A real muro stage.
Easy start to control.
Finale kicks off far out. It is quite difficult to say when it will kick off. There are valleys between most of the steep climbs. Once they near the finish, this is where the going gets tough. Up, down, unto narrow roads and main roads. You can’t settle for a rhytm.
Four very difficult climbs.
1st climb, 1.1 km at 11.7%.
2nd climb, 900m at 10.9%
3rd climb, 800m at 8.8%.
4th climb, 800m 11.4%, last 200m at 20.2%.
Picture of the view from the line. You know it is steep when the road just disappears.
How will the stage unfold?
Looking at it, only Gaudu holds a small edge in the terms of the GC. The thing tomorrow is, there are loads of strong teams. In terms of teams with multiple options, I would say EF (Chaves / Carapaz), Movistar (Mas / Guerreiro) and UAE (McNulty, Formolo, Hirschi and Soler) have cards to play early and hope the right group goes. I doubt it.
I think we will see a team attack early on with 59 km left. That is the first wall. I just do not think the next section (59 – 15 km left) are good for riders to be out using energy. There is too much flat between the climbs. The main teams will have domestiques. Once we are inside the finale, the strongest rider will win. It is that sort of stage.
Gaudu – a brilliant rider for steep inclines. He has been going well all season and Q. Pacher should be able to provide support in the finale to some extend, meaning he does not have to close all the gaps himself. He packs a good kick and the light weight will certainly come in handy tomorrow. The thing is, he rarely wins when he is riding as one of the favorites from the bunch.
Vingegaard – back to his best so they say. I think word has been around and people know he lost some training up to Paris – Nice. He has a strong team to help control the early attacks with Valter, Kruijswijk and Oomen being fantastic domestiques. In O Gran Camino, he did well on the steep inclines but the competition is tougher tomorrow and it is no secret his strength lies on the longer climbs.
Higuita – Gran Premio Miguel Indurain was a positive change to his season in Europe – for me. He loves a steep muro. I do wonder if he can handle multiple in such a short time frame, I think he can.
Carapaz – looking better in the Basque Country compared to Catalunya. I still do not think he is at his very best, meaning it will be difficult to win. I could certainly see him as one of the riders wanting to get on the attack early, it is a style that fits him very well.
Mas – he showed us last season in Italy that he has improved a lot on these climbs. I think people still underrate his ability for this type of stage. He is one of my main favorites tomorrow, he has been going well all season. The same goes for him as for Gaudu, he rarely wins.
S. Yates – he did well in Paris – Nice and he looked good Down Under a few months back on the steeper climbs. The thing is, he is a hard man to predict. He can either be one of the strongest tomorrow or perform worse than expected.
Martinez – a good stage for him but he lost time today due to a bike change. That leaves him a bit of freedom. He was very disappointing at Paris – Nice after winning Volta ao Algvarve. I am not sure how well he is going just now – but he is certainly not a bad shout for the stage tomorrow.
McNulty – I hope to see him on the attack early! I think he gets too few chances of winning himself. It is his last chance to get a result before having to get ready for the Tour. He is my dark horse tomorrow. If anyone can pull off a longe range attack, it is the American.
I. Izagirre – winner of Gran Premio Miguel Indurain. The competition tomorrow is different. Nonetheless, the local rider will likely know the roads better than most – that will come in handy. He usually goes very well at home turf.
Skjelmose – he will be up there. He is having a good season but the competition is tough. I hope to see him in the top-10.
Who will win?
I will go for Enric Mas. I think we will see a reduced bunch get to the last 15 km to fight it out, and he has shown time and time again that steep inclines is not a problem for him.