Another day that could suit both the morning breakaway and the GC men. The Sierra de la Pendara is a Vuelta classic with narrow roads and rough tarmac.
The stage has 3312 climbing meters.
This is the first half of the stage. It is quite flat. Still, the first 80.4 km have close to 1000 climbing meters, but they are well hidden. We have a few hills at the very start but nothing major. It looks like the rouleurs or the climbers with slingshot opportunities have the best chance of getting in the breakaway.
In the middle section, there is a bit of climbing to be done. Only one of these two is categorized and not very difficult. It does look like a real fuga de la fuga area if there are teams with a numerical advantage who want to put some of the favorites to work.
The last climb, Sierra de la Pandera. It has two sections with a plateau in between. How hard is it? Let’s compare it to the mountain top finishes we have seen before in this race. If we see any sort of big attack, it would make the most sense to see it on the steepest section (1.4 km at 12.3%). The last important detail is the corner with close to nothing left of the stage. In a sprint of two, you want to be the first in and out of the corner.
The wind blows from the west today which means tailwind and crosswind for most of the day. It will be sunny and warm yet again.
How will the stage unfold?
We have 35 riders abandoning, and that means we have a relatively small peloton compared to a large set of riders, who do want to win or help a teammate win, from the early breakaway. We know Quick-Step is on park-the-bus mode, it is just about getting Evenepoel as fresh and safe to the bottom of the finale hill.
The other teams know, that pushing it on the flat will likely be a poor tactic, as Evenepoel doesn’t mind it. That means, they do not really have an option to start racing offensively until we hit the final climb. Even then, they have to take into consideration, that they are climbing the Sierra Nevada tomorrow. I think we could see the GC riders taking it a bit slow before the big showdown tomorrow.
Carapaz – the climb tomorrow is very similar to the climb he won a few days ago. He is a diesel and making the break should be no issue. He played it very smart in the finale on stage 12, but the others will look at him now as he has shown his strength. Therefore, I think it would be the smartest of him to make a difference on the steep section and use the same determination to win another stage.
Pinot – FDJ did not make the break on stage 12, a real bummer since it had 32 men up the road. Today, they will be more focused and the tailwind start is better for Pinot. FDJ should approach the stage with sending as many people in the breakaway as possible and control the points where la fuga de la fuga normally would open up and have Pinot make the difference on the climb.
Vine – I was surprised to see him dropping so early on stage 12, but everyone has a bad day. I would expect the team to send a few riders up the road with him and have them control it as well. He does not need to show his hand too early. The question is, if he has burned too many matches. I doubt it.
Taaramae – he is very good at getting in the breakaways when the stage has a flat start. He has a big engine but I think there will be a few climbers better than him in the breakaway. He must try and go at a moment when people are looking at each other and hope he can build up a gap too big to reel back in.
Bora-Hansgrohe – they have a few options. Hindley perhaps sits a little close in the GC, I do not think he will find it easy to join a morning break with a flat start, and I think a few teams will be concerned. I think Higuita is the team’s best option, but it is difficult to say just how well he is going and I do not think he enjoys the heat.
EF – they got a few options too. I do think Padun is their best option with the flat start. Carthy had some luck in the Giro d’Italia where he made the morning break with a flat start too. He can make a big difference on the short and steep sections too. Chaves is the second best option if you ask me,
Lucas Hamilton – as mentioned a few days ago, he has a carte blanche and a team that should invest getting him up the road. He climbed with the best in the Giro d’Italia on some of the easier GC days. He is still vastly underrated by a big proportion of people. He went in the breakaway on stage 8, but had nothing to show. I hope he has only improved.
Soler – the man you can’t get rid of. One his best day, few can beat him, but he really does struggle when the attacks come. He will pace himself, but I think there will be one or two better climbers in the breakaway. If he can limit the damage on the steep gradients, he stands a good chance.
Ellisonde – it will be difficult for him to get in the breakaway, but he climbed fantastically in Vuelta a Burgos. If he makes the breakaway, I think he has a good chance of making a great result for himself.
⭐⭐⭐ Padun, Carapaz
⭐⭐ Taaramae, Soler, Vine
⭐ Ellisonde, Chaves, L. Hamilton, Higuita
Who will win?
I think the French team will not make the same mistake twice. A win for Pinot.