Told you it was going to be a GC day! I just was slightly off with the picks, I should never have underestimated the duo that went ahead.
On the final climb things exploded due to the pressure that Roglic applied at the head of the peloton. Alaphilippe launced a counter but was swiftly covered by the Slovenian and Quintana. The relentless pace continued and soon the Colombian was dropped as well leaving only two at the head of affairs. A crazy descent followed, with a few hairy moments, but they came to the line together with Alaphilippe just pipping Roglic in the sprint.
Behind two smaller groups merged and Bilbao won the sprint for 3rd place, but there were only 12 riders making it home within 30 seconds of the duo. It sets the rest of the week up for some aggressive racing!
Experiencing a bit of déjà vu?
Although the riders will face one less categorised climb than they did today, the elevation total throughout the afternoon is more than what we had on stage 1; 3200m compared to 2800m.
If you look on the profile above there is very little flat road in the final 70km of the race and we could see some weary legs as we approach the final climb if there is a strong pace in the peloton.
That final climb is most likely what is going to decide the day as anything else substantial is unfortunately too far out. Interestingly, the final intermediate sprint is located just at the foot of the climb so we might see some intense racing before the road ramps upwards as some riders could want to take a few extra seconds.
One thing you should know by now is never trust an official profile completely, tomorrow’s final climb is tougher than what the route profile suggests. It’s even harder than today!
3.2km at 10.1% is no laughing matter, but once again it is the inconsistent gradients that will hinder a lot of riders. The road rises then falls in the opening 750m but what follows is 1km at an average of 13.3%. The riders will then hit another plateau before it kicks up all the way to the summit at an average of 12.5% for 1.2kms.
With no Google Streetview for the first 1.5km it is hard to tell how narrow the road is but it looks as if it is slightly wider than one lane. However, once the riders go through the plateau they turn onto a main road which will make it more difficult for anyone to escape on.
Over the top, they’ll have just under 7kms to the finish line. A repeat of today on the cards?
How will the stage pan out?
Given the fact we have big gaps on GC already, then there is a much better chance than normal that the breakaway might make it all the way tomorrow. It all depends on the attitude of the other teams and who will help Quick Step in the chase. The obvious team to aid them is Lotto Jumbo as they had the other strongest rider on the final climb today but they might try to play it cool and shoulder Alaphilippe’s team with all the work in a hope to tire them out a bit.
Plenty of squads are missing from the head of affairs and already have a lot to make up if they want to fight it out for GC; Sky, BMC and Katusha to name a few.
Will they all really want to ride defensively and help QuickStep in the chase and help to set up Alaphilippe again? I’d hope not! Instead if I was a DS I would get my team to ride aggressively and try to get someone into the break who’s reasonably far down on GC so that they’re not too big of a threat and go for the stage win. Easier said than done! Furthermore, the rolling terrain in the finale tomorrow will make it hard for just one team to control the race, especially if there is a good-sized breakaway up the road.
Looks like I’ve just talked myself into playing everyone’s favourite game again…
Names in a hat time so as per usual, I’ll suggest 4 guys who might have a chance.
Local boy number one, Fraile was very impressive on the final day of Paris Nice and was unlucky to lose the sprint finish to the line against De La Cruz. He’s shown on many occasions that he is a tenacious rider and if he has targeted a stage then he won’t be too far off it. Hailing from Santurtzi, his hometown is roughly 40km from the finish tomorrow and it will be the closest finish during this race. I imagine he’ll have plenty of family and friends on the roadside to cheer him on. Will he be given license to go for it?
Local boy number two, Castroviejo comes from Getxo which is similarly close to tomorrow’s finish. Sky had a bit of stinker today with De la Cruz being their best finisher in 29th place. Not great. As a team they’ll probably be a little bit embarrassed by that so they’ll want to put on a show tomorrow. Hopefully they just don’t ride on the front all day though. Castroviejo is a great all round rider so he should be able to make a breakaway on the flat but then also have the climbing ability to hang with the best in the move on the tough finish climb.
Alessandro De Marchi.
Given that Caruso crashed today and is now out of the GC picture, BMC will want to make the next few days of racing aggressive and chase stage success. De Marchi looks their best option for tomorrow as he sits far down enough not to be too concerning for Quick Step but his result today wasn’t poor either so there must be some form there. A rider that seems to always find a good break to go into, will he have the legs to compete?
Uh oh, it’s that time of year again where Bananito has pressed hard on the pedals a couple of times and I’m convinced that it is his second (millionth) coming. He looked fairly good in GP Indurain and seems to be slowly riding himself into some form before the Ardennes with his main goal of a good showing in the Giro. Movistar will be have been disappointed that Landa started too far back on the climb today and that Quintana couldn’t follow the duo up front. They could help to chase all day again but given the smaller teams, it would be better for them to get someone up the road and have everyone else conserve their energy in their bunch. The gradients of tomorrow’s final climb would have been great for Betancur in his 2014 vintage; can he roll back the clock? I’m sure every cycling fan would love to see it!
A fairly big break to escape and with a lot of teams represented it will be over to Quick Step to chase. They’ll manage to keep it close enough so there is no threat to Alaphilippe’s lead but the stage will get away from them.
I’ll go with local boy Fraile to win. Tomorrow looks perfect for him.
Really difficult day to call but it would be hard to see past the same pairing again if it came down to a GC finish. Possibly Bilbao (another local) would have a good chance but I think I’ll just go with the breakaway picks and then possibly in-play later.
0.75pt WIN on
Fraile @ 40/1 (Would take 33/1)
De Marchi @ 66/1 (would take 50/1)
Betancur @ 80/1 (would take 66/1)
and because Castroviejo isn’t priced,
0.25pt WIN on
Guerreiro @ 400/1 (would take 250/1)
Thanks as always for reading! How do you think tomorrow will pan out? Does the break have a chance? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.