A stage with a finishing circuit including two times over the tricky Cresta del Gallo climb, a narrow climb that’s chased by a steep and twisting descent.
Stage 7 Wrap: a thrilling finish after a long day. A breakaway built up a big lead and it seemed like they were away for the day but the bunch led by Movistar cut the gap down to reverse the situation only for the break to hold on. It came down to three riders with Jerôme Cousin (Europcar), Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (Lotto-Jumbo) and all three looked stuffed in the final kilometres as they traded attacks like punchdrunk boxers. Koshevoy was the most active but the most generous while Cousin, once a track racer, had a wily sprint but overlapped his front wheel with the Lampre rider and took a tumble leaving Lindeman to win with a powerful sprint to the line, a victory for stubborn force or intelligent pacing? Or both? Lindeman was unemployed when the Vacansoleil team folded but he found a ride with the Rabo development team and used that to get back to the pro peloton earning the first Dutch stage win in a grand tour since Lars Boom in the 2014 Tour de France.
Behind the main contenders left it late to show themselves. Fabio Aru was the best and his move looked rampant but he only put five seconds into his rivals. Chris Froome, Dani Moreno, Tejay van Garderen were among the main losers. Game over? No but if they can lose 30 seconds on one climb where things went wild only in the final moments then their rivals have an interest in burying them in the coming days to ensure they have no third week revival in the mountains and time trial.
The Route: the Cresta del Gallo is the obvious strategic point, it’s climbed twice with 36km and 17km to go. It’s 4.2km at 7.5% which makes it a hard, selective climb and more so because of its irregular nature and rough road surface, this is what we might call a tertiary road. There’s a 10% section midway to make it every man for themselves and the descent isn’t easy either, in 2009 Linus Gerdeman led over the top but crashed on the way down, Simon Gerrans won the day.
The Finish: the race runs into Murcia for an urban finish. It’s fast and flat with wide roads. After the one kilometre to go banner the route crosses the Rio Segura and then takes a big avenue all the way to the line.
The Contenders: it’d be great to imagine a scrap between the top riders on the climb and then a sprint between them in town. But given how cagey they are right now – see yesterday’s climb where the moves only happened late – it’s hard to imagine big risk taking with 20km to go.
Alejandro Valverde is the local pick as he lives nearby but this is too obvious almost and the climb might not be selective enough to bring in a group of under ten riders from which he can sprint. Still with such an open stage he’s a safe pick.
Some random breakaway names to think about. Adam Hansen can do well on a course like this, Blel Kadri is suited to these climbs, Stéphane Rossetto has a big and unheralded engine, if Steven Cummings has recovered from Thursday he’s a contender and Simon Gerrans could repeat his 2009 win. Giovanni Visconti has won stages like this before but is he allowed to ride away or on duty for Valverde and Quintana?
If things get back together then Peter Sagan could be in the mix but the double climb is probably too much for him, the same for Julien Simon of Cofidis.
|Barbero, Visconti, Rojas, Hansen, L-L Sanchez, Gerrans|
Weather: hot again with temperatures of 33°C. Remember the numbers used in weather reports are shade temperatures and it’s always hotter out on the road.
TV: a made for TV stage with the added climbs and finishing circuit. They climb the Cresta del Gallo for the first time around 4.40pm Euro time, the second at 5.15pm and the finish is for 5.40pm. It’s on Eurosport too and you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.
Daily Díaz: Welcome to Murcia, Europe’s huerta! Fertile soils and warm temperatures make for a very productive agricultural area. What’s missing from the equation? Water. The rainfall is under 300 mm per year, which accounts for B climates (according to Köppen’s classification). What’s the problem with the rain in Spain? Its distribution is very irregular in time (long arid summers) and space (some of the most densely populated areas are some of the driest). Realising this problem, the Spanish authorities thought of taking water from some parts of Spain to others: that’s, for example, what happens with the Tagus-Segura water transfer, active since 1979. It links the Tajo river in central Spain (a very lowly populated area) with the Segura river in the Southeast (very populated, with important agricultural and touristic resources). See more over at Youtube.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel