They have brought back the finish from the past editions, Alto del Castillo. It is not a stage with a lot of climbing meters. There is a category 1 climb halfway through the stage, I could imagine quite a few would want to take the points at the top.
They are going counter-clockwise all day.
Alto del Castillo
It is a finish that has been used before. It is vital to be positioned well when they take the right turn onto the climb itself. Grossschartner was positioned around 10th position in 2020 and just attacked at the bottom. The other favorites had used their domestiques to get on the climb in a good position and people were either looking at each other or poorly positioned. In 2021, Bardet tried to do the same but a small group got away and we saw a small group sprint. Most importantly, and in both cases, the position is key. Secondly, I think it is too hard for pure sprinters.
A day with almost no wind. It will be boiling hot, 34 degrees C.
How will the stage unfold?
My first concern is who will control the stage. The most obvious teams are the ones with a candidate for the stage win. This include, Movistar (Valverde) and UAE (Almeida). These are the two fastest GC contenders in an uphill sprint. Then the question is if Quick-Step thinks Ballerini can be a part of the finale, he did very well in Tour de Wallonie last week but I think that is about it. It is a very weak field tomorrow for this type of finish.
That means the morning breakaway stands a chance. I think most will look towards Movistar, but I would not be surprised to see INEOS join them. When they reach the last climb, a team will launch an attack and put everyone into difficulty. If the pace is low, someone will attack and force a reaction from someone in the group.
Almeida – I do hope UAE Team Emirates will ride the stage for him, everything else would be foolish. DNF in San Sebastian is not a very good sign, to begin with, but with Trentin to position him ahead of the finishing ramp, he has a very good lead-out man. On the climb, he must finish it himself. Rui Costa can help to some extent, but the stage explodes when they hit the ramp.
Valverde – the old veteran should do well on this climb. I am not sure if they will ride for him but they should. Garcia Cortina and Matteo Jorgensen are two strong riders who can position him well at the bottom. He has the routine to take win on a stage like this.
Hindley – is my pick for Bora – Hansgrohe, but Kelderman is not half bad at these type of finishes. Hindley can sprint rather well but I am not sure he will be able to win the stage. The gap to Almeida and Valverde is too high.
Oular – a top-10 contender.
Aberasturi – a top-10 contender.
Ballerini – his performance in Belgium was good but his stage win came after a long day in the breakaway. Given his form, he should be one of the sprinters who should be able to survive.
⭐⭐ Almeida, Kelderman
⭐ Oular, Aberasturi, Ballerini
Who will win?
A win for Valverde.