A likely sprint finish but still a stage packed with climbing where a breakaway will barge clear.
The Eternal First: he’s 38 and got his 120th win, this time Alejandro Valverde beat Michał Kwiatkowski. While the likes of Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez have retired, Valverde keeps on going. Kwiatkowski can console himself with the overall lead and we’ll see tomorrow how he can cope with more serious climbing. Having asked a few days ago if Richie Porte “can really be so unlucky for so long” the answer seems to be yes, he lost 13 minutes but before you label him a loser remember he’s a millionaire paid to ride a bike, so he’s doing ok. Porte’s losses were catastrophic but Vincenzo Nibali lost over four minutes, as did his team mate and notional co-leader Gorka Izaguirre. Ilnur Zakarin crashed in the stage and was distanced later on the final climb to lose a minute while Miguel Angel Lopez also lost a handful seconds, the stage was rather selective for the first of four Sundays.
The Route: 178km and 2,530 vertical metres. It’s 20km along the coast and then inland up the Puerto del Madroño, a 20km climb often at 4-5% but with its steeper moments and as a first category climb there’s points galore at the top.
The Finish: the last 4km are practically a straight line interrupted only by roundabouts of which the last comes with 650m to go but it’s taken on one side only so is more of a gentle chicane. It’s flat.
The Contenders: Elia Viviani is arguably the best sprinter of the season, the argument exists because he hasn’t come up against all the big names that often, largely because he rode the Giro and not the Tour de France meaning his programme is different to most of the other fastmen; for example he’s not raced against Dylan Groenewegen since March. Better still he’s got an experienced and efficient lead out train at Quick Step with Fabio Sabatini and Michael Mørkøv.
Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) is quick but prefers a trickier finish, he’s not the purest sprinter. Nacer Bouhanni is a sprinter but can cope with a hill or two and is in need of a result, so his is Cofidis team who haven’t won a World Tour race since March 2017… when Bouhanni won a sprint in Catalunya.
Peter Sagan looks off the pace but could still try to stay in contention. Team Sunweb’s Max Walscheid is fast but can cope with the climbing along the way or will this blunt the legs? Just asking means he’s far from an obvious pick. Trek-Segafredo’s Giacomo Nizzolo isn’t a regular winner, ditto Lotto-Jumbo’s Danny van Poppel. Finally Groupama-FDJ’s Marc Sarreau has had five wins this but all in France so a long shot.
|Matteo Trentin, Nacer Bouhanni|
|Nizzolo, van Poppel, Walscheid, Sarreau|
Weather: warm and sunny, 31°C on the coast.
Tune in: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.