Crazy start to the day and we didn’t see a breakaway go clear until 65km from the finish. From there though, the peloton was happy to sit up and let the move contest the stage.
We had a group of 4 push on over the top of the final summit that included Trentin, Rojas, Van Rensburg and Roson.
The latter two couldn’t keep up on the very technical descent, and with Rojas and Trentin working well they would never get back.
It meant we had a two man sprint coming in to town, but I have to say, Rojas’ tactics bemused me. Trentin is clearly the faster of the two and in exceptional form at the moment, but the Spaniard was happy to share the work. In fact, he drove it into the final kilometere which I thought was very bizzare. The result was inevatble at that point, with Rojas delivering the perfect lead-out for Trentin who took his second stage of the race.
Behind, Roson took third place.
The GC riders all came home together. Well, apart from Roche who had forged ahead on the descent and ultimately gained 29 seconds on his rivals. That result moves him closer to Froome at only 36 seconds back, joint on time with Chaves.
Will we see some similar GC shake-ups tomorrow? Let’s have a look at the what is in store for the riders.
A stage that I would label as the first proper mountain test.
After the neutralised section at the beginning of the stage, the riders will be climbing almost instantly. Thankfully, the climb isn’t too difficult but it will no doubt be raced aggressively.
This will make the 3% gradient feel tougher than it probably is!
Once over the summit, the riders will then descend for 15km before a long period of flat. Could this be where the day’s break is established?
75km into the day marks an interesting point in the race, as the road essentially climbs almost all the way to the finish; with only some periods of shallow descent and flat land.
However, it is when we reach 60km to go that things get interesting…
Before we even start the climb of Alto de Velefique the road rises at an average of 2.7% for 17km; a nice warm-up some might say!
Now, it depends what source you consult for Velefique itself as various places have the climb marked out differently…
The road book suggests it is 13.2km at 8.6%, Strava/Veloviwer plucks for 13km at 7.2% and ClimbByBike goes with 14km at 6.4%. Quite a wide variety there.
I’ll go with the middle ground!
As you can see, the majority of the steepest sections of the ascent are located near the beginning. Will we see anyone try to go early? I doubt it. Instead, it will be more an attritional process, with riders going out the back rather than off the front.
Although, the early weather forecasts suggests there are potentially thunderstorms and a few heavy showers in the area during the afternoon. This could entice some onto the attack before a very technical descent…
At least for the final climb the varying sources are more in agreement; with it being roughly 16km at 5.6%.
The climb can be split into two sections almost, with a very challenging opening 7kms that average 8.6%. From there though, it is a fairly “easy” 9km at 3.2%, although that does include a penultimate kilometre at 10%.
It will be interesting to see how teams and riders approach it. Do they go early in a hope to tire Sky’s domestiques out and isolate Froome, or wait until that penultimate kilometre and go crazy? Given how well the current race leader is riding, they have to risk it and go early in my opinion.
How will the stage pan out?
Once again, we have the now daily toss-up between break win or not? The current trend is very much break, with the last 5 out of 6 stages going their way.
Will tomorrow be any different?
The other teams have to start taking responsibility by bringing the race to Sky. Froome has looked great on the uphill, but he seemed a bit shaky on the downhill today and this could be something that some teams try to take advantage of in tomorrow’s stage.
Let’s say if Orica/Trek/Bahrain have riders up the road, we could see their leaders attack in the final few kilometres of the first climb, hoping to put Froome into difficulty on the descent and then bridge up to their team-mates at the footslopes of the final climb.
Again though, this will rely on the other teams helping to chase throughout the day. If they don’t, then Sky will be happy to let the break win and take the bonus seconds, negating the aggressive racing as much as possible.
That then nullifies the effect of having team-mates up the road if the break is ahead by 10 minutes or so.
It really is a tactical day!
I think it comes down to Contador and his attitude. As much as I love Chaves, I don’t think we’ll see Orica operate any crazily aggressive tactics, yet. That will come later on in the race. They still might get someone in the move, but they won’t control it enough so that they’re of any help.
The one thing that is of massive help to the breaks chances is the poor weather that is forecast.
So with that being said, it looks like we’re once again (I’m getting quite bored of this now) playing the…
The 8.2km rise at the start of the stage could help aid some good climbers get into the move, but if it doesn’t go until after, then it is names in a hat time!
The Dimension Data rider has ridden a solid race so far and finds himself sitting in 18th place on GC, at 5’54 behind Froome. A break like tomorrow is bound to have an interloper in it who is “close” to the Brit on GC and Anton could be that man. Not deemed an overall threat due to his poor TT ability and not being able to follow the best on other days, Sky could be happy to let him get back into things. If he does make the move, he will be one of the strongest climbers there and tough to beat!
The fellow JH gets another mention for tomorrow. Orica surely will send someone up the road in the hope that they can then help Chaves if needed. The most logical two are Haig and Simon Yates, but the former seems to be going better at the moment. He’d still be up there on GC if it wasn’t for an untimely puncture! If the gap is too big for Chaves to bridge, then Haig will get the nod to go for the stage. Something he can certainly do.
Manzana missed the move today which they seemed most disgruntled at, sending a man up the road on a doomed mission once they reached the climb. Reyes managed to stay with the main peloton, well, the Zakarin/DLC group anyway on the climb/descent so he’s clearly in good form. Could he be the guy to take a wonderful victory for the Colombian team?
Still gutted I missed backing him for his stage win earlier in the race considering how much I’ve been harking on about him for the past year and a bit! His performance that day was truly incredible and he put out some massive watts for a “bigger guy” to climb that well. I have that in apostrophes because according to PCS he is only one kilo heavier than Froome…Anyway, if he makes the break tomorrow something similar could be on the cards. He’ll certainly find it more difficult, but he can’t be discounted! Can Alexbae make it two?!
Safe Pick – GC Rider – Nibali
Rinse and repeat for these stages it seems! With the break having a good chance of winning, the safest option for those near the top of the leaderboard overall or in the KOM comp is to choose a GC guy. Nibali seemed happy to push the pace today and the longer climbs suit him better than the shorter ones we had in the first week.
Wongshot Pick – Breakaway – Lutsenko
Another stab in the dark…
Lanterne Rouge Pick – Scully
Cannondale seem to be tired after their efforts the other day…
A big break to form with a sneaky Basque rider in there. Sky to shrug their shoulders and let the move get 8 minutes or so, knowing that the time gap will come down before the finish naturally. Anton then seizes his chance and takes stage glory, vaulting into the top 10 on GC!
0.5pt WIN on them all;
Reyes @ 150/1 with Boyles (would take 100)
Lutsenko @ 150/1 with PP (would take 100 elsewhere)
Haig @ 66/1 with various (would take 50)
Anton @ 100/1 with various (would take 66)
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break survive all the way, or will the GC guys come out to play? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.