Well that certainly lived up to my expectations!
Once we managed to get TV coverage, the race had already been splintered over the first Cat-1 climb of the race with only a 50 rider peloton left at the front. On the penultimate, short and not overly difficult climb, we saw several attacks from Astana and Mitchelton riders, hoping to soften up the current race leader. That certainly worked as once the head of the race crossed the bridge and began the climb of Hazallanas, there were only about 10 riders in the front group.
With a perfectly timed attack and thanks to not being a threat for the overall title, Simon Yates managed to get a gap and increase it all the way to the summit. Given the mainly downhill run to the line, he was never going to be caught from behind and he had enough time to sit up and celebrate his first win of the year.
Youngster Higuita won the sprint from behind to take second place on the day with Kruijswijk rounding out the podium spots. The result sees Fuglsang take over the race lead and given the parcours tomorrow, it should now be his for the rest of the race. Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders anyway.
A day with over 2000m of climbing, the majority of that comes in the opening half.
A slight drag from the flag leads the riders onto a shallow descent before three back-to-back Cat-3 climbs. Although none of them are particularly difficult, they do provide a good opportunity for a strong breakaway to get clear.
From there it continues to roll somewhat, but they mainly head downhill after the 80 km mark, albeit there are several short rises there too. The last categorised climb of the day crests with 30 km left and is another Cat-3, but this one is not like the other 4 Cat-3s that we have.
At an average of 10.4% for the 2.1 kms, this is a brutally steep climb and will see some riders in the peloton really struggle. In fact, there are prolonged sections of the ascent that are just above 13%! It’s nice to see it given the classic Spanish categorisation – some things don’t change with a new year.
A short but fast descent then leads them onto the final 25 kms of the day, most of which are flat. However, the last 2 km do rise up at an average of 2%, with the last 300m apparently being roughly 5%.
It also seems to be a “count by roundabouts” kind of day, with 6 in the closing 3 kms. Some of them aren’t overly difficult to traverse with riders managing to take them almost straight on, but there are a couple which will stretch things out and force the riders to slow down a little.
If we do end up with some kind of bunch sprint, expect it to be pretty hectic.
How will the race pan out?
That depends on a couple of factors…
Firstly, is someone dangerous for the overall in the break? If not, Astana will be more than happy to let it go but obviously if someone does sneak in, then they will have to keep it in check or close it down completely. This leads nicely onto point two…
Who wants to hold it together for a sprint? I can only really see Mitchelton (Trentin) and Jumbo Visma (Van Poppel) committing their resources to try to bring things back for a sprint. With the former team already having two wins under their belt this week, they might just take things a little easier tomorrow although conversely, with no chance at the overall GC win then they might just use everyone up to help Trentin.
I don’t think they’ll do that and instead it will be a day for a strong breakaway to get up the road and fight out for the stage win. So it brings me great pleasure that we can play everyone’s favourite cycling based lottery for the first time this year!
As always, it is a pretty difficult task trying to pick potential riders who will make the break but I’ll try my best!
Movistar haven’t got anything out of this race so far which normally doesn’t happen for them in Spain. Without any GC leader they’ve been without any real chance of doing that but tomorrow presents an opprtunity for them to go on the attack. Roelandts has been building his form with one eye on the classics and he’ll like the look of the rolling opening to the stage. In the Trofeo’s at the start of the season he was in good climbing shape there and will hope to carry that in to tomorrow’s stage.
If there is a sizeable break getting away, I would be very surprised to see Androni not present. Cattaneo or Montaguti seem to be their best riders at the moment but even then they are still far enough down on GC not to be a big threat. Tomorrow’s parcours is like a rolling Italian one-day race and one that suits Cattaneo well. He was going strongly in Argentina but it has obviously taken him a little time to re-find those legs over in Europe. Will that be tomorrow?
A bit of a journeyman, Madrazo has raced for a quite a few outfits throughout his career. Ever an attacking rider, it is surprising to not have seen him up the road so far already in this race. Burgos will want to be represented in the break and Madrazo could be a good candidate for the win given his punchy nature.
Heading into the day in the top 10 on GC, the Slovenian was hoping to hold on for as long possible but a double puncture before the penultimate climb of the day saw all hopes dashed of a good GC placing. Now sitting over 7 minutes down, he should have enough freedom to go on the attack and knowing his nature, I think he might just do that. If he makes the break, everyone will have him as the big danger so it could be hard for him to win but he’ll just try to let his legs do the talking.
Someone that takes bad luck in his stride, I think Mohoric will bounce back tomorrow with the stage win.
1pt WIN Mohoric @ 28/1
0.25pt WIN Cattaneo @ 400/1
0.25pt WIN Madrazo @ 300/1
0.5pt WIN Roelandts @ 80/1
All with Bet365
Thanks for reading as always, who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.