I do not remember being more confused before the last mountain stage of a grand tour. I mean, who is the best of Landa, Hindley and Carapaz right now? We both know two things, Landa and Hindley – they need time and with Porte out of the equation, Carapaz is in for a long day in the Alps. We are going up tomorrow. Up the alps with mountaintops higher than 2000 altitude meters. The stage has a total of 4490 climbing meters.
The three climbs and two descents.
The first climb. Passo San Pellegrino. It is manageable in the first half but the last 5.6 km at 9.2% will already feel like daggers after three weeks of racing.
The descent is perhaps the easiest one I have seen in the last three weeks. Note, that this is 3D below – and the road is wide.
The next one. This one goes up 2239 meters above sea level.
This is going down. Absolute scenery it is going to be, both from a racing and scenic perspective. Plenty of hairpins, but they can see how most corners end and time their turns better.
Passo Fedaia. The last mountain. I think it is fairer to say it starts when the gradients go up. That is 5.6 km at 11.2%.
Another day with almost no wind whatsoever. It will be cold on the mountain tops but around 13-14 degrees C throughout the day. It looks like they will hit some rain too in the afternoon, but not a lot.
How will the stage unfold?
There last 100 km will be a joy to watch. If you think it is boring we still have three potential winners, then I do not know why you watch the sport. Most often, we know the winner at this point – I find that very boring. We do not know which one of them will be the best tomorrow.
We have three climbs. Two of them are difficult and one is difficult descent. We have two valleys too I have not mentioned, between the climbs. The first is almost 20 km and the other is almost the same. It is not good news for the breakaway at all. The flat start is not good either.
I think Bora or Bahrain will try something on the first climb. If they wait for the last, it would be a big gamble. Porte is out of the game – get rid of the helpers, it must be the first priority. The big thing is, who will they have to push in the valleys to keep them away? If Bora and Bahrain work together, I think Carapaz can be isolated, or close to, by the last climb.
Here one must forget about tactics. It will be the legs doing the talking. If they have the legs, they will make a difference. We will likely have a break up the road but the flat start is not ideal. We will have to see if some climbers have been slingshot up there.
It has got to be a day for the GC. I expect Bahrain or Bora-Hansgrohe to do their duty and make it hard from the first climb.
Carapaz – it is time to defend the jersey. A big hit came today as the lost Porte due to illness. INEOS decided to spend energy on the last climb, a bit of a weird tactic when we know what’s to come tomorrow. We will have to see, it shows Carapaz is feeling well – perhaps it was a signal to the rivals they were going for.
Hindley – it does not look like he is breathing at the moment. Stellar form. He looked good on the steep slopes of Torino but he will need time tomorrow. How much, I do not know but they will want the bonus seconds too. I think he will need at least 20-30 seconds in total on Carapaz and that means going all out and not looking back.
Landa – is in no mans land. Four minutes down to Nibali, it should be easy to defend. He will need to attack and hope the others will play their own game. They have the option to push it on the descent from Pordoi – I think we will see the move there. Get a satellite rider up the road, Poels or Buitrago, to have someone pull for him and Bilbao. Risk everything is what he must do if he wants to win the Maglia Rosa.
Hirt – a very good rider on steep slopes. One of the best in the world for this type of finish.
Carthy – his type of stage. Another very good rider on steep gradients.
Who will win?
Jai Hindley. I think he is looking very the strongest. Tomorrow is the day he must go all out and he has the best sprint of the three, in case it comes down to it.