The timing for a crack in Evenepoel’s armor couldn’t come at a better point if we want a shake-up in the GC. Today, they take on the Sierra Nevada, finishing 2515m above sea level. The stage has 4018 climbing meters.
47 km from the line, they hit this climb. It is difficult and it will most likely be where the first teams want to test Evenepoel and his teammates. It is also a cat-1 climb, meaning there will be a big fight for points at the top.
After a short descent and a false flat, it is time for the most demanding climb in this Vuelta. The first 4.6 km are a prober wall, while the rest of the climb is 6.9% for 14.7 km.
How difficult is it compared to the previous mountain top finishes?
I’ve taken the 2nd week climbs as they have been longer than in the first week. I have aligned the start (Sierra de la Pendara was stage 14), so it does not take into account the stage finishing in high altitude. It is a monster of a climb.
A small breeze from the west gives a cross-tailwind for most of the day. On the Sierra Nevada, it looks like a headwind in the first half and a crosswind in the second half. It is what I call a bald mountain more or less which means the wind can be even tougher than they normally forecast. Nonetheless, I think we will see GC action.
How will the stage unfold
I think it is a GC day. Lopez, Mas, Almeida, Rodriguez and Roglic have spotted a chance to crack Evenepoel. Therefore, I expect them and their teams, to make it as hard as possible for as long as possible uphill. That seems to be the best way to crack him.
A breakaway will sense a chance too. You must be an insane climber to win tomorrow, therefore they should hope the breakaway form on the first categorized climb 27.5 km into the stage. If that happens, they could build up a gap and I can see teams wanting a satellite rider or two up the road.
Nonetheless, the climb is prestigious and in my opinion the best and the last stage to put Evenepoel into trouble.
Lopez – Superman will be the favorite today and he should be. He is the best climber above what is likely 50 minutes. After his performance yesterday, it will be difficult not to have him as one of the riders to beat on this stage. He sits a fair bit of time down meaning he will not be the first they respond to. On the other hand, the climb is not as steep and that will make it harder to get rid off some of the other top climbers here.
Roglic – he smells blood. It is not over until it is over, as he once said himself. JV know this is the day to attack, and they will. Roglic is not half-bad on long climbs – he is almost always in 2nd place behind Lopez on the 50 minutes+ climbs. I think there is a chance of him taking the red jersey.
UAE – Almeida is getting better and better, but I do not think it is a climb that suits him particularly well. As for Ayuso, I am very impressed by him, but I have a hunch it is just a matter of time before he starts declining. It has been a fantastic GT by him so far, but he doesn’t look as fresh as he did in the first week.
Rodriguez – the other Spaniard, who has impressed. I do hope the team get behind him, he is the new generation coming in to take over from the old guard. Today is a stage where satellite riders could be valuable, and here INEOS should have options. As for today, I am unsure how well he goes on longer climbs.
Mas – he is like a fine wine when it comes to Grand Tours, he just gets better over time. I would expect him to be the best tomorrow after Roglic and Lopez.
Evenepoel – what has he got left in the tank? It is completely new territory for him. He went into this week and almost cemented the GT was over, but it still looks like his weakness is climbing longer than 40 minutes. He will be under attack today and he will hope he can respond better. He should look at the climb as a long TT-
Arensman – I do have a good feeling about him today. I think the 7% average gradient is good news for him. He has slowly grown accustomed to the heat and he pulled off a fantastic result yesterday. If we see the same Arensman here as we saw in the last week of the Giro d’Italia, he will jump into the top-10. I do hope he gets in the breakaway and by God DSM should not have him returned to the bunch again.
Vine – breakaway contender #1. Lots of polka points.
Pinot – breakaway contender #2. He has missed a fair few breaks now, but the cat-3 should help him today.
Carthy – breakaway contender #3. He is one of the purest climbers out there. Otherwise, Padun has done really well on long climbs in the past.
⭐⭐⭐ Mas, Roglic
⭐⭐ Evenepoel, Rodriguez, Arensman
⭐ UAE-duo, Carthy, Pinot, Vine
Who will win?
I will take a stage win for Lopez.