97km and almost 4,000 vertical metres, today’s stage has a y-axis of evil with more hairpins than a Broadway dressing room.
Stage 19 Review: Movistar worked hard all day but imploded on the climb of the Coll de la Rabassa. It ought to have been a stage where Alejandro Valverde chipped away at Simon Yates’s slender lead but the Spanish team imploded and Yates went on the attack himself turning his 25 second lead into 1m38s. It was brave of Movistar to try but they seemed caught between two objectives, setting a fast pace as if they wanted to launch an attack on the mountain, and shepherding Valverde to the finish so he could take the time bonus. Nairo Quintana did try a move and was joined by Steven Kruijswijk and Thibaut Pinot but in the end it created a bridging point for Simon Yates who flew across and suddenly Valverde was losing ground. Yates eventually cracked Kruijswijk but not Pinot who jumped clear for the stage win, his second in this race.
The Route: 97km and 3,700m of vertical gain with barely a flat road. It’s a tour of the microstate – part mountain kingdom, part duty free outlet – and starts in town and takes the climb of La Comella, 8.7% for 4km and so twisty it pays to be near the front. A quick descent and it’s onto the Col de Beixalis, 7.1km at 8% and up to 1,800m above sea level before the descent and straight into the Col d’Ordino, 9.8km at 7.1% and steeper at the start but otherwise a big wide road and then a steady drop back down before scaling the Beixalis once again and then climbing La Comella once more but in reverse, 4km at 6.3% and then down all the twisty hairpins.
The Finish: the Coll de la Gallina but not all the way to the mountain pass, instead just the first 3.5km. It averages 8.7% and is steepest at the start. It’s a twisty climb with 18 hairpins in the final four kilometres and is a steady 9% to the finish line.
The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance. The teams with GC aspirations are likely to play it steady, nobody looks capable of overturning Simon Yates and to work hard throughout the stage just risks imploding in the finish, like we saw yesterday. Still Astana may want to stir things up, M-A Lopez is fifth overall and has a 90 second buffer on Quintana in sixth place so could gamble. Otherwise today’s stage suits Michael Woods (EF-Drapac), Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), half of BMC Racing with Dylan Teuns and Alessandro de Marchi as the lead picks. We should see Team Sky try en masse too, they’ve barely weighed on the race and this is the last chance to show before tomorrow’s Madrid criterium.
Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) has a stage win already but not while wearing the leader’s jersey and he could also win a stage in his adopted home of Andorra too so there’s added motivation to win. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) blows hot and cold but has nothing to lose.
|Miguel Angel Lopez, Simon Yates|
|Teuns, Pinot, Majka, Woods|
Weather: cloudy and the chance of a thunderstorm, 22°C in the valleys, 15°C at altitude.
Tune in: the stage starts at 2.50pm CEST the finish is forecast for 5.40pm.