options in this stage.
I’ll take a win for João Almeida, I think the finish suits him well.