By David Hunter
Sabiñanigo – Aramon Formigal 118.5km
After today’s monster stage, the peloton have to tackle a short and intense day.
At just 118.5km, this day promises to be crazy! We have very little flat and three categorised climbs. It begs riders to attack.
The opening climb is the Alto de Petralba. It is 6.3km at 5%. Coming after 35km, we might not see the morning break not getting away until the climb. Next up is the Alto de Cotefablo, 12.5km at 4.3%. Once we descend off this climb, we hit the final climb of the day. Aragon Formigal is 14.5km at 4.6%. You can see from the profile, the road actually rises from km 90 to the end of the stage.
It’s a very long climb, which also includes two flat sections. To be honest, the climb doesn’t start to get difficult until the final 3.5km. That will make it hard to get big differences between the big riders.
The length of the stage makes tactics very important. Movistar were very clever today, managing to get three riders away in the break, including Ruben Fernandez and Dani Moreno. If you watched the beginning of the stage, you’ll realise just how hard it is to make the morning move.
Saying that, it didn’t really work for Movistar. Quintana was unable to make time on Froome and Valverde blew in a spectacular fashion. Team of the day was Orica. They sent three riders in the break, then Simon Yates attacked out of the bunch, before Chaves attacked on the final climb. Both of their captains made significant ground and they are know 3rd(Chaves) and 4th(Yates) on GC.
Sky even joined the fun, getting Leo Konig up the road. He now sits 5th on GC, and the race is very close, with all of these riders hoping to get onto the podium.
So, what will we get in this stage? I’d love to sit here and tell you what was going to happen, in reality, no one has a clue! Both Sky and Orica have two cards to play, but Movistar now only have one. We should see attacks from these riders, but Movistar will be watchful. To deter these attacks, they need to ride a very fast race. If they can raise the pace on the final climb, it could be enough to deter attacks. That will allow Quintana to go for a huge attack with 3km remaining. That’s how I would play it, if I were in the Movistar camp.
One thing is for certain, Contador will go long. Expect to see Alberto attack at the very beginning of the stage. Now that he is 3:28 down, the others might let him have a little freedom. Hopefully we get another brilliant stage.
Yet again, it depends on the attitude of the GC teams. Just 118.5km means that it is relatively easy to control, as long as a team really wants to set up a stage battle. Sky, Movistar and Orica all have a stage win, but not Tinkoff or Cannondale. I would expect to see Cannondale again go for the break, but Rolland doesn’t seem good enough to win. The fact that the final climb is a little easier should be good news for him.
The KOM battle is also hotting up. Elissonde leads Fraile by 9 points, with Gesink a further 10 points back. Both Elissonde and Fraile went deep today, we’ll see who has any energy left.
Nairo Quintana – still looks very strong, but can’t seem to shift Chris Froome. Bonus seconds might look attractive to Movistar, it would certainly help get Quintana a little more ahead of Froome. Despite not dropping Froome, Quintana is riding very well just now. Will Movistar go for broke?
Chris Froome – rode a terrific defensive race today. He responded to everything Quintana had, even coming through and giving him a little stare. He possesses a better sprint that the Colombian, so he does have a big advantage. The only concern is if he starts to get tired. He has put a lot into the last few stages.
Simon Yates – so strong today, a really impressive ride. He’s not a great TT rider, so Quintana and Froome might let him get up the road. They really shouldn’t, Yates is an incredibly impressive rider. I see him as a bigger threat than Chaves, despite being behind him on GC.
Davide Formolo – I have a feeling we might just see Formolo go for the morning break. Sitting in 11th place, it would annoy some of the others in the top 10. Cannondale desperately want a stage win, he looks a very solid option. Talansky is also going well, but the other teams won’t let him escape in the break.
David De La Cruz – continues to surprise me. Now sitting in 14th place, I sense another chance to go for the break. Etixx rarely get things wrong!
Maxime Monfort – hasn’t made a break yet. When he does, he has a big chance of winning. Lotto got De Clercq away today, tomorrow might be the turn of Monfort.
Peter Kennaugh – Sky might just try to annoy Movistar. Kennaugh is climbing better than ever and would dearly love a stage win. He’s a good rider for Sky to have up the road.
Matvey Mamykin – the young Russian has been looking impressive, as have his team. Katusha continue to impressive, but still lack a win. Mamykin is a really good climber, this final mountain looks good for him.
Mathias Frank – made the break today, but lacked the climbing to hold on. He finished way down, clearly sitting up and saving energy. Like many others, the easier gradients in this stage will really help him. Has a fast finish, if it comes down to that.
Omar Fraile – did he blow today, or was he just saving energy? He certainly looked very impressive earlier in the stage, so maybe he did take it a little easy. He won’t be happy that Elissonde has his KOM jersey, so expect to see the Spaniard back on the move. Yet another rider that will like the final climb!
Gianluca Brambilla – looks like he’s been saving some energy. I expect a big performance by him, at some point. Could it be tomorrow?
Chaos! That is the best prediction for this stage. I think we’ll see another big break, maybe with a few GC riders in it. Once it all gets sorted out, I think the break will win. I’m going with Omar Fraile.
In the GC battle, the climb isn’t hard enough to split Quintana and Froome.
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