By David Hunter
Benidorm – Alto de Aitana 193.2km
One last mountain stage.
4 cat 2 climbs, before we get to the big one. The stage begins with a climb, something that will make it a fast start. Officially, it’s 13km at 3%, but that includes a lot of flat and descent. The rest of the cat 2 climbs are all around the 5% mark, nothing that’s going to encourage a long range attack. This stage is all about the final climb, a mountain many riders train on in the winter.
21km at 5.9% is a real test at the end of a grand tour. The last 7km rarely drops below 7%. We have the opportunity for riders to move up and down in GC. It’s a dangerous last stage.
The early break will go, expect a massive fight between Elissonde and Fraile. They are separated by just 3 points and a cat 2 offers 5, 3 and 1. As we have all seen, Fraile can easily beat the Frenchman on a cat 2 climb. If they finish 1st and 2nd on all the cat 2 climbs, the Spaniard will lead by 5 points. The cat 1 climb offers 10, 6, 4, 2 and 1 points. That means Elissonde would have to finish 1st or 2nd, and hope Fraile is outside the top 5. Whichever way you look at it, it’s going to be a hard day for Elissonde. His chances of taking the final climb does depend on who else makes the move.
We might even see Dimension Data put Van Rensburg in the break. He can outsprint Elissonde and push him further down the order on the cat 2 climbs. If Dimension Data manage to finish 1st and 2nd on all the cat 2 climbs, Elissonde will not be able to take the jersey. It is a tactic I hope to see Dimension Data use.
Back in the peloton, the GC riders will wait until the last 7km before attacking. Movistar will save plenty of riders to help Quintana, so don’t expect them to chase the morning break.
It’s all down to Sky and Astana. To me, they are the only teams with the resources to chase the break. However, riders like Bennett, Pardilla and Peraud might just try to get in the break and sneak up into the top 10. That would spur Etixx, Astana and Cannondale into action. Teams will look to defend their places in the top 10.
If the break can manage to get away without one of these riders, it has a great chance of staying away till the end. That gives one last chance to the many riders who have been on our TV screens over the last 3 weeks.
Robert Gesink – he’s had one win, one 2nd place and one 3rd place. The big Dutchman has had one hell of a race. He’ll give it one last go and try to win another stage. He’s in terrific form, so he starts the stage as one of the favourites.
Jan Bakelants – like so many others, he has one last chance to win a stage. He’s had a good race, a win would mak it great.
Egor Silin – classy rider, but seems to lack the little bit extra to win a stage. Only one win in his pro career backs that up.
Louis Meintjes – free to join the break. He’s a terrific climber but doesn’t seem to have his Tour legs with him!
Kenny Elissonde – locked in a battle for the KOM jersey, a stage win would really help. Has been climbing better than I’ve ever seen him.
Bart De Clercq – his early crash ruined his GC chances. Now seems to have recovered, so has a chance of saving his race.
Matvey Mamykin – has been very visible in this race. He’s very young, so it’s hard to predict if his legs will last. He certainly looks like a star of the future.
Pello Bilbao – seems to be riding into form, after a slow start to the race. He was 4th on Wednesday and has a chance of taking a huge win in his career.
Hugh Carthy – despite not hitting the heights, Hugh has really enjoyed his race. It has been a wonderful experience and he hopes to top it off with one big performance. Fingers crossed he makes the break.
Chris Froome – what a ride today! Now sitting just 1:21 behind Quintana, this stage is set up for a memorable battle. To make that sort of time up, Froome will need to attack from around 5km to go. He has a chance, but it will be hard.
Nairo Quintana – he’s had a wonderful race, despite his time loss today. All he needs to do is follow the attacks of Froome, that is easier said that done. However, Froome hasn’t managed to drop him yet.
Sky will control the race and bring the break back, Froome needs those 10 seconds for winning the stage. Expect a battle royale on the climb, but Quintana is the strongest. After matching Froome’s attacks, I expect him to pass Froome and take the stage and the red jersey.
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