This is the last of the tough mountain stages.
Headwind west. The Puerto de San Lorenzo is oddly placed right in the center of it all. Then again, mountains do not decide where they lie on a map. Afterwards, Alto de Benebredo, a muro, followed by two ascends of Puerto de la Cruz de Linares.
A detailed look.
You wouldn’t believe it! An early climb, a lot of riders will be happy regarding that. That means we get good climbers up the road. It should split on the climb, or the following descend. It is a good day for satellite riders.
Then a long valley taking us to the The Puerto de San Lorenzo. It has some difficult sections, 2600m at 10.6%, a plateau, then 4750m at 9.6%.
Then another descend and valley section heading east. A muro awaits the riders. 950m at 11.8%, a plateau again, then 1700m at 12.1%. Some double digits tomorrow.
Now, it is time for the circuit. With bonus seconds on the first crest. The Puerto de la Cruz de Linares has not been used before. The first 4.5 km are 10.5%.
In 3D for good measure.
And the climb itself.
It may change in the future. Sunny, not too much wind. Dry. Tailwind on the climbs!
How will the stage unfold?
Usually, I could come up with a big game plan. Despite the difficulty of the stage, I have to mention the valleys. Unless you get a significant gap, they make it easier to restore energy. Plus, who can actually put up a mountain train? Bahrain-Victorious are the only ones, so let’s start with them.
One can only admire Landa. Most of us can agree there are better climbers in the world but he is amongst the few of them, who will ask a lot from his team and try to pay them back with a good result. I think that is a strong quality. Realistically, the aim must be a 4th place. If I were them, I would look to put riders in the breakaway, they have a lot who could do well – Buitrago and Poels come to mind. Or, they could set up a mountain train up Puerto de la Cruz de Linares (8.1 km at 9%) the first time and hope Ayuso and Mas have another bad day. I hope they go with the latter, as stage 20 does not suit Landa very much.
What about Jumbo-Visma. There doesn’t seem to be one take everyone can agree on. I’m just here to tell you they are doing a 1-2-3 in a Grand Tour. How about that? Kuss has the fairytale story, which he can thank QuickStep for on stage 6. I would send flowers their way. Vingegaard is looking to be the best of them, while Roglic seems to be difficult to get right. He didn’t wait today either. The difficulty of this stage with the combination of the third week makes it a tougher day than it seems. To be frank, I don’t care who wins – I think the 1-2-3 story is what they should aim for, giving the team needs a big sponsor soon. It is a tough day for Van Baarle and Gesink to control. The earlier the three captains are isolated, the less likely Kuss is to win in my book.
The breakaway stands the chance too. An early climb is what they need. The big names still want a win; Bardet, Soler, Thomas, Poels, Buitrago and Storer come to mind. Add in Evenepoel and you have a lot of names who can fend the chasing peloton off.
Ultimately, it comes down to Bahrain-Victorious. They have the ability (with Jumbo-Visma) to determine the outcome. I think the bees will let it go tomorrow, usually the goal is the jersey. I think Bahrain-Victorious will look to set up another move for Landa tomorrow. You never know if one of the Jumbo-Visma guys have a bad day.
Kuss – on paper, he should do well. If anyone loves a mountain-marathon, it must be the Eagle of Durango. Still, I think he is a position of defense. Angliru was a climb that suited him, tomorrow is another big test. And most likely, he will be a level behind his teammates if the attacks start coming.
Vingegaard – he looked like a man who didn’t breath today. He was following Roglic with ease, odd to see they didn’t celebrate or hold hands. As it is a very tough day very late in a Grand Tour, I can only assume he will go very well.
Roglic – now on the rise again. Is it a day that suits him? It does. Especially the last climb if it comes down to it, as it looks to easy for gaps but more for a GC sprint. I have a feeling he will attack tomorrow. Then it will be fun to see what Vingegaard does.
Landa – put his whole team to work and gained a lot of time against his nearest rivals in the battle for fourth. Tomorrow is a stage where he can determine the outcome. If he has his team set it up, he has to make the difference on the first half of Puerto de la Cruz de Linares, as it is difficult to distance people in the second part of it. If not, I hope to see Buitrago and Poels in the breakaway.
Ayuso – the Spanish fans took a hit today. Now, he is on the backfoot. Is it the first sign of fatigue? It looks to be. Remember, he has not had the best preparation this year.
Mas – it was not what I expecting seeing him lose more than a minute today. It is another day tomorrow, perhaps a stage that suits him better. He is a diesel after all.
Evenepoel – breakaway hope #1. I told you it was stupid going for Angliru, I guess QuickStep don’t read my previews. He certainly decided to go all out, will he have anything left for tomorrow? I think he will.
Bardet – breakaway hope #2. On the move today but no cigar. A tough mountain stage is his specialty.
Thomas – breakaway hope #3. An unlucky trip to Spain. Yet, a mountain-marathon is just what he excels at.
Buitrago – breakaway hope #4. The Bahrain-Victorious option, in case Landa let his teammates be free. He knows the feeling of not beeing.
⭐⭐⭐ Evenepoel, Buitrago
⭐⭐ Landa, Roglic, Vingegaard
⭐ Ayuso, Mas, Kuss, Thomas
Who will win?
Usually, it would scream breakaway. Jumbo-Visma is changed that with Bahrain-Victorious. Still, I will tip the favor towards a strong climber. I will take a breakaway win for Bardet.