Just like buses…
After waiting almost two years for a World Tour win, Cannondale got their second in one week with Pierre Rolland taking a fine stage victory today!
He was not only the strongest in the break but also the tactically most astute, attacking the big group at the perfect time. With a disorganised chase behind, the Frenchman had enough time to sit up and properly celebrate his win.
Costa won the “bunch” sprint for second with Izagirre third.
All the GC contenders rode home safely, keeping their powder dry for tomorrow. Let’s tae a look at what’s in store for them.
A short but very sharp stage!
At only 137km the riders will be in for a fast day in the saddle, albeit with five categorised climbs to contend with.
The road rises steadily from the gun (14.1km at 1.7%) before the peloton will tackle the first climb of the day. The Passo Pordoi is a fairly steady climb, averaging 6.7% for 11.85 kilometres.
The same can be said for the following Cat-2 climb of Passo Valparola which averages a shade over 6.4% for almost 13km.
The riders then descend again before tackling the third climb of the day. However, by then a break will have been formed and it’s not difficult enough for the GC riders so I’m just going to gloss over it!
On the long descent that follows, the road does rise back up briefly for the Cat-3 climb and it could cause some issues with a peak gradient of 15%.
However, the stage should come down to the Cat-1 climb of Pontives and the run in to the line that follows it.
At only 9.3km, it is not the longest climb the peloton will face, but after a stage that is constantly up and down it certainly won’t be easy. Averaging 6.8%, it is the final 3km which could cause some splits as it averages a more stinging 9.3%. This is where we could see some attacks from the GC favourites and those on a bad day might crack and go backwards.
Once over the summit, the riders won’t be at the finish line just yet and will have to contend with another 4km of rising road.
A tough drag, riders struggling over the KOM could really struggle here as false-flats after a big effort can be a massive challenge. The road pitches up to 13% with 450m to go and any riders looking to avoid a sprint to the line will no doubt attack here.
How will the stage pan out?
With it being such a short day, it will be hard for a breakaway to build up much of a lead. Particularly when considering the way that Bahrain Merida have been riding over the past few stages. They set a fierce pace in the peloton over the first two climbs today and I expect them to do the same tomorrow.
Consequently, it will be another chance for the GC riders to go for stage glory on the day!
It’s tough to see past those who were near the pointy end on Stage 16.
Nibali – Obviously won that stage and is riding himself into form in the final week of a grand tour and in classic week-three Nibali style, he looks like he can follow anyone. On the steepest section of the closing climb, only Quintana was able to stick with the Shark and he will be hoping for something similar on the steep ramps towards the top of Pontives. Will the shark take a second bite out of the GC lead?
Quintana – Supposedly still not at 100% after his crash, the Colombian looked relatively comfortable following Nibali but lost some time on the descent. He’ll be happy the stage ends with only a little descent! My only issue with him is that the finish isn’t ideal for him with the few kilometres of false flat after the steepest parts of the main climb. He’ll struggle to maintain any gap there.
Zakarin – Will be very glad that the stage ends on the top of a mountain after he lost over 30 seconds on the descent during stage 16. He’s always willing to attack (not always at the correct times morally), so he is sure to give it another go tomorrow.
Pozzovivo – It was nice to see him at the head of the race again but like Quintana, his light frame isn’t ideal for tomorrow’s finish. He’ll no doubt give it a go off the front though if he senses an opportunity.
Landa – Although not a GC candidate as such, the Sky rider was very strong on Stage 16 and it was only his naivety/poor cornering that allowed Nibali to win. Not being a GC threat, he will hope to be given some leeway.
As for the riders in the second group on Stage 16, I like Yates the best for a finish like this.
However, I’ll go for none of the above.
Instead, I think current Maglia Rosa Tom Dumoulin will take another stage win.
His nature break was clearly a freak occurrence because he climbed the Umbrailpass in an almost identical time to his rivals. That’s very impressive considering he rode most of it on his own while others were paced for a lot of the way! Taking tomorrow’s final climb on it’s own, it looks very similar to the finale into Oropa that Dumoulin won. After no one waited for him on Stage 16, I think he won’t be holding anything back and will want to re-stamp his authority on this race.
I was going to go EW on him, but his price has fallen from 18/1 to 12/1 when I’ve been finishing this off so the EW value has diminished a bit. So I think with that in mind I’ll just go;
2pts WIN Dumoulin @ 12/1 (with Bet365).
Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.