A really dull day which was good because it meant I could get my Scheldeprijs preview finished while it was on!
The slow day resulted in the final kicker being a non-event and we got a very high-speed sprint. Typically it was Albasini who was sprinting for Orica today and he took out the win. I should have stuck to my guns and not jumped ship, but oh well!
Richeze and De Bie rounded out the podium. It’s been a fairly boring race so far and very unlike a normal Pais Vasco, but hopefully that changes tomorrow as the terrain gets more lumpy. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
After two days of fairly benign routes, we get a stage that is typically Basque.
With 6 categorised climbs it will be a very tough day out in the saddle. There are some discrepancies between the official profile and the one I’m using above, but I trust the gradients of the guys at @LasterketaBurua more than I do those, that the organisers provide!
I’ll discount the first three climbs of the day because they come too far from the finish to be of any major concern.
The next two climbs aren’t too difficult either to be honest and will probably be the scene of a gradual rise in pace within the peloton, as those on a bad day get dropped. However, I think we could see the likes of Movistar start to put the pressure on towards the summit of Andazarrate climb and we might get a rather reduced peloton as we descend gradually towards the final climb of the day.
The graphic above is from Altimetrias.net but is for the full Mendizorrotz climb. The route tomorrow will tail off just after the Venta de Orio. As you can see, it’s a short but fairly steep climb, averaging 6.2% for the 5km. However, there is a kilometre that averages 8.1% and ramps of 13% and 14% in some parts. A stinging attack here could certainly make a difference.
We then get a bit of false flat before the descent to Donostia (San Sebastian) begins. The descent will be fast but the 3km of flat at the end of it might discourage some riders from trying to go solo.
If we do get a regrouping expect attacks to be flying from all over the place on the run in, which itself does not suit any type of bunch kick.
Two 90-degree turns in the last kilometre and a little chicane should be exciting viewing but a very manic end of the day for the riders.
How will the stage pan out?
When I originally looked at this stage I thought it might be one for the puncheurs, someone along the likes of Bilbao. I had a whole bit planned linking to a tweet on how he has recon-ed this stage etc, but the more I think about it (never a good thing!) the more I lean towards this being an even more selective day than I originally thought.
That final climb is tough, especially the opening 4kms and if they race up it at pace like I expect Movistar to, then not many will be left near the front over the top. Only a group of 30 riders at most may be in contact over the top and therefore in with a chance of a win.
I don’t think the likes of Gerrans will get over the climb in contention.
Now the next question is, do Movistar go at such a pace to deter attacks on the climb? Or do we see them go hard but then stop so Valverde can attack?
With no bonus seconds on the line, a group of favourites might be more inclined to work with Valverde to gain an advantage over other GC contenders. Then again, they might not bother!
If we do get a regrouping will a team have enough riders to control the small bunch, or will a late attack stick?
I think the latter…
Alaphilippe looks like an ideal candidate for this as he should be at the front of the peloton over the climb and is no longer a GC threat. With a fast sprint he could even challenge Valverde in a small group. Will he be as short odds as I think and thus put me off of him? Probably!
There are two GC riders who I want to mention that have a chance of going well on this stage in my opinion.
The recent winner of the GP Indurain and a stage in Paris Nice, the young Brit is certainly going well just now. He should be able to cope with the short climbs in the area competently and as we have witnessed over the past few weeks, isn’t afraid of an attack from reasonably far out. He descended like a stone in Paris Nice and could certainly maintain a gap if the others sit up and have an argument about who’s going to chase behind. He’s my rider for a more long-range attack at the top of the climb!
The Kiwi is my “he’s not a threat” late attack option. He was climbing well in Catalunya and would expect to make it over the last climb with the peloton. During that race he was quite lively at times, putting in a few probing attacks. In a group of around 20 or so at the end, he has a good a chance as anyone to make an attack that sticks!
I think Movistar attack the day hard and we get a selective GC day and I’ll go for the descending stone that is Simon Yates to take the win!
1.25pt EW Yates @28/1 with Bet365
0.5pt EW Contador @100/1 with Bet365 (far too big a price for a selective day)
0.25pt EW Bennett @300/1 with Bet365.
Thanks for reading as always and apologies that this is a bit more rushed than my Scheldeprijs preview. How do you think tomorrow will play out? Will it be as selective as I think? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.