What an exciting sprint finish that went down to the photo. It was Greipel who came out on top ahead of Degenkolb and Groenewegen, but you could through the proverbial blanket over them all.
Demare finished very fast to come 4th, but he just started his sprint too far back to challenge.
Moving on to tomorrow and the last stage, with the GC title very much up for grabs.
A back loaded stage with a reasonable amount of climbing.
Race leader Roglic will be happy to know that the majority of the climbs are Cat 3 ascents, but he will be concerned about the double passage of the Malhão.
The climb itself is short, but it’s steep and irregular in gradient. You can view the strava segment here.
2.3km in length and averaging 9.5%, some reasonable time gaps can be made on it. Thibaut Pinot holds the Strava record on here, climbing it in 7 minutes and 1 second. That year, Contador beat him by 20 seconds so it’s safe to say he did it in 6 minutes 45 seconds roughly. It’s like Old Willunga Hill but ever so slightly steeper. That same kind of effort is needed to win here.
How will the stage pan out?
There is a chance the breakaway could take the win. I’m sure Roglic would be happy if the bonus seconds were taken by some riders up the road. However, I don’t think this will happen. The opening part of the stage is very easy to control so teams such as Sky and Quickstep can keep the break within their reach for the oppening 90km, slowly starting to reel them in when it gets lumpier. Therefore, I think we get some kind of GC showdown, with those at the top of the order fighting out for stage glory.
It’s hard to look past Dan Martin for this. He was excellent on the uphill finish on stage 2, and this steeper climb suits him even more. Now with some extra leeway because of his GC placing, he won’t be marked as much by Roglic and Co. If he gets a gap, that is it over. Like I said above, I’m sure Roglic would actually be happy if Martin won, to take away some of the time bonuses.
Roglic himself could of course cap of a good week and turn it into a great one with a win here. He was the only rider to match Martin on Stage 2, and almost came round him on the line. Back in Valenciana he beat Martin on the steep finish to Llucena by 10 seconds so he seems to be able to cope well when the gradient goes up. However, one reason he may not win the stage is because he doesn’t have to go into the red and be aggressive. All he has to do is just follow wheels and hope to not get gapped by Kwiatkowski or Castroviejo.
It’s great to see Kwiatkowski back in good form and hopefully he can kick on from here looking ahead at the classics. It will be a tough ask for him to gain back the time on Roglic and a stage win is really needed to give him a chance. I’m not so confident, but one of the classiest bike riders on his day, he should never be ruled out!
Aside from the big 3, one guy who I think could upset the apple cart here is Amaro Antunes. He finished a solid 3rd on the brutal stage finish in Llucena behind Quintana and Kudus, but more importantly, ahead of Roglic and Martin. It’s important to highlight too that he finished on the same time as Pinot here last year. Way down on GC after a poor TT he has a very good chance of being let go here. It could be tough to catch him!
Sanchez, Villela and Roson could all surprise too if no one cares to follow them.
I really want to say Antunes here, he goes so well on the steep stuff. I also think it’s incredibly hard to see past Dan Martin. Very odd for me to be leaning so heavily towards the stage favourite.
Ach, when have I ever been stopped from going for an outsider before?!
Antunes to win!
Thanks for reading this week! Like I said on my Andalucia preview, apologies for these being ever so slightly shorter than normal as I’m feeling a bit under the weather. Normal service shall resume next week as I’ll be doing Omloop and KBK, the start of the season for some! Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.