Itzulia Basque Country Stage 6 Preview
Emanuel Buchmann kept the Bora streak on, taking the most out of an impressive team and individual race, taking advantage of the uncertainty of the chasing teams when he slid into a move and went solo with 22Km to go, getting a superb stage win and taking the lead aswell with it. Astana's strategy wasn't the ideal, and it was Bora who managed to take advantage of it. Schachmann and Konrad finished together in a chasing group around a minute behind Izagirre/Yates/Fuglsang who managed to go clear on the climb.
Positive: Bora Bora Bora. The subject of the race, they've absolutely dominated it, Buchmann in the lead, Schachmann with an impressive stage remaining in 3rd in the GC and still Patrick Konrad in 6th. UAE duo Martin and Pogacar were also strong, a shame they couldn't follow the decisive move but UAE in general raced very well today, Martin being rewarded to a 4th place overall, he might be one of the riders with the biggest motivation to attack tomorrow.
Negative: Astana's strategy didn't come out as they intended. They moved, but when it came to the Ixua climb they didn't put Schachmann into serious troubles. Then they let Buchmann go and didn't have the horsepower to reel the gap at all. Fuglsang and Izagirre rode very strongly but their issue was the rider that swiftly went away. There wasn't any particular rider failing to expectations today pretty much, nothing very important.
Finally the grand finale, it's where the race once again can be decided. After a week of hard racing the final day will only have 118 kilometers on the menu, but it will be a brutal roller-coaster day in the mountains. 6 is the number of categorized climbs, even more the ones on the road with no points to be awarded.
With 55Km ridden the riders will have already had 4 climbs in the legs, including the Azurki climb that was repeated last year in the very similar stage. Last year there were important long-distance attacks so there's no reason for it not to happen this year again, specially taking into consideration the fact that it is the final stage and the final opportunity to win overall, gain places, win a stage, etc. You name it. it will surely be a massive day out.
Exactly with 55 kilometers of racing the Azurki climb will be summited. The begining of the stage will be brutal and this is the last climb of that section, there will certainly be big attacks until here, as after comes an organizing period.
It won't last for long though, the Karakate climb follows, the penultimate categorized climb and the steepest of the day, perhaps the hardest. 5.2Km at 8.5% resembles today's final climb, but it's positioning in the stage will see it having a different role, but of course, it's another launching pad for those who are looking to take back or win time. It's summit comes with 38.5Km to go.
And the final climb to Asensio, not as hard as the previous ones, but the final 3.3Km have 7.8% average gradient with a couple of 12% pitches. It's the final true climb, it's a hard one and the fatigue of the day and the week will surely make it a place for serious show to happen.
From there on the route won't get any easy, right after it's summit with 14.5Km there's a short bump, 1.6Km at 5.9%. A technical descent will follow and before the riders get to the line they'll still go through a draining 500 meter climb at 10% with only 3.5Km to go.
Twisty, winding roads, the usual this week really. Forecast of a sunny afternoon will be to the liking of the riders, and the wind will be weak so it won't have an impact in the race.
Who can we expect to see?
Such a short stage with so much climbing and so much ondulating terrain and roads can only mean attacking. Specially being positioned in the final day, it's a day to go all or nothing for some, but others will try to conserve what they'll have.
Bora is the case, they have been perfect this week, with 3 riders in the first 6 and some riders capable of supporting them well in the climbs. They will definetely play conservatively today and they can afford to with so much strenght, Buchmann will be very hard to dethrone.
On the other side we have the Astana and the UAE Emirates squads, likely the two teams who will try to light up tomorrow's race. Both have very good strenght in numbers, but Astana obviously have to move seriously. With their two leaders in evident excellent form they will surely have to sacrifice one if they want to win the race, but they will likely try some things during the race as they did today and try to seize the opportunity. Emirates on the other side had Henao on the attack today, Ulissi also rode well, but the Pogacar/Martin combo is the most dangerous. Martin is on the verge of the podium, and Pogacar is in 10th, below what he is actually riding for, in the moment. Both ahve great reasons to attack and it's sure that they will try something, they can only profit pretty much.
Adam Yates rode very strong today again, climbing to 7th, but surely he still won't be happy with it, with Hamilton and Nieve in the team they've also got plenty of firepower for agressive racing.
Landa is another rider with not much to loose as is Mas, Mas was very agressive today but failed to enter the big moves, he seems pressured for the result, but maybe tomorrow can be his day. Their opposite is Daniel Martinez who will try to conserve his top10, but he isn't a likely threat to the stage.
For the breakaway, outside of the riders previously mentioned there aren't many that can triumph on such a hard stage. Mollema remains one, like the last few days, perhaps David Gaudu and Rudy Molard aswell can be a factor in the stage.
⭐ Gaudu, Landa, Mas, Mollema, Molard, Konrad
My call for tomorrow is for Fuglsang though. Astana have a team too strong not to be very agressive tomorrow, today they didn't play their cards the best but that doesn't make them bad. They have one more chance to make it, and Fuglsang is definetely the type of rider who should fancy tomorrow's stage.
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