By David Hunter
Nice – Col de la Couillole 177km
The GC battle continues with the hardest stage of the race.
The peloton are again climbing from the gun, making it another very difficult start. Once over the Col de Vence, the race will settle down and we’ll see who has survived! After a period of relative calm, we have two cat 1 climbs to finish the race.
Col Saint-Martin is up first, it is 7.5km at 7.2% and is a relatively consistent climb. A 20km descent follows before the biggest climb of the race, Col de la Couillole. This beast is 15.7km at 7.1% and is another consistent climb.
The QuickStep team will be very nervous on Col Saint-Martin, fearing a long range attack from Contador. If the Spaniard does go, expect to see Dan Martin shadowing the move. He will hope to act as an anchor, but that’s only if he can keep pace with the great man.
Team Sky also have an interest in making the pace hard, they want to isolate Alaphilippe, so Henao can attack on the final climb. The GC position is delicately balanced, with Alaphilippe leading Gallopin by 36 seconds, Henao by 46 and Contador is down at 1:34.
The other options for the strong teams is to force an immediate selection on the opening climb of the day. If this happens, it could turn into the stage of the season! Basically, anything can and probably will happen.
The hopes of the break rest entirely on the attitude of the bunch. With a strong chance of a crazy day, the break’s chances don’t look too good.
Alberto Contador – this stage really does suit Contador. The length and gradients of the climbs are perfect for him, we just have to see when he attacks. Also, being a little off the GC pace, he might get a little freedom towards the end of the stage.
Dan Martin – has a better chance than Alaphilippe, but he’ll sacrifice his own chances to help protect his teammate.
Ilnur Zakarin – was quiet today, but like Contador, this is a better day for him. His GC chances look over, but a stage win is within his grasp. Hopefully he can go with the Contador attack, they would make a terrific pair.
Julian Alaphilippe – defend, defend, defend. His only interest is now the GC.
Richie Porte – looked very strong today and this is his big chance of stage glory. I doubt we’ll see him join the morning move, BMC will be one of the teams holding the race together for the peloton. Porte will want to go toe-to-toe with his main rivals, and beat them!
Simon Yates – such a terrific attack today. He could see that Team Sky only had one rider left, so he attacked and took his chance. He ended up winning the stage by a considerable margin and moved up to 8th on GC. He clearly has good legs just now and I hope to see him riding aggressively again in this stage.
Jakob Fuglsang – looked in no bother today. After losing time in the early stages, he has bounced back and looks a good option for a stage win. Being way down on GC means that he can join the morning break, but the Dane will have to make the decision about whether or not he thinks the break will make it. It’s a tough call to make, but if I was him, I’d go for the break. He’s unlikely to win from the main GC group.
Sergio Henao – the Colombian was in impressive form today, his team just ran out of men. I think that today was a better stage for him, the longer climb is better for a rider like Contador. Saying that, he clearly has great form and will be trying to put pressure on Alaphilippe. I don’t think he’ll manage to win the stage or take yellow.
This stage has Richie Porte written all over it. Despite losing time in the crosswinds, he has stayed mentally strong and I expect to see a big show from him. Behind him, Alaphilippe will be able to defend his overall lead.
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