We almost have 4000 climbing meters in the first day. Welcome to Spain.
A bonkers 3.7 km climb at 8.9% to kick things off? A bit early in the race and stage to do a team attack. Otherwise, it is just up and up until 65 km left, here it will mostly be downhill until the finale climb.
Mainly going towards the NE tomorrow, with the final 15 km being towards W.
The big climb in the middle of the stage. You can cut it up into these sections.
8.8 km at 5.3%, 3 km at 6.8% and 4.7 km at 5.7%. There are breathers in between. Still, its 1300m of climbing.
Here is the finale. It has not been used before. You can argue where the climb starts, I’d say when they cross the bridge.
The climb itself. Steep towards the descend at the top.
The descent. On a big highway, the a corner with 350m and a very sharp turn with 150m left.
Not a lot of winds in these parts. Dry and 20 degrees C.
How will the stage unfold?
This is a love-hate relationship between me and this race. We can have some of the most unpredictable racing here. First of all, who will make sure the breakaway that forms on the early 3 km 9% climb? Many will hope it forms earlier. I think we will have UAE and Bahrain controlling unless they get a strong rider up the road (read: Poels / Haig and Soler / Majka). Otherwise, a TV breakaway.
AG2R and Lotto-Soudal have a strong presence too. It is important they try to spoil the fun. Send Baudin up the road and Lotto-Soudal send Moniquet. With a long descent from km 43 – 16, it can take some time to reel in in.
Otherwise, it is a battle of power for the final climb. 3.4 km at 7.3%. It is tough enough to drop the sprinters. It is all about the two final corners. Everyone wants to be over the crest first, meaning a tough selection. A rider or two will sniff out an attack “Del Toro” style. You could also let go off the wheel and be a cheeky bastard in the first roundabout with 350m left.
If not, a single-file sprint. It is about getting out that corner in the first five wheels or the win is over.
Buitrago – strong team will make sure he is in a good position over the top. He isn’t the fastest on the line here but he should fight for the bonus seconds. Bahrain-Victorious should attack the climb, thin out the group as it increases his chances for bonus seconds.
Lafay – late attack or sprint option? Riding for Gall but it wouldn’t be wise riding for Gall in a sprint, it’s better if Lafay can take bonus seconds to be fair. Let’s see if AG2R can get some consistency out of him.
Van Gils – not certain we will see many Lotto-Dstny riders over the top tomorrow in the front group. Van Gils will be there. He should be fighting for the podium if he can manage to be in a good position.
Schmid – good downhill, fast in a sprint.
Wellens – if any team can make it very selective, it is UAE. He often wins at this race but he rarely wins a reduced bunch sprint.
Soler – Late attack.
Who will win?
I’ll take the late downhill attack by Marc Soler.