It is time for the Queen stage.
More than 3700 climbing meters as they take on the hardest stage of the race. The first half of the race is medium mountains. The gradients on these climb are 5-8% and it is more or less up or down. We could see a very fast opening to the stage. It also looks like the perfect terrain for a strong breakaway to form.
The most difficult climb of the day has to be ridden twice. From the top of the second ascent, the riders have 30.5 km left of the stage. The climb itself is difficult at the start and near the top. But 30.5 km from the finish is still a long way for a solo attack to stick. Since there is no streetview, I assume the roads are narrow and probably not of the highest quality.
This is the approach to the finale climb. A long descent and a long flatter section.
The last climb of the stage – not as simple as it looks. The very steep section is on gravel and the same is the sprint after the last corner 200 meters from the line.
The steep section is where we will see a selection – the main selection. We are talking 500 meters above 20%.
The riders head west the whole day. The wind is calm and it will be very cold – 3 degrees C. By the looks of it, they will miss another encounter with the snow that seems to be drifting just south of the route when the race begins. Expect wet roads, wet descends and potentially bad weather.
How will the stage unfold?
This stage is much tougher than the previous two, only a handfull of riders can win. It suits the climbers with almost no valleys present for the stage. The main question is, how early will one of the favorites dare to attack?
I think the first time up Santa Marinha do Monte will be used to drop off riders not in the mix for the win. It will reduce the peloton significantly and it is like JV will pace. They do not want to isolate Jonas too early.
Second time up, the pace will be increased. I think a group of maximum 15 will get over the top together with riders from the three big teams – Jumbo-Visma, Movistar and Cofidis – and climbers such as Cepeda and Fortunato. Perhaps I’m being optimistic for a finale on the steep gravel sector, we could see a group of just 5-8 people over the top and a few getting back on the descent.
On the last climb I think everyone will wait for the gravel. 500 meters at 21%. If the race isn’t already over by this point, we should see the winner found already here.
Vingegaard – I should have trusted the rumors. I did look like more than 18 seconds at some point, but it is still a good margin. He is a level above the rest and it was great to see Staune-Mittet do a monster pull. A bit of a shame Valter didn’t get to help at all. Jonas surprised me today – tomorrow the tactic should be the same. Attack instead of being isolated by Movistar and Cofidis.
Cofidis – Ion Izagirre was the best rider for the team. Ruben Fernandez, Geschke and Jesus Herrada did a strong job too all finishing the stage within top 11. Tomorrow, they should try and find another approach than letting JV do their job. I hope they will be one of the teams trying to put pressure on Jonas on the first ascent of Santa Marinha do Monte. Their best card for tomorrow is Ion Izagirre.
Movistar – good performance for Guerreiro and Pedrero with no Sosa in sight. Sosa is one of the few climbers that could potentially challenge Vingegaard, but his current form is not there at all. I think having two cards to play tomorrow is an advantage but it depends if they do so. I have for a long time had a good eye on Pedrero, but in terms of the stage tomorrow – it suits Guerreiro more. He is good on steep climbs.
Cepeda – more of a pure climber. He could potentially challenge for top-5.
Langelotti – on the attack today. He is going well just now, so he could potentially get a top-5 too.
Fortunato – a pure climber. Another dark-horse for a top-5.
Who will win?
Jonas Vingegaard with ease.