The Basque weekend continues, another scenic stage with plenty of climbing and a city finish.
Lasterketa bikiak: the early move never got more than 90 seconds’ lead and even if the likes of Jonas Gregaard and Pascal Eenkhoorn were sprinting for the mountains points like a rainbow jersey was at stake they couldn’t score enough points to lead the mountains competition but at least they gave the expectant crowds plenty to cheer, a sea of orange and ikurrina flags under the grey skies.
The polka dots went to Neilson Powless who was first to the top of the only second-category climb of the day, max points after UAE’s Mikkel Bjerg had done a giant turn on the climb. However this climb of the Vivero was to prove more remarkable on the descent because Enric Mas and Richard Carapaz crashed, the former DNF and the latter’s a DNS today.
The climb of Pike Bidea proved decisive for the stage. UAE kept up their work, this time Felix Großschartnerpulled so hard he briefly opened up a gap. Total’s Mathieu Burgaudeau made a small cameo on the front but then the big names came past with Tadej Pogačar, Jonas Vingegaard… and Victor Lafay, a surprise but not the first time he’s hanging out with these two in the pointy end of a race.
Two moments of body language. Pogačar wanted to press on but Vingegaard was shaking his head, he’d later explain he wanted to slow things so his colleague Wout van Aert could get across. While some hesitated, over the false flat Adam Yates and Simon Yates got away, this time Pogačar giving Adam an approving nod to get away. Yes they’re twins but the move was more than a fraternal gesture, it made perfect sense: Adam as a second card for UAE to play if Vingegaard was marking Pogačar; Simon as an attacker profiting from the marking. As brothers they were hardly going to hesitate once they’d got a gap.
In the uphill finish Adam just rode away from his cramping brother, opening up a small gap to take the stage, yellow jersey. Pogačar led 11 riders in at 12 seconds, a bigger group followed at 33 seconds. UAE seemed to have the most aggressive plan and got the rewards for it but Adam Yates’s yellow jersey won’t be a priority.
The Route: 208.9km and the longest stage of this year’s Tour and for the trivia the shortest ever longest stage. There’s 3,000m of vertical gain, less than yesterday and spread over a longer course so today’s course won’t see so many in trouble too early. Note the flat run across to the intermediate sprint at 40km, the sprinters and their teams might not want to let a move clear until after. It’s across the Basque country, maybe no landmarks – the course doesn’t visit Eibar, the town that’s arguably the heart of Basque cycling – but there’s Arrasate/Mondragón, home of Orbea bikes.
It’s up to Irun on the border with France and then turning back to Hondarriba where it’s from sea level to tackle the Jaizkibel climb, the western-most Pyrenean climb and a familiar mountain from the Clasica San Sebastian but tackled in the opposite direction today. Listed as 8km at 5%, that sounds almost like a big ring kind of climb but it’s better to break it down into three sections: first a gentler section of 3.5km where the slope reaches a max of 6% but is more gentle, second, a brief descent for a kilometre, finally 4.5km at 7-9% and so a much more selective ascent but all on a wide road and there’s the small 8-5-3 seconds time bonus at the top. Once over the top there’s a descent into San Sebastian.
The Finish: a small climb through the town, all on a big wide boulevard to 2.5km to go and it’s more than a bump in the road, it’s a kilometre at 4% and reaches 6% at one point. Then a drop down to the coast and under the flamme rouge and then a left turn on to the sea front.
The Contenders: another hilly stage, another decisive final climb. One difference today is that two thirds of the field are over five minutes down and almost half are 11 minutes behind, this means plenty have space to go up the road already. The other is that the Jaizkibel is a long climb compared to yesterday’s Pike Bidea, we’re unlikely to see Alpecin-Deceuninck pulling on the front of the peloton today like they did yesterday. Tomorrow’s stage is still Basque but this is already the last chance for Basque riders to get a home win so expect some more local action in the early breakaway after the likes of Omar Fraile (Ineos), Ion Izagirre (Cofidis) and others had a day to forget yesterday, ditto Movistar as a whole.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the safe pick, strong in the finish yesterday and able to clean up in the sprint from a reduced group today. If he’s around for the finish then it just means others who can be quick like David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Pello Bilbao (Bahrain) or Tom Pidcock (Ineos) will find it so hard to win, especially as the Slovenian can count on team support.
Simon Yates (Jayco-Al Ula) was close yesterday, why not again today? This way UAE can unload the jersey but easier said than done getting him away but without gifting him lots of time.
It’s a touch harder to see Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) making the finish today given the final climb today is longer but if he can reach San Sebastian with the leaders he’ll be near-impossible to beat, he’s still a safe pick. With the opening stage done some of the tension has gone out of the race so he could be there, maybe Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) too but harder to see. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) was out of the picture yesterday and his coach and cousin Franck is already talking about the Massif central.
|Tadej Pogačar, Wout van Aert
|Pidcock, Gaudu, MvdP, Cort, Van Gils, Aranburu
Weather: drying out, sunnier and 23°C with only a light 5-10km/h sea breeze from the north.
TV: KMO is at 12.25pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. Tune in early to see if there’s a battle to get in the breakaway, and be sure to catch the approach to the Jaizkibel and the finish.