Or from now on, Ruta del Sol. It is a race with a lot of altitude meters. However, it is so challenging predicting races like this as the climbs are just slotted in randomly from my perspective.
With 4000m at 7.1% near the finish (which is downhill), expect to see the last climb being hammered. This way, you make sure you are in pole position for the descend and stage win. This stage almost has 4000 climbing meters and they are well hidden.
Finishing at at Castillo Calatravo. The GPX and Google Maps does not align, otherwise they will have to run up some stairs. You see the steep section at the end? That is on cobblestones. There is also a nasty 3.3 km at 9.7% climb starting 59 km from the line. We can see a move being made here already. The climbing in the first 35 km are also not too easy, we could see a strong breakaway being difficult to catch.
An interesting stage as the first three of the four ascends of Alto de la Primera Cruz has bonus seconds at the top (3, 2, 1 seconds), plus the seconds on the line. It doesn’t look too difficult but gaps can be made on the climbs.
Starting with 20 km at 4.8%. It can essentially be a long GC day, or if you ask me – a perfect day for the breakaway.
It looks sunny, without too much wind.
Looking at it, stage 1, stage 2 and stage 4 will play the biggest role in terms of the GC. Bonus seconds on the line will play a big role and two of the finishes are downhill with a short flat section. A sprint is vital. Then, factor in the 20 km climb at the start of the last day. You don’t want to miss that.
Laurance – he managed to cling on in Bessèges for the most part but I really do think this race is too difficult for him. As he is a youngster, U23 WC and currently look to be in fine shape, he will be included. It is difficult knowing how quickly they develop.
Buitrago – sole leader for Bahrain-Victorious. Shape is good too. He has the luxury of a strong team, which should help him get into strong positions for the descend on stage 1, the foot of the bonus-seconds climbs on stage 4 and decide if we will see them play the numbers on stage 5. He was on the podium here in 2023 with a much stronger start list.
Gall – we know he can climb. The problem is getting down. I think he will be near impossible to drop on the climbs but he does not strike me as a rider, who has a fast finish on the line. I don’t think he will win but he will finish in the top-5.
Van Gils – he has the package. A good punch. A fast finish. How fast does he go downhill? No idea. The question is also, will they ride for him on the flat stages, or does Menten have the ultimate say? With so few sprinters, he could sweep up bonus seconds on the flat stages. Nonetheless, he will be tough to drop.
Guerreiro – he has not impressed me much in 2024. Inconsistent.
Schmid – a very good race for him. He can climb and sprint. Something tells me he will go fast downhill too. Let’s see if the move to Jayco AlUla was a smart one.
Ayuso – 20th in Clásica Jaén, not really impressed by him.
Wellens – some may say fourth is a poor result in Clásica Jaén but he did what he could. A man down on Jumbo and Tronchon being a in the Einer Rubio and Rui Costa group. Mr. February will be one of the riders to beat, a fast man on the line, a good climber and the cobbled finish on stage 2 could prove vital.
Soler – throwing him in as the 3rd option for UAE. Why? We have to downhill finishes, what more do I need to say.
Who will win?
I will take a win for Tim Wellens. Ill throw in Van Gils and Buitrago for the podium.