It will not be an easy first stage for the riders. 4000 meters on climbing on the menu, with the most difficult one being near the end. It is a big task for any rider this early in the season.
There are two smaller climbs at the very start of the stage. They could be used as launchpads for an early breakaway because who will take control of the stage?
It is not an easy day to control, as there are multiple climbs. The most difficult one might be the one in the middle of the stage, Puerto de Navalperal (8.1 km at 6.9%).
The more important climb to determine the stage winner is Despiernacaballos. It is regular but with small dips. It comes after two very sharp right hand corners. Usually, we could expect a bunch sprint for the corners, but the peloton is likely very reduced.
It is near the hairpins when the going gets tough and the tough gets going. 2.4 km at 8.8%.
It is flat after the crest of Despiernacaballos. It means the strongest likely will extend their gap (if they work together!). The descent is not rolling, there are sections where the pedal has to turn. Inside the last 1.5 km, it is a bit more tricky with corners. It is a downhill sprint, meaning taking the last corners with 350 meters and 150 meters to go near the front.
Not very windy (5 m/s), not very warm (10 – 12 degrees C) and no rain. The wind will blow from the SE, meaning a headwind on Despiernacaballos. A good part of the climb is covered by trees, but a km or so after the top (on the flat), the terrain is open. It will make it difficult for anyone suffering to get back and therefore making it good for a rider, who still has something left in the tank.
- A strong team to control the stage.
- Climbing abilities for shorter performances.
- An engine to push over the top Despiernacaballos. The headwind will kill a lightweight, but could become beneficial for a diesel-TT climber.
Pogacar – the big favorite to just attack and do a solo. He will likely attack, the question is then if anyone can follow him. The next question that follows is, who can beat him in a sprint?
Mas – form is unknown and 4000 climbing meters on your first day back in the peloton? I think it is optimistic to see Mas being able to follow Pogacar. Last season, he started well after winter, which makes him a good pick for the podium. I think Guerreiro may be able to get a better result. He is in good shape and packs a better sprint.
Landa – form is good, but I doubt we will ever see him dropping Pogacar or outsprinting him. He will be one of the best nonetheless. Buitrago is the second option for the team. I think he could finish higher, simply due to the faster sprint.
Latour – form is good but unlikely he will finish on the podium.
Tao G. Hart – perhaps one of the bigger threats tomorrow, but I highly doubt he can beat Pogacar either. They are simply not at the same level.
Who will win?
It has to be Pogacar, hasn’t it. He will attack near the top and drop the competitors despite headwind over the top. If he doesn’t, he will likely outsprint them in the finale.