A mountain stage? Certainly a mid-mountain stage with some awkward climbs and descents along the way including a difficult climb placed just before the finish.
Stage 5 Wrap: a sprint win for Gianni Meersman, his second triumph. This time he was among the few left to contend the sprint after crashes split the bunch and caused many to fall. Worst off among the riders was Steven Kruijswijk who apparently collided with a bollard left in the road, an echo of Peter Stetina’s crash in the Tour of the Basque Country and there was a parked car on the other side of the road moments before too. Preventable? Yes and it doesn’t seem to be a matter of passing a UCI rule, just some common sense to have obstacles removed from the road or, if this is not possible, to have them marked and taped off so they do not form part of the route. Indeed a communiqué from the race said this was supposed to have been done in the first place.
The Route: almost back to where the race begun in Ourense after 163km at nearly 3,000m of vertical gain. Things get going after the halfway point and the feedzone with a 7km at 4%, a warm-up for the climb with a sprint point just before the mountains point and 10km at 5% but with sustained parts at 6-7%.
Then comes another unmarked climb at 4-5% but on a small, twisting road inside the Sil canyon and a reciprocal descent before another unmarked climb to Pombar where the road gets wider but not easier with 2km at nearly 8% to reach the 4km to go point.
The Finish: a wide descent from Pombar down to Luintra with one tricky bend and then a sharp left-hander at the 1km to go point, a couple of hundred metres downhill and then finally the road rises gently up the the line.
The Contenders: a breakaway or a sprint? Probably a breakaway although the irony is that for all the lack of sprint trains the route suits the few sprinters who started this race with Gianni Meersman, Niccolò Bonifazio able to cope with the climbs. The likes of Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) and Giovanni Battaglin (Lotto-Jumbo) fare well on this kind of terrain too as they have a fast finish.
Philippe Gilbert is looking strong and the sharp 2km climb with 4km to go climb is perfect for him but he’s been showing a lot of himself and there’s likely to be a queue on his wheel; all the more reason for him to boost his odds by going in the breakaway while Michał Kwiatkowski, Dries Devenyns and Moreno Moser can all win on a course like this but the latter two have just settled new contracts for next year so will they be in the mix? Nathan Haas (Dimension Data) is also a contender, he’s had a tendency to waste energy in the final phase of a race but his win in the Vuelta a Burgos was reassuring both for strategy and form. For fun, two random picks: Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha) and Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r La Mondiale), both are strong, versatile and promising riders.
|Philippe Gilbert, Fabio Felline|
|Meersman, Haas, Battaglin, Kwiatkowski|
Weather: hot humid and a strong chance of thunderstorms. The temperature will reach 34°C in the valleys.