I told you that was going to be the stage of the week, it’s all downhill from here!
We had attacks from almost all of the GC favourites; some classic Spanish stop start racing; groups reforming and breaking up more often than Take That; Reichenbach impersonating a HGV in the final few kilometres; and after all of that, Valverde still won. Easily!
Nonetheless, the stop start racing has meant the GC is still nicely poised going into the next couple of days, with 10 riders only 5 seconds down at most. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.
An even tougher day of climbing.
The road does undulate a lot in the final 50km, but I would expect this stage to come down to the final climb, the earlier ones will just sap the legs.
The climb itself is typical of what we get in this region, fairly short but steep! 5.2km long, averaging 9.8%, there is certainly chance for big time-gaps here.
I’ve managed to locate the strava profile of the climb, which can be viewed here.
The hardest section is 2km->4km, averaging a stiff 11.25%! This is where the proper climbers will hope to make some gaps as it gets easier in the final kilometre with the gradient dropping to around 3% by the time they reach the finish line.
How will the stage pan out?
With there already being significant time gaps and no bonus seconds on offer, there is a chance that we might get a breakaway. However, with this being the first mountain top finish and early season bragging rights to play for, I’m fairly confident this will be another GC affair.
This will be brief, as you only really need to look at the top performers from today and there are clearly two riders who are a level above the rest in my opinion.
Valverde was in admirable control of the stage today. He followed Contador relatively easily after he was surprised by his countryman’s early attack and from there he never looked in trouble. He gave it a nudge on the descent to see if he could get away but played it cool once he realised that wasn’t going to happen. Really, if it wasn’t for him being such a wiley old fox and refusing to properly work with Contador they could have distanced the rest by the top of the climb. He’ll enjoy the steep stuff tomorrow and the climb looks like the perfect length for him, plus his finishing sprint should see off any challenge if there’s a little gallop to the line.
Contador looked great for his first race back and will be pleased with where his form is at just now. He had everyone else in trouble on the climb apart from Valverde which is bound to please him, well, maybe not! He won’t like the look of the end of tomorrow’s stage and the thoughts of a TT so I can imagine he’ll hit out early again like he did today. With the stage finish at the top of the mountain this time round, can everyone hold his wheel as he dances on the pedals?
As for the rest, Rosa was the guy that looked the strongest on the climb but I can’t see him beating the two Spaniards.
The only way that Contador/Valverde will lose if they start messing about like they did today and that leaves an opportunity for someone to attack. But I can’t really see that happening here. There is a completely different dynamic when the stage finishes on top of a climb rather than at the bottom and they’ll be full gas all the way to the top. Plus, with the TT to come, I think they’ll be sensible and work reasonably well to extend their time gap over the likes of Izagirre, before possibly attacking each other in the final 1km or so.
After writing him in italics, and delaying the inevitable yesterday, he’s going to be in bold today.
Absolutely no value in the stage markets so I’m going to go for this H2H treble at 6.1/1 with Bet365. 2pts on.
Thanks as per for reading! Apologies for this being so short but after today I don’t see the point on rambling on about any outsiders for this stage. Normal service shall resume for the TT tomorrow! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.