A downhill run to the fine city of Barcelona, today’s stage looks like a long freewheel from the Pyrenees to the Mediterrean. Only the finish includes the tricky climb of Montjuic followed by a descent and then an uphill sprint which should offer some excitement. Breakaway or bunch sprint?
The Route: a downhill start – the first part is neutralised – and then on to the Collada de Clara, 6.4km at a gentle 5.4km. If a breakaway hasn’t gone clear by this time, the short climb should reward attackers with the chance to get away. But the open roads all the way to Barcelona offer the chasers an easier time, at least until the race enters Barcelona.
The Finish: a great finish awaits. As the profile shows the climb to the Montjuic park is 1.1km long at 8.1%, enough to eject the sprinters if the pace is high, or at least to send them backwards 100 places and possibly the wrong side of a split in the bunch. There’s no chance to recover over the top, if the profile above suggests a nice ramp downhill to the flamme rouge with 1km to go, think again.
Note the twists and turns during the last three kilometres. The final kilometre is uphill but the slope eases for the final 450m to the finish, outside the 1992 Olympic stadium.
The Scenario: break or bunch sprint? I think it’ll be a bunch sprint because several strong teams will want to set this up. Katusha will want to help local leader Joaquim Rodriguez and their uphill sprint specialist Dani Moreno. Lotto-Belisol have a perfect finish for Gianni Meersman, he won a tactical uphill finish in Rodez in Paris-Nice. And don’t forget John Degenkolb, the chunky German sprinter’s first win in the big league was an uphill sprint win in the Dauphiné, on top of Lyon’s Croix Rousse. It all makes for a tactical finish with riders needing to be in position and well supported, to be at the front with 5km to go but never in the wind and only to pop out for the sprint with 250m.
Weather: cooler conditions with only 28ºC in Barcelona and the chance of a rain shower. If it is wet the final could become fiendish.
TV: the same as usual, 4.00-6.00pm with the finish expected from 5.25pm onwards but yesterday’s stage was a reminder that these schedules are indicative as the race swept into Andorra almost an hour up on the fastest predicted time.
Local Rider: Joaquim Rodriguez. He was born just 20km north of the Catalan capital in Parets del Vallès.
Rest? Monday is a rest day but as soon as the stage is finished the riders go to the airport and fly across the north of Spain to Pontevedra. This means a late night. Riders must cross the line, get washed and changed, then have something to eat, reach the airport and then wait for everyone to show up before the plane finally takes off then they must land and get transport to the hotel. The Spanish eat their evening meal later than anyone else in Europe and the riders might not be too happy to share this custom later today.