One last stage when it comes to climbing. I’m sure the organizers hope for the same as I do. All out racing from start to finish. Have the designed the route well enough for it?
4400 climbing meter and 207.5 km. The riders are not going home without being tested this year.
We are racing just 30-40 kilometers north of Madrid.
This is the start. It seems 50 km, more or less, is a good indication of where, who and when the breakaway will form. I’ve decided to take the first 70.8 km, just to be safe and prove a point. You must likely have to be climber to get up the road and challenge for the stage win.
After the opening 70 km, they start the circuit. Actually, they start that at the foot of La Escondida. This is the route just over the top of that climb. You see 2000 climbing meters here, but I don’t see gradients above 6%. That doesn’t mean it isn’t tough. It just means the GC favorites will have it tough distancing each other.
With 48.5 km left, the riders turn left instead of doing the lap once more. The first descend you see has been done before. That means the riders meet a little hill of 2.3 km at 7.3% before moving towards Puerto de la Cruz Verde. A fairly regular climb.
Then, just for the hell of it, the Alto San Lorenzo de El Escorial. With 14.5 km left of the stage, the riders do a terrible little section with 200m to start with of cobbles. 650m at 13.7%. We have bonus seconds at the top too (6, 4, 2).
The run for home is fairly simple.
If you are a betting man, wait till tomorrow to place your bets. Meteoblue says dry, but there is a good chance of rain showers in the afternoon. The clouds will be dark.
How will the stage unfold?
It seems only two teams are capable of doing anything at all. Jumbo-Visma. Plan is clear, three on the podium with Sepp up top. Only his two teammates can fuck that up, I really hope they don’t. That means they don’t have any interest setting up the stage. All of them have a stage win already.
Bahrain-Victorious are the next. It just isn’t a Landa stage. The gradients need to be steeper. We saw in Tirreno-Adriatico and Catalunya that he is good on these hilly days, even when they are harder. I just don’t see him dropping Ayuso ever. #FreeBahrain-Victorious.
That pretty much sums it up. It is too tough for the sprinters too. The smart reader knows the conclusion by now is the breakaway.
Evenepoel – I could stop the preview here already. This guy. The more I think about it, the more I admire him “giving up” on stage 13 to hunt stages. There is not much fun in trying to fight for a top-10 when you are a born winner. He starts as the favorite tomorrow.
Soler – does he have anything left? He looks a bit tired and isn’t he supposed to ride for Ayuso? We will find the answers tomorrow, one never knows what UAE are up too without Pogacar. On paper, it is a very good stage for him.
Poels – you have to admire a rider like him. Always loyal to the team. Tomorrow is stage where he should be allowed the freedom. He has proved the best of the domestiques the last week (depends on what category you put Kuss in…). It isn’t the optimal stage for him, but that steep cobbled section with 14.5 km left is where he can put pressure on.
Buitrago – “the best of the rest” sort of guy. The best way to defend his 10th in the GC is going in the breakaway. He is good on medium mountains and has unfinished business here in Spain.
Costa – and the business is with the cunning fox Rui Costa. Shut up about him not contributing and pulling, you race to win. If you end with him, you do a Thomas de Gendt feat Einer Rubio in the Giro d’Italia on stage 5 in 2020. You simply don’t pull either. A medium mountain day like this, he will be tough to beat if he makes the breakaway.
Storer – the form is there. He has not been in the breakaway on stage 17 and stage 18, that will likely leave him more fresh than some of his competitors.
Kron – never seen him at this level. He will stand a much better chance tomorrow, due to the lower gradients making it easier to sit on. And watch out for him in the fuga de la fuga! He is race smart.
J. Herrada – a medium mountain day? It is what he excels at. If someone brings him to a reduced group sprint, they will learn never to do so again.
Kämna – a real diesel day. After competing for the GC in the Giro d’Italia and being active in the breakaways here I wonder; does he have anything left in the tank? I think he does.
Roglic – likely the best in the GC group, if he decides to sprint for it. He likely won’t.
⭐⭐⭐ Storer, Costa
⭐⭐ Poels, Jesus Herrada, Kämna
⭐ Roglic, Buitrago, Soler, Kron
Who will win?