It is time for the stage in Barcelona.
Usually, quite the breakaway gets up the road ahead before the circuit. In the last few years, the outcome has been as following
It can end it both scenarios.
The opening climb starts just after 13 km of racing. Expect the breakaway to go there.
This is the circuit. Mostly known for the Mur del Castell de Montjuïc, 600m at 12.1%. The lap itself is also technical and has a lot of downhill sections, making it difficult to close the gap to the breakaway from time to time.
We have some wind tomorrow from the west, unfortunately that means a cross-headwind on the morning climb for the breakaway. Most of the climb does look to be covered by trees, but it will still be difficult to get up the road. It will make it easier for teams (read: Quick-Step) to control. It will be warm too and another day with no rain.
How will the stage unfold?
Scenario 1: Breakaway.
A lot of good riders have lost time and the top-3 is almost settled. Strong riders such as Herrada, Verona, Bardet, Bouchard, Teuns, Carapaz, Yates, Van Gils and Herregodts are no threat in the GC. There are plenty of riders who could win for the breakaway. What’s again more interesting is the fact that JV would like the breakaway to take the stage win, leaving no bonus seconds for Evenepoel to get. The main issue is, the first 30.5 km are in a headwind. Therefore, the breakaway may first get a gap after too much racing. The stage is short and easy to control.
Scenario 2: GC day.
It does not look like Evenepoel is ready to give up just yet. They will not go home without a fight. They need the bonus seconds, potentially also the ones after 61 and 67 km of riding. Evenepoel is a rider, who I could see willing to attack very far out. The team can keep the breakaway in check and then use every rider to set up Evenepoel’s attack.
Unfortunately, I think the most likely scenario will be a GC day. Evenepoel will attack early, which will provide a stunning race.
Roglic – the tactic remains the same. Let the breakaway sail away, let Quick-Step do the dirty work. Then, just sit glued to the backwheel of Evenepoel. Roglic has the last few weeks improved heavily, likely due to getting more race days in his legs. The team will need to keep their focus on Evenepoel and Almeida, the others will not pose a threat for the GC.
Evenepoel – I expect Quick-Step to control the stage and then set up an attack. I hope and think he will attack early. They enter the circuit with 47 km left, he has attacked further out before. He is a fantastic championship/one-day racer and the course really suits his abilities. The main problem is, it will be difficult to drop Roglic.
Almeida – does well on short, steep inclines. I think UAE may have their hands full, having to respond to attacks from riders inside the top-10 (if they attack). I have mentioned before and often that his sprint on the flat is fantastic, just look back at the Giro 2020. As the race has unfolded, he looks to be the best of the rest.
Soler – fantastic attack today, I expect him to attack tomorrow. UAE is a study in anarchy at the moment, but I think the man from Catalunya will once again be allowed a free card. He was 2nd here in 2018 and races Catalunya every season. He knows the parcours better than most.
Woods – short, steep inclines? He should be up there tomorrow.
Ciccone – Lo Port was too difficult for him. On the classic Tirreno-Adriatico stage, he finished just behind the best. Expect at top-10 for him.
Landa – disappointed me on Lo Port too. I hope Bahrain instead look to give Mäder, Haig and Poels a bit of freedom to get in the breakaway. It will be impossible for them to get Landa on the podium.
Bardet – breakaway hope #1. He has been below what I expected for him this week, but Paris-Nice tells us he is not completely off form.
Carapaz – breakaway hope #2. He will keep testing the legs to see how the respond.
A. Yates – breakaway hope #3. He should get better and better as he recovers from the crash. An excellent candidate for a stage win.
Tulett – breakaway hope #4. This should be his terrain. Many of his best results has come against the clock but he is a fantastic puncheur.
Who will win?
I think Evenepoel will attack and there will only be one rider who can follow, Primoz Roglic. Roglic is not known for leaving any gifts, he races to win. I will take a win for him.