The uphill finish in Laguardia saw a demonstration by Roglic, who was telling the press he was not feeling 100% before the start. Tomorrow, more climbing is to be made – a stage I think suits the breakaway a bit more.
The stage has 2741 climbing meters and two difficult ascends of Alto de Vivero in the finale.
Starting in Irun, a city that has seen it’s fair share of history, especially during the Napoleonic Wars and the Spanish Civil War. Moving to Bilbao after a lumpy ride, they end the stage near the biggest city in the region.
A very easy start to the day, below are the first 60.5 km. It is rouleur terrain and not perfect at all for a strong breakaway to form. We will have to see if it takes a while or if the elastic will snap quite early again. I was a bit surprised by the lack of people wanting to join the morning move, they must have been saving their legs for something else.
The middle section of the stage sees more climbing. Remember, they are heading west. The three climbs are not very difficult – the first two are just above 4 km and 5%, while the one furthest away with 70 km to go is 8.1km at 3.6%.
The finale in Bilbao sees 1.5 laps of a circuit. Double Alto de Vivero and two ascends. The profile below goes from the first time crossing the line to the finish. The run-in to Alto de Vivero, despite they come from two different directions is quite similar.
The profile starts at the finish line. The first 10 km are flat, with big roads. When heading on to the climb, the road gets narrow. Poor roads make the climb even harder. You can’t find a rhythm on it. Constantly changing from 6% to above 10%. A short climb in minutes – around 10 minutes.
The descent to the line is not very technical, but it is high-paced, so timing everything to perfection – or knowing it well, is certainly a bonus.
Another day with almost no wind and very hot.
How will the stage unfold?
It will be up to making the right choice regarding Jumbo-Visma. Protecting the jersey at all costs seems foolish, but as mentioned yesterday, Affini, Dennis and Teunissen can do a proper job closing down moves to dangerous. The first week allows for a larger rope for the breakaway. They will not sail away and win by 10 minutes. In both 2020 and 2021, they let it go in the first week.
Who could possibly help them? Remove all thoughts on sprinters instantly here. INEOS are the likely choice. They have had a big success of late when racing aggressively on short, steep climbs. They have five men within 33 seconds, four of them being Sivakov, Tao G, Carapaz and Rodriguez. I highly doubt they want to do a lot of work to try and drop Roglic on a 10-minute climb.
Next up are the Wolfpack. Evenepoel looked for Alaphilippe but he is not 100%. Everyone behind the Belgian now. It is in his nature to attack and he is one of the best in these efforts. Look back at his effort on Erlaitz in San Sebastian. He is the most likely to succeed in attacking – but I think Roglic can keep up with him (as the only one). I doubt he will attack the first ascend – too many helpers on the other teams, but he will attack the second time.
How big will the gap for the breakaway be here? They will likely start racing when they get closer to the laps. If we have eight or more riders, they could easily have 4+ minutes. If they do, I think the amount of descending will favor the breakaway. On the other hand, the valleys are not great for the breakaway. It is a difficult call.
Roglic – he will not be easy to get rid of. We all know his sprint, we all know his punch. If you try to beat him traditionally, only a few riders can do so – and none of them are here. They must try to isolate him – he does not have the best team with him. Only then will they crack him, in theory. Will it be tomorrow? I doubt it.
Evenepoel – the one we know will attack and only Roglic should be able to follow him. I could see Quick-Step pick up the speed on the circuit and Evenepoel is likely to attack tomorrow. He will beat most on a sprint, but his trademark is solo wins.
INEOS – plenty of cards, but which to play? A bit like me playing “spit” with people from Ireland for the first time. Is it a controlling high pace tomorrow or using their numbers? I think they will play it safe, they most often do in Grand Tours. They will have some options to play on the descent but it is not very technical. Carapaz is the captain, but Sivakovs form is off the charts.
Hindley – best man for Bora on short, steep climbs. I highly doubt he will win, but I would be surprised to see him lose a lot too. Higuita is an option too, but he seems to have a hard time with the heat.
Simon Yates – let’s see what his ambitions are, sometimes it is very hard to guess. On a good day, he could follow the best, on his worst – well, he will drop 10 minutes. His form is giving me a hunch that he will go well.
Almeida – I think the biggest problem will be the heat. On Lagunas de Neila (Vuelta a Burgos), he did a very good short-intense ride and won the stage. If they bring him to the line, he is a tough one to beat.
Molard – breakaway option #1. Did well in Tour de l’Ain. He also has the power to make the break on the flat.
Sweeny – breakaway option #2. Another one who climbed very well in Tour de l’Ain. The flat start is perfect for him but I fear the climb is on his limit.
Stannard – won Ethias-Tour de Wallonie a month ago. He lost a lot of time today, meaning either saving himself or having a hard time with the heat. Otherwise, Jay Vine should be a good option for the team.
⭐⭐⭐ Evenepoel, Almeida
⭐⭐ Hindley, Yates, Carapaz
⭐ Molard, Sweeny, Stannard, Sivakov
Who will win?
My first thought was a breakaway win, but tomorrow could bring more havoc than I thought. The gradients of the climb do not draw a good picture of its difficulty of it. Either INEOS or Quick-Step will help chase tomorrow – likely with Movistar or Bora-Hansgrohe again.
Therefore, I see another GC day with Roglic taking another win.