It is time for the big showdown. Let’s hope I do not miss another change in the route.
We have plenty of climbing for 137.8 km. The route speaks for itself.
This is the two morning climbs Elkorrieta and Azurki. See the stats above. Will we already see attacks here?
If not, after a short and easy descend and a valley Gorla is up next. A long yet steady climb.
This too is followed by a simple descend and a longer valley. It brings us to the first very tough climb. The Krabelin. Steepest section, 2500m at 12.4%. This is with half the race done!
A descent and a few hills on the way, getting us 30 km from the line by now. The climbs will be the places where we should see people attacking if they are no threat in the GC but it is still a far way to the line.
Now, for the last difficult climb of the day – Izua. If we have not found out who will fight for the stage win, well, this is the last spot for the climbers to make a difference. 28 km from the top to the line.
This is the last 27 km. There is a climb but the gradients are not too bad. Looking at it, most of it is downhill – optimal for an attack on Izua to make it.
How will the stage unfold?
Now, this one is for the climbers. Let’s talk Jumbo-Visma. It is a very difficult stage to control, almost impossible. Best scenario, a not-to-dangerous break gets up the road and takes the stage. They keep the team more or less intact to help Vingegaard when it matters.
So how do you beat that? My best guess goes to Movistar and Mas. They have a strong team to challenge Jumbo-Visma but for what tactical purpose? So far, it has not looked like Mas can follow Landa or Vingegaard so why waste domestiques trying to drop theirs early? Still, it is a reasonable scenario.
I think what teams need to do is look at their cards. Send riders in the break that pose a threat to Vingegaard to make them chase the break and slowly drop the riders protecting him. I’m talking about Movistar (Guerreiro, 4:12, Aranburu 1:56), Bora-Hansgrohe (Buchmann, 1:37), Quick-Step (Catteneo 3:07, Schmid 1:40), Trek-Segafredo (JP Lopez 2:15) and EF (Chaves 1:57). These type of guys. Jonas is not here with a very strong team. Easily, he could be put under pressure and suffer most of the day if the teams (and riders) are willing to sacrifice themselves.
I think Jumbo-Visma and Jonas Vingegaard will have a very tough day if the teams mentioned are willing to play their cards early. Movistar plays a big part in this. Now, to some extent, can sending Attila Valter in the break cancel it? It is a viable option. Heck, if it gets to dangerous, let Jonas waste a few matches himself and let his domestiques bridge back in the valleys.
Vingegaard – as mentioned, a tough day to be in the leaders jersey. I will really be a team win if they can keep the jersey. I tend to underestimate him outside Grand Tours, something I will change for tomorrow. The thing is, if he and the team can keep it relatively calm until Izua he will take the win. However, that is just so difficult to do with only five domestiques. It is about burning the matches at the right time and looking at the bigger picture – the GC and not the stage. The efforts are still short yet more repetitive tomorrow, something good for him.
Landa – climbing up there with Vingegaard. He will be up there without a doubt but winning is difficult. He will not be able to drop Vingegaard and he can not outsprint him. I expect him to challenge for the podium. The flat finish is not optimal for him, it is really a shame Bilbao had to abandon. His only chance of winning is having Vingegaard gifting him the stage.
Mas – I expect fireworks from Movistar tomorrow. It would just seem very odd seeing him win as the last 27 km are “easy” so to say. He is in the same category as Landa, I think it is difficult for him to take a solo win. llenge for the podium. The flat finish is not optimal for him, it is really a shame Bilbao had to abandon. His only chance of winning is having Vingegaard gifting him the stage.
Gaudu – I think the stage suits him very well. The short and steep climbs is something he enjoys. His main problem is sitting fourth. He pose a threat to Skjelmose as well as Landa plus I doubt he can drop Vingegaard. I see a scenario where Vingegaard could gift him the stage, I think he will do much better tomorrow than on stage 4. He has already been gifted the last stage of Basque Country once, will it happen again?
Higuita – impressive sprint! He will hope we see a sprint among the best riders will take place – he will win that. I do think the short and steep climbs are optimal for him – so same category as Gaudu, I expect him to do well tomorrow.
I. Izagirre – He falls in the mix of the two groups I have tried to mention. I expect a very good showing from him tomorrow and he beats most on a sprint. He was the strongest rider on the last day in 2022 here, he is at his very best here.
Skjelmose – the big test. He sits 3rd in GC, with nine riders sitting within 20 seconds of him. Poor lad. Luckily, he is from Amager. The “just give me another bike” attitude is what makes him so fun to see develop. He has character, and as for cycling, he has been going well this season.
McNulty – the late attack in a GC scenario. He has the engine!
Chaves – breakaway / late breakaway option #1.
Juan P Lopez – breakaway / late breakaway option #2.
Martinez – breakaway / late breakaway option #3.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ I. Izagirre
⭐⭐ Chaves, Mas, Higuita, Gaudu
⭐ Juan P. Lopez, Martinez, McNulty, Skjelmose
Who will win?
A win for the local Ion Izagirre. I see him getting over the top near the very best then instantly attack. He has the diesel and he has the diesel for a potential very reduced GC sprint.