Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018 Stage 4 Preview; Orihuela › Cocentaina

Today’s Recap

Well that was a bit shit, wasn’t it?

The organisers decided to neutralise the race GC wise in today’s TTT, with only the stage victory up for grabs at the end of the day. Rider safety is paramount, but in hindsight it was possibly a poor decision as the bad weather had abated by the time the teams had started.

In the end, most of the squads went out for a leisurely training spin, but BMC being BMC, went out and smashed it, winning the stage.

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Astana came home second with TTT powerhouses AG2R rounding out the podium…

As a result of the neutralisation, the time gaps in the overall stay the same with Valverde still in the lead going in to tomorrow’s decisive GC stage. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A very climbing heavy day!

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@LasterketaBurua

The road is up or down for almost all of the final 150km, so we could see some interesting tactics and aggressive racing throughout the stage. The only issue for those looking to dethrone Valverde is that the climbs are quite long, but they are too shallow for any major splits to be caused. That is of course unless we see a crazy pace set by Sky on La Carrasqueta for example, hoping to drop some of the Movistar domestiques. Even then though, I can still see Valverde having Roson and Rojas at his disposal for a long time.

We could see an attack go on Les Trilles as the second passage is located close enough to the finish that there won’t be much time to organise a chase. However, it is more than likely to come down to he summit finish.

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The Alto Cocentaina is a tough climb, especially for this time of year. Averaging 7.8% for 5kms, it is the final 3.2km that are really difficult as they average a leg-breaking 10.3%. The steep ramps combined with the amount of climbing earlier in the stage could see a lot of time gaps come the end of the day.

Yet, one thing to be wary of is the weather forecast. It looks as if there will be a fairly strong 15km/h headwind on the climb, which could deter attacks. I think our race leader will be happy with that.

Tactics

With the non-event today, there are many more riders in contention for the GC win than would have been if the TTT counted. This certainly adds a different dynamic to the stage and I hope it means we’ll see aggressive racing.

The squads with a few guys inside the top 25 will look to send one of their riders up the road; forcing Movistar to chase. They need to, otherwise taking it easy and waiting for the final climb plays perfectly into the hands of Valverde, especially with the headwind. He’ll be able to sit in and follow the wheels before inevitably beating everyone to the line. In fact, he looked effortless on the Garbi and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go on the attack at some point if the peloton is together, just to stretch his legs.

Sky and Astana are the two teams that will be central as to how the stage develops though.

Astana obviously have Luis Leon Sanchez and Fuglsang within striking distance. Given their abilities, I would personally have LLS as the distance attacker, possibly on the second passage of Les Trilles. While Fuglsang sits in and counters if he’s caught. It will be tough, as Valverde looked better than them both on stage 2 but if they form an alliance with some other riders, they might just have a chance.

Sky will be bitterly disappointed with how stage 2 ended but also the lack of a timed effort today. Given their squad, it is pretty unfathomable how they just let the trio escape and build their gap. I was sure we were going to see a counter-attack from one of their riders, but I guess the tempo riding didn’t work for once! They would have been confident in gaining back some time in the TTT today but that didn’t go to plan either. Nonetheless, they still have Rosa, Poels, De La Cruz and Moscon ominously placed in the group that is 29 seconds down on our leader. This is a Sky team that is not at the Tour de France, so I fully expect them to set off some fireworks tomorrow, with all four of those riders giving it a dig at some point.

Prediction

Everyone will try their best, but given the less severe gradients on the opening climbs, Movistar  will be able to keep things under control. Once we hit the final climb, we all know what is going to happen…

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He’s climbing better than everyone else here and the headwind on the finish climb is perfect for him; Valverde to take a second stage win and secure the GC title.

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see early attacks from teams, or will it be a mundane day until the final climb? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

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