We are heading in to the last six stages of the race.
Close to 6000 climbing meters, 200 km in the length and just after a rest day? Tomorrow is the hardest stage so far.
The climbs and the descents.
Before all that, we have a long flat before the first mountains. As you can see on the profile above, it is filled with tunnels going up the left bank of Lago di Garda.
Therefore, the gradients are not correct until the climb starts with 142 km left. Before that, it is more or less all flat but the tunnels mess up the gpx files.
140 km from the line, we have our first categorized climb. Passo de Santa Barbara. From the top, the riders have 123 km left.
A short descent unto a cat-3 climb, followed by another descent. The first descent is very quick but only with three turns. The cat-3 climb is 4 km at 7.1%. The long descent is the tricky one. Narrow road, trees on the roadside so you can’t see the exit of the turn, a section of 13 quick hairpins (though the move to a bigger road here) until the foot of the next portion of climbs.
The first 6.5 km are 8.1%, it then flattens out before the kom sprint.
Now, I’ve skipped a bit until the foot of Serrada, 64 km from the line. A cat-2 climb awaits. It is a long and steady climb.
What’s up next I fancy. A fast and tricky descent. It is impossible to show on the profile just how difficult it is but I will be surprised if Bahrain-Victorious does not make a move here. Very narrow roads.
We then have a valley section. Usually, that is not good news for attackers. They want to get straight back on climbing. After 10 km of flat, the riders take on Monte Bondone. It has been used before but from a different side.
First section: 8.1 km at 7.4%.
Flat section: 3.1 km at 2.4%.
Second section: 9 km at 7.8%. “Hairpin section”
Flat section, to the line: 1.8 km at 3.5%
How difficult is it? I would say the Italian answer to Sierra Nevada, though it is easier as the altitude meters on Sierra Nevada are higher. The French comparison would be Mont Ventoux.
Not a lot of wind yet again but it will blow from the SW, meaning mostly a tailwind throughout the day. It should be near 20-25 degrees C, with a slight chance of rain and thunderstorms in the second part of the race. Let’s hope they avoid that. I doubt the wind will play a big role since the tougher climbs are covered by trees and the wind will blow 2-3 m/s.
How will the stage unfold?
I will try to do something different here. I will be breaking down the most important teams and how the can set up their rider best to my knowledge. To begin with, this is the day Armirail loses the jersey unless the other teams somehow let him get in the morning break and keep it. Very doubtful.
Thomas (INEOS): It is all about saving De Plus and Arensman for as long as possible. Hopefully, Sivakov is getting better after his crash but that is not a sure thing. I think they should ride passively, it is not their task to take seconds – it is their task to not lose seconds. Make sure De Plus and Arensman are with Thomas for as long as possible, no need to use any satellite riders – just ride together in the bunch. Sit back, wait for the other three contenders to make their move. Don’t overreact, it is a climb where you pace and not do too many accelerations.
Roglic (Jumbo-Visma): Still a full team but they have not been very active. This stage will give us a definite answer regarding how hurt Roglic was by the crash. If we see the team setting up an attack, he is fine – if not, then he is still affected. I would have Rohan Dennis in the breakaway, to make sure they have a diesel waiting for them between the last two climbs. Thereby, saving Sepp Kuss for as long as possible. Set up a fierce pace on the “hairpin section” on Monte Bondone and have Roglic attack there. Time to make your move. It is a good day distancing Almeida, get Dennis in the breakaway and be ready to attack on the last climb.
Almeida (UAE): They have Vine and McNulty who could go a long way tomorrow. Time to change focus boys, Almeida has never had better conditions to challenge for a win. We know he is a yo-yo, therefore having McNulty and Vine constantly helping him get back in contention for a sprint for a stage win should be the goal. No breakaway tomorrow boys, time to focus on the bigger goal. A big test for him. He has two helpers who are world-class. Relax, do your own pace and use the team you have with you.
Caruso (Bahrain): Still with the whole squad. Luckily, Haig does not seem too badly hurt after the crash – that is a big plus. Both helpers sit very close to the top-10. Will the be allowed up the road? It is worth a try but it is also a risk. It is not their task to force anything big either. They can wait and look at the bigger teams. At some point, they should be equal numbers regarding domestiques. The last climb suits Caruso very well. Sitting roughly 1:30 behind G, he should attack far out. Get Pasqualon in the breakaway and see where he ends up, he will be vital. Time to race on the offence. Try to get Buitrago/Haig in the break with Pasqualon. Attack on the last descent, bridge over and get that lead before the last climb.
Thomas – I have a lot of confidence in Thomas. He is extremely steady in his performances. He is actually underrated by a lot if you ask me, despite him not being among the two best climbers in the world. He did look under pressure on stage 13, attacking in the finale – that is not his usual approach but Caruso was up the road so he did the right thing. Sit back, it is not up to you to attack of set the pace. Then, just settle into a nice rhythm and benefit from drafting on the last climb.
Roglic – will he attack? The last climb is, on paper, not that difficult but you have to contextualize it. After a rest day, 180 km and two weeks of racing – that adds another level. Get Dennis in the breakaway, make sure he can help the small climbing domestiques get into a good position at the foot of the last climb. If I was him, I would attack. The question is, we don’t know if he is at 100% after the crash. Tomorrow will bring answers.
Almeida – a big test. Tomorrow, he can change my view of him as a climber. It is all about who and how some of the other teams will test each other. I would not be pacing at all for Almeida, save your energy, get dropped, use Vine and McNulty to drag you back. I think he will lose time tomorrow, roughly 30 seconds.
Caruso – big day tomorrow for the Italian. Time to get the race going. They brought both a sprinting team and a climbing team for this, which is not ideal, only Haig and Buitrago should be there to help. I would love to see them go on the last descent, they can put a lot of riders under pressure here. That means getting a rider out in front, Pasqualon is the best option for it. Then it will be down to Caruso on the last climb setting a tempo. He can do that. Very well.
Carthy – I have said it multiple times, we move in to Hugh territory in the last week. I really hope the team will try to set him up for a big attack tomorrow. Healy/Bettiol/Cepeda out in front. Use one of them as your launch pad and see what damage a long range attack can do. It is his best shot. The main problem is, tomorrow’s last climb is not very steep.
Kämna – diesel rider. The low gradients is ideal for him to hang on. I think he will do well tomorrow.
Dunbar – he will be difficult to drop. He is some fighter the Irishman and I have never seen him climb better than now. I think he would like a top-5 spot overall, that means getting rid of Leknessund. We could see him attacking in the finale if the bigger guns are playing poker.
Pinot – breakaway hope #1
Barguil – breakaway hope #2
Van Wilder – breakaway hope #3
⭐⭐⭐ Thomas, Caruso
⭐⭐ Almeida, Carthy, Dunbar
⭐ Kämna, Pinot, Barguil, Van Wilder.
Who will win?
I am going with a GC day. Bahrain, JV or EF will do something. The flat start makes it difficult for a climber getting in the breakaway – we have 5200 meters of climbing in the last 140 km – you need to be a pure climber almost to win.
Therefore, I think Roglic will take it. He should be the best climber here.