We don’t have to wait long for another mountain stage.
Some early climbing means we could see a rather big break get up the road like today. Looking at the stage, we have more than 4000 climbing meters. It is a lot, but the gradients are not too steep. Looking back, the closest edition to this stage was in 2018. Here, they raced Coll de La Creueta and La Malino too. That stage saw quite large time gaps.
Here you have Coll de la Creuta. The average gradient is quite low due to the flats and descents. It is quite a long effort, almost an hour of climbing.
This is La Molina. The first 8.2 km average 6.6% before the dip. Then, there are 1.6 km of climbing at 6.2%.
Another day with fine weather.
How will the stage unfold?
The stage tomorrow has more climbing meters, but the finale climb is easier than Vallter 2000, make no doubt about it. The first 8.5 km of both climbs are quite similar. So tomorrow, we should see the group thin out. In 2022, wee had 32 riders within 20 seconds of the winner. It is not difficult enough for large GC gaps.
Who will pick up the pace? I was a bit surprised to see Bahrain – Victorious being so strong today. Perhaps they should take the O’Connor approach tomorrow and use their domestiques offensively. It is a climb that suits the underdog as the big favorites can’t make the difference.
I expect JV to control the breakaway. On the finale climb, I think we will see JV, Bahrain or Quick-Step do the heavy work. But their leaders will not distance each other. The winner can as likely come from an attack further out, like Chaves’ today.
Roglic – defending himself well today. He looked better than in Tirreno – Adriatico that is for sure. Tomorrow, I doubt they can test him. The GC riders will have to wait for stage 5. I was surprised to see Kuss attacking today. I’m not sure why he wouldn’t stay with Roglic. Tomorrow, it is about saving as many teammates for the last climb as possible. I wouldn’t be too concerned with anyway besides Ciccone and Evenepoel. Let the lone attack fly away if it is not a threat.
Evenepoel – probably looked the strongest today. A bit too generous when it comes down to taking turns. The terrain was not tough enough and it unlikely will be tomorrow. He is getting quicker in an uphill sprint, but he is still a tad slower than the likes of Roglic and Ciccone.
Ciccone – I will say it again, he is in the best shape I’ve ever seen him in. Very impressive from him today, especially since he was isolated a long way out. I think he will hope for a GC sprint, there, he is likely to get more bonus seconds.
Almeida – what a ride today. Having a mechanical and then getting back to the favorites. He certainly must come down to best-of-the-rest, perhaps even the best. He would likely have been able to follow Evenepoel, Landa, Roglic and Ciccone had he not had to chance bikes. He has a good uphill sprint to him too, we saw that in Algarve.
Landa – it is not difficult enough for him tomorrow.
Chaves – burned all his matches today? Tomorrow is another excellent opportunity for a long range attack.
Hindley – not too impressed but as mentioned yesterday, rarely wins outside GT’s. I really hope they let young Cian Uijtdebroeks have a go at the climb tomorrow.
Soler + Yates – UAE’s two attackers. Yates should only get better as the days go by. Soler has an excellent diesel for a 6% climb.
Who will win?
I doubt the favorites for the stage wins – Ciccone, Evenepoel or Roglic. The attack will come from further down the pecking order.
I will take a win for Marc Soler. I think the winning move will happen from a relatively large group while the favorites look at eachother.