With the GC situation shaken, Evenepoel out of the GC and Covid-19 making an unwanted return, we head for the mountains. The stage has a flat start before the first HC climb of the day, Nufenenpass.
The climb is long, but I would not categorize it as 21.6 km at 5%. A more fair assessment would be 13.3 km at 8%. This is a proper climb. It goes all the way up to 2478 meters above sea level. At least the riders will find some colder temperatures up here.
The descent is tricky in the first half. Hairpins and very steep but the second half poses no threats. Will we see any GC team attacking here? It is a very long way out.
Following is a long flat section before a tunnel that messes up the profile. There is not a super-hill tomorrow, it is a tunnel, and it messes up the GPX most of the time. That means the next thing on the menu is the last climb.
The fireworks will happen here – on Moosalp. Almost 18 km at 7.5%. It eases a bit at the end – that means your move has to happen with more than 3 km left, otherwise, it can be harder to drop your rivals.
Five days of heat. We have seen what it can do to the riders. The wind will come from the west for most of the day. Not very strong winds, but it gives the rider a headwind on Nufenenpass. The first half should be with trees on both sides to help ease the impact of the wind, but the second half is on a bald spot. Even up there, it will be 18 degrees C.
Moving towards Mosalp, the riders have crosswinds up to 9 km/h. On the climb itself, a light headwind will meet the riders. With the hairpins, it is a mix of headwind and tailwind, but the trees should block the most of it.
The start will be warm, but once they move towards the Nufenenpass, the temperature will be around 20 degrees C from there to the finish line.
How will the stage unfold?
A lot of riders will be very happy to have a break from the heat. The question is, who will control the day and who wants a breakaway. Let’s try the xPless idea once again.
I must admit a few riders can win from the morning break. Masnada, Lutsenko, Izagirre and Covi to name a few. But I think three strong teams would like it to be a GC battle. The breakaway should form before the first HC climb meaning it will not contain many strong riders. There is also the problem of the long valley between the climb – it is never good for the breakaway.
It will be a GC day.
Vlasov (+ Higuita) – now defenders of the jersey. I do wonder if they will set up a train on the last climb, they have Schachmann, Grossschartner and Higuita – all of whom are brilliant climbers. There is talk about Vlasov being poor on longer climbs. To some extent, I can agree. 12th on Col du Turini in 2022, but 5th on Valdebore la Colmiane in 2021. I think he has been irregular in his performances on longer climbs, but he is on a different level this year, with a new team and new motivation. If he drops, which I would find a bit surprising, since I assume it is something they have worked on, they will look for Higuita, who sits just “16 behind him.
Fuglsang – haven’t seen him better in many years. He won on Valberg in Mercan’Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes – this climb is even longer. In his prime, not so many years back, the big problem would be the longer climbs when he had his attention set on the GC in Grand Tours. That makes me a bit nervous for tomorrow. But just like Vlasov, you can tell he is in very good form and has very good legs at the moment. That can carry you a long way.
Thomas (+ Martinez) – I think G is confident he can put time into the two others at the time trial, so do not expect him to attack. Normally, he just performs at Grand Tours, namely the Tour de France, but he is looking good. The big engine is good tomorrow and last season he had some very good results on long climbs in Catalunya and Romandie. Martinez is still just about 1 minute down. How will they play him? I do hope he has the same legs as we saw in the spring. He can put pressure everyone here. I’m not sure what they will do if Thomas is dropped. The best decision would be to let Martinez do his thing in order to have two cards. He just seems a few percent off the level he had in the spring.
Evenepoel – a mix of the heat and poor legs. It is not often Evenepoel says he has heavy legs. His result in Norway was impressive, but against prober top-list climbers, his result in Tirreno-Adriatico (Stage 3) was not impressive. Given his big engine, and light weight, he should on paper thrive on a climb such as this. Two minutes down, who will chase if the diamonds find there way back into his legs? It is not over for Evenepoel, but only he can turn things around.
Carthy – Yes, Hugh Carthy. He finished the Giro d’Italia off well and worked a lot for Uran and Powless today. Tomorrow is just a stage that calls to him. With Powless and Uran closer in the GC, it opens up for a late move. It seems like the team is going for a stage win – and he is not a big threat, sitting 2’39 down Vlasov.
Pozzovivo – the Proffessor will be up there again tomorrow. It is a good climb for him with steep gradients. He will sit at the back and pass riders falling out the back.
Lutsenko – sat up when the attacks started. Saving himself? With scratches on legs and arms I think he will just get through the day – but on his very best days, he can pull something big off. He has the engine to go in the break on the flat.
Masnada – Evenepoel duty? When Masnada is going well, he is a top-climber. Sitting more than 9-minutes down, he has the freedom to chase his own win. Only Quick-Step will know their own plan, but potentially he could be a big favorite to win from the breakaway.
Izagirre – Up there with the best as he finally adapted to the heat. More than 30 minutes down, he poses no threat. Will he hang around the GC riders hoping for a good timing to attack of will he try further out?
Who will win?
It is difficult with so many inconsistent riders on longer climbs tomorrow. I will go out on a limb and take a win for Hugh Carthy. I can’t pinpoint one I think is the best on this sort of climb, therefore I’m going with someone who can benefit from not being a threat in the GC.