One of the best-organized stages of the whole race calendar two years in a row. You may think the GC is settled, I’m here to tell you otherwise. This is by far the most important GC day, and it starts after only 40 km of racing. Almost 3500 climbing meters in 135.7 km after five very difficult days. We have some of the same climbs from last year, Krabelin and Uzarta but they have added Endoia ahead of the Azurki and added a small change before Arrate.
Endoia and Azurki (95.5 – 76.5 km left)
Endoia and Azurki are where the fireworks begin. After 37.5 km of racing, it is first the Endoia – 5.5 km at 6.5%, with the first 2.25 km at 11.4%. The descent to Azurki is quite easy. Azuki is 5.5 km at 7.7%. Like the former climb, it is not steady. A middle section of 2 km at 11.1%. The following descent is on narrow roads and a bit more tricky.
Azkoita (73 – 56.5 km including the descent)
A steady climb, but still long. I do not imagine a lot of GC damage to be made here.
The descent afterward does have a few switchbacks. We saw a split in the peloton here last time and Pogacar missed it. It can be a key point.
Krabelin (44 km – 30 km left including the descent).
A steep, steep one! This is where Roglic, Carthy and Gaudu wrestled themselves free from the other favorites last year.
Narrow roads on their way down. But quite easy, and very quick!
Usartza (6.8 km – finish)
This is including the plateau. More accurately, it is 4.5 at 8.8%.
The wind will be fairly irrelevant at 3 m/s. The rain will not. There will be rain in the morning near Endoia and Azurki and around Eiber at noon. It means wet descents. It looks like the rain will stop at 13:00, an hour before the stage starts. Wet descends, but 11 degrees C.
How will the stage unfold?
Now that’s a tricky one! The GC will start their fight early. No time for INEOS or Jumbo-Visma to wait for Krabelin or Usartza. The question is, who will have the most riders in the peloton after that section?
Quick-Step: Alaphilippe, Evenepoel and Vansevenant. Knox and Devenyns potentially.
INEOS: Everyone aside Fraile is my guess.
Jumbo-Visma: Roglic, Vingegaard, Kuss.
Bora: Vlasov, Buchmann. Potentially Higuita and Kämna.
Likely to be alone? Mas, Bilbao and Gaudu. It will make it very hard for those three to win.
INEOS should have the most options. The first objective must be to get rid of Remco Evenepoel. It will happen eventually. Afterward, it gets tricky. The main objective must be to defend the jersey. Too many riders are still a threat in the GC and the rest of the team are over a minute and can not just cover moves – that means a stage win, but not a GC win. They must maintain their numerical advantage but as long as they got helpers for Martinez, I’m not sure a lot of teams will help.
I think we see a GC group working relatively well until Krabelin, then all hell breaks loose.
Martinez <– INEOS are all in for him now. With the strongest team in the race, they should be able to defend the jersey. Yates should be able to help him deep into the finale. For him, it is the jersey and therefore he will have to respond to a lot of moves in the latter half if my theory of Remco getting dropped is true.
Roglic & Vingegaard. It is time to unleash Roglic. You may call me a fool, but I don’t buy Roglic “I do not feel well”, smirking and winking at the camera. Everyone is tired, and he has been wise to conserve energy. 1’15 is hard to gain back, but he will try. I wonder if the roles have reversed, meaning Vingegaard is trying to conserve energy and Roglic will try from afar.
Vlasov has a good team around him, which is very good news. We do not have any major efforts tomorrow, another good thing. He crashed today, due to Vingegaard falling in the final sprint. How much has it affected him? We will find out tomorrow.
Bilbao is good on days like these. Long efforts, just a hard day. He has troubles with the accelerations but the man has a big engine and is a good descender. I do think Bilbao will do well tomorrow.
Mas is the same type of rider as Bilbao. A very good stage for him. Just a hard day overall and no time to rest, it suits him a lot.
Ion Izagirre is going very well. Wet descends are his specialty. I can’t remember when I last saw him in this shape, he will be tough to drop but I doubt he can win.
Gaudu is the man flying under the radar. Strong on these steep gradients and sly like a fox. He will be isolated tomorrow which means he needs to get up the road. It could cost him the stage win, which he took here last year.
Lafay, Woods, Guerreiro and Polanc as breakaway contenders – though highly unlikely.
Who will win?
For me it is simple. Primoz Roglic. Why? For once he is not a big GC threat. Secondly, he was the best rider here last year. Thirdly, even more climbing meters and the others will look at Vingegaard. Let’s see if he has been playing games with the Twitter community, I certainly think he has.