After two days for the sprinters, the race heads towards the Sistema Ibérico, in the eastern part of the country. It is your typical breakaway stage.
It is a stage tougher than it looks. We have 4000 climbing meters.
Where does the breakaway form?
The opening of this stage is lumpy. There is no spot in Grand Tours where you can say “it forms here”. It can happen uphill but it can also happen on the flat. Below is the first 50 km, It should form here. The gradients are not very steep, meaning we could see a mix of classics riders and climbers in the mix.
The main challenge for the day is the Pico del Buitre. Officially, it is 10.9 km at 8%. It has been used once, in 2019 on stage 5. It ends at the top, at the Observatorio Astrofisico de Javalambre. It will take 31 minutes for the favorites. It is with 8 km left it really starts to pick off.
Here, you have the part where the GC contenders will come out to play.
2 km at 10.8% and 2.4 km at 9.1%. A very regular climb.
A warm day, where the riders have a tailwind for the opening half. As they turn south, the headwind of 10-15 km/h / 3-4 m/s will face them until the final climb, where they once again have a tailwind until the final 2 km.
How will the stage unfold?
Back in 2019, which is the best reference point, the breakaway lost 7-8 minutes on the whole climb. That means despite Evenepoel wanting to give the jersey away, the man winning must be a climber. Plus, in terms of the GC contentions, this is not for the diesels. There was a reason why Lopez, Roglic, Valverde and a young(er) Pogacar were the best here.
Looking at the fuga de la fuga, it will be difficult to get away in the headwind in theory, but that is not always how it works. Remember A. Perez win in Faun Drôme Classic? A 40 km headwind solo. The riders behind do not fancy chasing you. Then, another factor. A lot of lost time can be gained on these gradients, solely due to being a better climber. Michael Woods on Puy de Dôme. What I think is the strongest climber on the day from the breakaway wins.
In order to get up there, you have to be strong on the flat too. The tailwind in the opening 50 km means the pace will be fast. Therefore, I think the breakaway snaps on the Puerto de Arenillas (5.8 km at 5%).
Back in the GC group, we will have the usual fight for positioning inside the last 30 km or so, but ultimately it comes down to the last 15 minutes on Pico del Buitro, which suits a punchy climber.
Kämna – we saw just how strong he is on his good days. Yet, people are willing to play his games in the breakaway. What I do like about him tomorrow is the “plateau-attack”. Right after the first steep section, there is a plateau. Here, he will make his move. You do not give this man a gap unless you are a star climber yourself, we saw how much Caruso struggled to close the gap.
Storer – hit the deck, not too seriously on stage 4. He sat at the back of the group today, which likely means we see him on the move tomorrow. It took him some time to find the 2021 level, but he has been riding very well in August. He is very good on 4 km climbs with double digits, both his wins in La Vuelta 2021 came from it.
Marc Soler – how I do love and hate him. Attacking when Almeida is closing the gap behind him. He rides mainly for himself from what I see. The situation is that he sits just 48 seconds behind Evenepoel. That is too close really to give a rider like him. How scared are they off a rider whos best GC result in a Grand Tour in 9th? I wouldn’t give him 10 minutes, but the breakaway will not win with that margin.
Bardet – lost time today due to a puncture 5 km from the line. A shame really, he also had a mechanical on stage 3 where he tried a long range attack. That means he sits very far back in the GC, therefore a stage win to get back in contention is the best option. He is strong enough to get away on the flat with some help from the team.
Buitrago – crashed badly on stage 4, it looked like game over. However, he looked fit for fight today.
Neil Stephens (DS) said in a pre-race interview that he couldn’t move his knee after the crash, somehow he managed to only lose around two minutes on stage 4. They would look to “gain time back another day”, tomorrow is the day.
Jesus Herrada – always up for good results here at home turf. He proved recently in Tour du Limousin-Périgod. The finale climb is on the difficult site to suit him perfectly, but I still think it is a stage he should aim for.
Evenepoel – I think he must start as the favorite from the GC group, despite his little accident the other day. I’m not sure who is at fault, probably both parties to some degree. He goes very well on these type of climbs.
Roglic – so does the Slovenian who may or may not lack a bit. I doubt it. I blame it on poor timing, it can happen for the best. The level he showed in Vuelta a Burgos tells us he is more than ready.
Vingegaard – finished second on the first test and said afterwards, that he hopes to improve. He seems very positive as he should be, as this is a climb where he hopes to lose as little as possible. Remember Col de Marie Planque? He has improved on these climbs.
Ayuso – it suits him most of the UAE riders. Almeida will look to TT the climb.
⭐⭐⭐ Storer, Bardet
⭐⭐ Soler, Cras, Buitrago
⭐ Ayuso, Roglic, Vingegaard, Evenepoel
Who will win?
I will take a breakaway win for Lennard Kämna.