A really quiet stage until all chaos ensued after 7 kms to go when a crash at the front of the bunch wiped out around 80% of the peloton. With the sprint teams already pretty much in full flight, there was only a brief hiatus before things continued full gas as you would expect. Despite the smaller group, things were held together for the sprint with Jakobsen taking his first win of the season in his first race – a truly dominant effort to the line from him.
Démare trailed him home in second with Ackermann in third.
With some riders crashing, while other just lost some time, it will be interesting to see how they have recovered and approach the traditional stage tomorrow. Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.
Quite a tough day out in the saddle for the riders, especially this early in the season, with over 3000m of climbing to be tackled.
As you can see on the profile, there are numerous short climbs back-to-back once the riders pass roughly 60 km to go. These will no doubt be used to sap the legs of those struggling in the peloton but I would be very surprised if a team takes it up early enough to do a lot of damage – especially with the rolling plateau (oxymoron, I know) from 151 km to 168 km.
It is an interestingly placed intermediate sprint point in Marmelete and I wonder if we’ll see any of the GC contenders try to nab a bonus second or two. A quick descent into the valley below leads them onto the false-flat rise before the climb of Alto da Foia begins properly.
A fairly consistent climb, it is not a finish where we often see large time gaps, with the majority of the time the top 10 arriving within 20 seconds of each other. However, that was thrown out the window in 2017 when Quick Step decided to tear the race bits before Foia and consequently 10th placed Benoot came home three-quarters of a minute down.
Expect a fast ascent time tomorrow with a strong wind coming from the south-east.
The teams will have to be wary throughout the day though as they travel mainly from the east to west, so there are potential for splits due to cross winds. Will anyone try to split it?
A strong start to the season saw Poels finish second on Willunga Hill and consequently took home 3rd on GC Down Under. Sky arrive with a very solid squad to support him on the climb and we’ll no doubt see them engage their now traditional mountain train. It will be interesting to see how they approach it as De La Cruz, Geoghegan Hart and possibly even Dunbar have the credentials to challenge on a finish like this. Will they try to attack to split things up? Poels has an under rated sprint for a GC rider so he’ll be happy for things to be held together and a reduced gallop to the line.
Part of the Quick Step team that absolutely destroyed the bunch back in 2017, Mas took a big step up in personal performances last year with his second in the Vuelta obviously being the stand-out. With a lot of the team geared towards the two sprints, Mas will most likely have to fly solo although he’ll hope to get some assistance from Stybar quite far up the climb. He’d probably prefer a punchier and steeper finish but given his talent, he can’t be discounted.
Another who avoided the crash today, it puts him in a great position for a strong overall result. It’s hard to know where his form is at given this is his first race of the season but he should be there or thereabouts. A rider that I rate highly, he should start to get some of his own personal results soon after learning the ropes behind a loyal worker for Dumoulin in the GTs. He does only have two wins to his name, both coming in the Tour de l’Ain back in 2016, but tomorrow does offer him an opportunity. An attacking rider, I’m keen to see what he can do.
The highly talented young Slovenian impressed in his opening WT debut down under and he’ll like the look of a climb he can properly get his teeth into tomorrow. Before the race the honours for leadership would probably have been shared between Aru and himself, but with the Italian held up today, UAE will turn to Pogacar for the overall. Possibly still a bit of an unknown to his contenders, he might be able to use that anonymity and slip away on the final climb and use the tailwind to his advantage.
Held up after the crash today, his focus will now turn to stage wins. He’s only ever won two bike races in his life but both of them have been at Portugal and one of them in this race. Quite an attacking rider when he wants to be, I’m expecting to see him give it a bit of a nudge in anger tomorrow. Will he be allowed some freedom?
The teams of Sky, Deceuninck and Sunweb to control things in hoping to set up their leader and I’ll go for Poels to get his first win of the year.
He normally starts his season well and without the obstacle of Porte here this is a good chance for him.
Thanks as always for reading and apologies for the shorter preview. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.