Time for the annual race in Catalunya.
They call it a medium mountain stage, I would call it flat. There is a climb starting just 30 km from the line, 4.8 km at 5.3%. We will have to see if any teams will push the tempo higher to drop the pure sprinters. The last 60 km are almost identical to the last 60 km of stage 1 in 2022. It is an uphill drag to the line.
First mountain top finish. It is the Vallter 2000 climb, last used back in 2021 with Adam Yates taking a stage win. It is 15.1 km at 6.7%.
Nearly 4000 climbing meters. However, the gradients rarely go above double digits. O’Connor took a stage win here in 2022. They have changed the stage, making it more similar to 2019. That means the stage is more difficult but I still doubt we will see large time gaps in the GC.
2500 climbing meters. The first climb makes it easier for a good breakaway to get up the road. They stand a chance, despite my initial thoughts being towards a sprint finish.
It seems the organizers feel inspired by the UAE Tour stage profiles. Lo Port has only been used once in this race, back in 2017 with Valverde beating Froome and Contador. It is likely the toughest climb of the stage – expect a big GC showdown.
Another day with a lot of hidden climbing meters. With Alt de la Creu (5.4 km, at 6%) and Alt de Fontpineda (2.2 km at 8.6%) in the finale – it is too difficult for the pure sprinters. It is then a GC day or a breakaway day?
Barcelona stage. For some reason, it always ends up disappointing me despite the profile looking very good for offensive racing.
Good, not a lot of rain on the forecast and not too cold either.
Roglic – he was supposed to begin his season here in Catalunya. Instead, he starts the race tomorrow with three stage wins in Tirreno-Adriatico and the overall in the bag. I had a feeling the only reason he would race in Italy too was due to him feeling better than the team had anticipated. He starts as one of the big favorites. The main question for him is, how will he do on a difficult climb where the headwind will not neutralize the favorites? He did not look like the strongest climber in Tirreno-Adriatico.
Evenepoel – back from training camp. It is the last time we will see him climb a mountain before Giro d’Italia. He should start as one of the big favorites too. He won the UAE Tour quite comfortable but there we saw he wasn’t the strongest climber at the start list there. What I really do hope to see this week, is Evenepoel using the Barcelona stage to just rip the race a part. As for the other stages, very few in the world should be able to drop him. He has gotten a better sprint for bonus seconds too, something that can come in quite handy.
Almeida – according to the team, he will be their protected rider. His second place in Tirreno – Adriatico was impressive. Just like Evenepoel, it is the last time we see him before the Giro d’Italia. Despite him being in good form and having a strong team including A. Yates and Soler, I only think he will challenge for the podium.
Hindley – seems to be doing mediocre. He is just another rider in March than he is in the last week in a Grand Tour. His fourth place on the mountain stage in Tirreno-Adriatico is a good result, but then again, I’m not sure how much we can use that stage for anything due to the fierce headwind the riders had.
Bernal – I just hope to see him happy and healthy. The team also brings G and Plapp. I doubt they will win, but all three are capable of fighting for the podium but a top-10 result is more likely for INEOS.
Landa – it should be one of his best chances for a win this season, as there is no time trial for this race. All spring, he has been racing well. The team also brings Mäder who performed well in Paris – Nice. I think Landa will be fighting for the podium.
Ciccone – currently looked the best I’ve seen him ever. It seems he finally may be ready to challenge for more than stage victories in Grand Tours. He should be challenging for the top-5.
Carapaz – I have absolutely no clue how well he is going just now. His best performances are often reserved to Grand Tours, just like Hindley. If he is in form, he could fight for the win. He is that good.
Who will win?
With stage 5 being the toughest stage of them all, we should ask the question, who is the best climber here? None of them stand out, but it should be a strength test of how the Giro d’Italia leaders currently do against each other.
Despite Evenepoel coming straight back from training camp while the rest has been racing in Italy and France, I will take a win for the Belgian. We mainly have mountain stages that are not very demanding, and I think the Barcelona stage offers him a stage where he can do a lot of damage too.