It will be the last chance for anyone who would like the GC standings to change. Will we see a passive Astana and Movistar? Will we see yet another adventurous attempt from UAE? Most of the answers will be answered tomorrow, let’s see if we can predict them.
The stage tomorrow has 3977 climbing meters.
We have plenty of climbs tomorrow, yet, none of the are looking very threatening. Starting off with Puerto de Navacerrada, we have one of the hardest climb at the start. Either this is where the first big breakaway goes clear or a team puts the hammer down and hope chaos will favor them.
The second climb of the day is the Puerto de Navafría. About the same length as the first, yet lower gradients. Once again – it just doesn’t look like a spot for a lot of action.
Third big one is almost 7% average, but to be plainly honest, it is not very difficult. Most of the time still low gradients with a few steep inclines. You will benefit from just sitting on wheels. It is the last difficult climb, so I my best guess is fireworks here on the steep section in the center of 1km at 9.2%.
The last climb we will see is Puerto de Cotos. 10 km at 5.6%. Afterwards, we have 6.6 km of flat.
25 degrees, no wind and not a drop of rain.
How will the stage unfold?
The hardest climb of the day is the first. That means it is likely a big breakaway will form here and it will contain strong climbers. There is the other option, which means a group of GC men goes clear – but it is a long way of dragging Evenepoel to the line. I simply do not see how they can drop him.
We could see riders such as Arensman, O’Connor, Uran, Hindley and Meintjes fancy better overall GC standings when the day is done, but they are most likely going to be closed by Astana as we saw on stage 18, or UAE, if they do not go on the offensive. Nonetheless, it seems the tactic for Astana and Movistar is defensive. They are content with what they have. However, I could see Astana trying to have a go at Ayuso. They must try.
That means top 7-11 are likely being watched or followed tomorrow. Astana looks to be the team to light things up – when is difficult to say. I simply doubt Mas will try anything early.
Carapaz – I think he is given the chance to go for another stage win tomorrow. If rumors are true, they are looking to win the WT and I think the best chance of doing that is mix tomorrow’s stage with some help for Rodriguez (defensively) and use one or two riders to go for the stage win. Even in the even of the breakaway not winning, a late attack can be an option.
Pinot – look who made the breakaway on stage 18 – right when I didn’t think he could or would. Tomorrow has a climb very early in the stage, perfect for him to make sure he gets across. He has been on good form for quite a while now, so there is the chance of him fading in the third week – as he perhaps has a reputation for. Even in the even of the breakaway not winning, a late attack can be an option.
Higuita – looked good the other day, but I think I’ve seen him better. I think there is a high possibility he will be the only Bora – Hansgrohe rider in the breakaway, which will make it a bit harder for him. Nonetheless, the finish is flat – and he is one of the quickest in a flat sprint out of all the riders who have a chance tomorrow.
Carthy – climbing well, but the flat finish is not good news for him. He normally improves throughout a Grand Tour, and therefore I think he will be very difficult to get rid off tomorrow if he is in the breakaway.
Herrada – a medium mountain stage? Perfect news for him. We have seen just how quick he is in a flat sprint, something that will have him sit a bit on wheels tomorrow, but tactically wise so.
Verona – he is from this area of Spain and he has had a big breakthrough year. Most likely he will be working for Mas, but he has had a fantastic season and this is his type of stage, when he can really unfold the big engine.
Evenepoel – I don’t see them dropping him, he will keep the jersey.
Mas – not sure what to expect from Movistar. I hope to see them attacking, but it is more likely they will defend 2nd.
Lopez – in a spot where he either will be attacking or defending. Not a perfect stage for him – he will aim for the podium.
Ayuso – defending the podium tomorrow. UAE will have a long day defending from Astana and riders in 7th – 11th position.
⭐⭐⭐ Evenepoel, Pinot
⭐⭐ Mas, Carapaz, Carthy
⭐ Ayuso, Verona, Lopez, Herrada
Who will win?
I will take a stage win for Monster Higuita. He has the freedom and he has a very fast sprint in case of a reduced group sprint.