The break was kept on a tight leash all day and was brought back before the 50km to go mark. Orica were the team taking on the brunt of the pace making duties, but when we got to the final climb Yates looked a bit flat. Instead, for a while it looked as if Meintjes and Woods were going to surprise the favourites, but they were brought back just before the summit.
That left a couple of kilometres of false flat/descent which saw Sanchez spectacularly fall off while no-one was around him. According to reports apparently he hit a stone! He looked pretty bashed up when crossing the line.
Reducing the front group by two (the crash distanced Contador by a few seconds), Valverde used his knowledge of the finale (he won on this finish in the 2012 Vuelta), beating Uran and Bardet to the line.
Too easy in the end for him!
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow and the decisive ITT.
Climb -> Descent -> Flat. A real mixed bag of a TT!
No Strava profile from me today as I’m short of time.
As you can see above, the opening climb isn’t exactly easy; 5.2Km long at 7.3%. The riders will be fairly happy that the gradients are relatively consistent. Saying that, the first 3.5km of the climb averages closer to 9%, with the remainder of it tapering out.
The Strava profile of the climb can be viewed here.
There are a few twists and turns on the descent but there is nothing too crazy.
The second half of the stage is mainly flat, but there are a few short kick-ups, with 700m at 9.7% looking to be the toughest. We finish with a couple of kilometres of false-flat to the finish line.
Thankfully for the riders, the conditions appear to be similar all day so there’s no need to worry about that!
I’m intrigued to see how many riders start on a road bike and switch to a TT bike later on, the latter part of the stage is certainly long enough for the aerodynamics of the TT bike to have an effect. Or if we’ll just see them ride a road bike with bars? Who knows!
After his stage win the other day, Roglic has to start as one of the main contenders for tomorrow’s TT. After all, it is the discipline he shot to prominence in at the Giro last year, taking a great stage win! He has the climbing ability and flat power to contend on a course like this. Yet, I’m concerned with how far he finished today. The last climb isn’t properly suited to his abilities but to lose over a minute isn’t great. He can’t be ruled out though!
Ion Izagirre is arguably the favourite though. Losing only 15 seconds today, he is within distance of stealing the overall title. A great all round, one-week stage racer, he should be close to the times of the better climbers on the mountain and hope that his good descending and rouleur skills will be enough to take victory.
Valverde will be high on confidence after his win today, looking exceptionally strong on the climb. The inclusion of a long climb suits him tomorrow, likewise does the descent. The question is, can he hold onto any lead on the flat? He looks powerful at the moment and seemingly in the form of his life, so I would be surprised if he didn’t.
After several bits of bad luck in this race, Contador can count his blessings to be only 3 seconds behind the leaders at this moment in time. Like the rest of that front group today, he looked good on the climb, trading blows with Valverde as if it was the Vuelta. He’s re-found his TT form again this season and is certainly in with a chance of the win tomorrow. Let’s just hope he doesn’t get impeded by a dog this time!
Sky have a few options tomorrow but I fear Henao might struggle on the flat and Kwiatkowski seemed to be struggling today. Will they let Kiryienka have a go? I would image so because Sky will want one of their earlier guys to give feedback to the later starters. The length of the course is more to his liking than recent TTs and he’ll hope to be within touching distance after the climb and eat up the flat final 2/3rds of the route!
Apart from those guys I can’t really see anyone competing!
Uran has looked great this race so far but hasn’t put in a decent TT time in donkey’s years!
Bardet will love the climb but struggle on the flat.
One outsider who might break the mould tomorrow is Spilak. After a truly awful 2016, he seems to be returning to form. He was the eternal second place in tough TTs in 2015 and he may surprise again tomorrow.
You can never trust Kiryienka being let off the leash so it looks set to be a toss-up between Izagirre v Contador v Valverde.
I think the former will lose too much time on the climb and struggle to regain it back on the flat. Which means we are left with the age-old Contador/Valverde battle.
Without much to seperate them on the flat, I think the longer climb will play a part and it will be Contador who will take the win!
Watch out for a certain Solvenian though, and not the one you are thinking about!
Sitting on 3pts profit for the race so far, so just going to play up that here.
2pts WIN Contador @ 5/2
0.5pt EW Spilak @ 25/1
It’s early but I’m adding a couple of Roubaix long shots before tomorrow’s preview;
0.25pt EW Groenewegen @ 250/1 with Bet365 (would take 150/1)
0.25pt EW Theuns @200/1 with Bet365/Coral (would take 150/1)
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win the stage, and with it possibly the GC too? I’ll be back again tomorrow with my Paris Roubaix preview for stay tuned for that. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.