The Col de Turini summit finish, a big climb for March with over 1,000m of vertical gain and more than a 40 minute effort.
Play it again Sam: a second stage win for Sam Bennett, the bunch kept a tight lid on the day’s breakaway to the point where some who’d gone in the move at first sat up as it was futile. The bunch split in the crosswinds with Dylan Groenewegen and Fabio Jakokbsen on the wrong side which left all the other sprinters in with a chance, from Caleb Ewan to local rider Christophe Laporte only these two fell in a tangle a few kilometres out. Groupama-FDJ deployed their train too early – it’s becoming a habit – and Bennett surfed the wheels to pass Arnaud Démare just before the line. Meanwhile in Tirreno-Adriatico Peter Sagan finished second which leaves the Bora-Hansgrohe management with the dilemma of selection and tactics for Milan-Sanremo.
The Route: 181km and over 4,000m of vertical gain, there’s plenty of climbing just to reach the foot of the Col de Turini, today’s summit finish but all the climbs along the way are steady ascents, sometimes some 6-7% but rarely more and they often average 5%, this is a good day for Thomas de Gendt to go clear and get points for the mountains competition, Lilian Calmejane might have the same idea.
The climb to Pelasque sees them quit the main road to climb up side of the valley and add more altitude, a 6km climb at 6% and then a shorter descent and then the valley road to the
The Finish: a turning off the main road and a gentle start until the first hairpin and then some 8% slopes, the intermediate sprint in the village and then a long climb. The defining characteristic today is the length, there are sections at 8-10% but overall this is a long climb that is engineered and steady, a climb for Team Sky to set a tempo like we see in July.
The Contenders: Simon Yates is in good form and he’s well down on GC which means he can attack and Team Sky don’t have to shut him down so he’s got a good chance for the stage win and is Mitchelton-Scott’s best card even if Jack Haig and Esteban Chaves could have a go.
This is Egan Bernal‘s chance for a summit finish stage win and Team Sky have brought several climbers for the two final stages. At the start of the week this climb seemed too much for Michał Kwiatkowski, how could he cope with the repeat attacks from Simon Yates, Astana, Romain Bardet, Nairo Quintana and the rest. Only now they’re all down on GC, he leads and can pace himself up the climb with Sky’s train to intimidate others and if he’s there for the final kilometre the reduced slope could still see him in the mix.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is always a pick for a long summit finish but doesn’t seem in peak form. Katusha’s hopes rest with Ilnur Zakarin who has been stealthy so far but that’s just how he won the summit finish at Utelle before. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) is stuck, high on GC enough not to get much space from rivals, but not dazzling form to go get the stage but he knows this climb well. Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) is in the race, a fact worth stating because he’s been discreet so far but this is his terrain.
The breakaway has a chance, Team Sky and Astana might set the pace today but they’ll be wary of tomorrow’s stage too and so a strong move can go clear early. Among those who can cope with the final climb there’s Simon Špilak (Katusha) but he had a poor time trial so unless he’s been resting he’s not a safe pick. Marc Soler has had a lot of bad luck but this gives him space today unless he’s on duty for Quintana. EF Education First’s Dani Martinez has room to attack. Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe) can climb well on big ascents but just isn’t a frequent winner. Breakaway specialists like Alessandro de Marchi (CCC), Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) and Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) can go clear but will they sprint for the mountains points today or save themselves for the finish? Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone is a pure climber with a punchy finish too.
|Egan Bernal, Simon Yates|
|Miguel Angel Lopez, Romain Bardet|
|Kwiatkowski, Ciccone, Quintana, Chaves, Bennett, Martinez|
Weather: sunshine and a top temperature of 22°C but cooler at times on the higher sections of the course.
TV: the finish is forecast for 5.00pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then cyclingfans and steephill.tv have schedules and streams.