We are almost at the end of it. The last few days. I think this will be the calm before the storm stage. There are two ways the stage can go, a reduced bunch sprint with sprinters hoping to cling on, or a breakaway fiesta – likely the last one if you ask me. The stage has 2278 climbing meters and is merely 139 km long.
If you did not spot it already – it is a circuit. And for crying out loud, it is wonderful to see a climb early in the stage. They have not been very common in any of the Grand Tours this season. That is definitely an advantage for the breakaway.
This is almost similar to the first lap, this is just a bit longer as I’ve included the finish. A long flat run up north, before the climb and the descent. The climb is not that difficult, and the climb ends 42.5 km from the finish line, making it harder for the breakaway to stay away – if there are teams willing to control the day.
It is difficult to say when it starts. In reality, it is 18.2 km at 4.1%. I think the roadbook does a fair point at leaving it 8.9 km at 6%. Not an easy one, but a difficult one to make a difference.
Not the most difficult one with the last roundabout being just over 1 km out.
Hot and not very windy.
How will the stage unfold?
Tomorrow is another hard to get down perfectly. Those are my favorite days. We have seen Cofidis and Trek-Segafredo willing to do the dirty work. Coquard is now missing and Mads P crashed today but he looked okay. We could see BEX riding for Groves, but we are at the end of the mans first Grand Tour – I doubt he will have much left. As mentioned the other day, Ackermann can do well but his team will not be setting him up and I really doubt Bora-Hansgrohe will work for Van Poppel. It looks like Trek vs the rest and that will be difficult. Merlier? He just doesn’t have it at the moment and if a team with a sprinter paces the climb hard, he will fall out the back.
The early climb and the short stage is perfect for the breakaway. Everyone will be tired, and Trek will have another chance in Madrid. We could see them wanting to control it from the breakaway – it may even be the best choice.
Mads Pedersen – He has the option to go for it in the morning breakaway or a bunch sprint. I’m learning towards a breakaway tomorrow, so I do hope that is what Trek-Segafredo wants as well. He crashed today and he may be fine, but you never really now how well the body responds to it in the morning. I will be a great win to end his season, as I think there will be quicker riders for the finish in Madrid.
Fred Wright – it’s about time. He seems like the type of rider who just needs that one victory to really break through. As Bahrain-Victorious are out of the GC, I do expect to see them up there in numbers tomorrow. Is the climb too difficult for him? I wouldn’t say so. He will beat most in a sprint too.
Champoussin – is getting better and better. He can do about anything when he is in good shape, both climbing and sprinting from a small group. I expect him and AG2R to throw everything they have towards the breakaway and hope for a good result.
Luis Leon Sanchez – He is keeping up the good results, staying in front groups until the deep finale. He must be going well and it is the engines and routined riders that often take away these wins. He is not as quick as he used to, but having him and Fred Wright in the breakaway provide the team with two options – attacking and sprinting.
Jesus Herrada – he is enjoying a fantastic Vuelta. He should be one of the best on the climb tomorrow, a perfect medium mountain with a steady gradient. In a sprint, he is quick – even on the flat.
Craddock – he seems to be going better than ever and his TT skillset can come in handy tomorrow. We know he likes to go from afar and tomorrow, that will be very far out.
Ackermann – I’ve never seen him climb this well, but tomorrow is a harder climb than the short, punchy ones.
Van Poppel – he will hope it comes down to a reduced bunch sprint, here he will be one of the favorites.
Impey – a good looking stage for him, I do hope he has some energy left.
Teunissen – I wonder just how well he can cope with the climb tomorrow. I think he will be a positive surprise.
⭐⭐⭐ Pedersen, Herrada
⭐⭐ Luis Leon Sanchez, Champoussin, Impey
⭐ Craddock, Van Poppel, Ackermann, Teunissen
Who will win?
I will take a breakaway win for Fred Wright.