Tour de Pologne Stage 6 Preview
It was an exciting finish as expected today, the sprinter/climber balance was once again very interesting to see and the finale delivered the show expected. A dangerous attack before the final circuit put the pace in it's top brink and then INEOS really put the hammer down in the final kilometers. The final climb was paced by them and Lopez/Formolo even attacked in the final kilometer, but INEOS chased them back and they delivered Ben Swift well, but behind him was Luka Mezgec who powered away as if it were a flat road, no-one could match his speed, Eduard Prades came from behind to take second and Swift finished third.
Positive: Mitchelton and Mezgec proving to be the headliners of the race so far, Ackermann keeps the lead but that was never in doubt he finished in the peloton.
Negative: Amaro Antunes, Alexander Geniez were between the riders loosing time today, inbetween those missing in the sprint I'll only mention Danny van Poppel who wasn't even in the peloton it seemed.
Stage 6 is another circuit around the well known hills of Zakopane. It's a rough day with virtually no flat terrain, there's 3300 meters of climbing, most of them around the same climb as they will get out of Zakopane to climb Gubalowka, have a circuit around the Pitoniovka and come back towards Zakopane again through the Gubalowka, but instead of turning back to Zakopane the finish this year is in Koscielisko.
The Pitoniovka will be climbed 5 times, the last of them having it's summit a mere 16 kilometers away from the finish line and it's a quite hard one, the average gradient as it's visible is 8.7% but it's more complex than that as the gradients go well over the double digits, averaging 14% for 500 meters during the bulk of it, before slowing back down the gradient again. As for the Gubalowka it summits just a mere 2.5 kilometers away from the finish, it's no doubt the final launchpad for those looking to win, after it comes just a fast descent and a small ramp for the line.
There will be somewhat of a minor storm throughout the night and morning, it seems as if the rain and wind won't be present by the time the stage starts but the roads will be slippery for sure, and it will make for a very tense stage, the fight for positioning will be big.
Northwestern wind at around 10Km/h, not strong but the gusts will be above 30Km/h and it's likely to see them take some effect after the summit of the climb that will several times be repeated throughout the day.
Today wasn't the best of indications, with yesterday's stage neutralized tomorrow will be the first actual GC challenge in which it will be a shock to the system, and the riders themselves don't know how strong they are compared to their rivals. The stage won't fall for a breakaway, that's been set in stone pretty much throughout the race and with two stages left, this one being the hardest it will be set on fire for sure, the climbs are suited for it.
The Bora riders are the ones that have caught my attention more, today Davide Formolo counter-attacked Lopez and looked very lively and sharp, whilst Majka finished 6th in the sprint. The duo have each other but also an in-form and motivated team still with the lead, they look in good form as they're also set to race the Vuelta in a couple of weeks, serious contenders right there. On the other side there is Astana with an equally strong Miguel Angel Lopez who showed his skin today, him alongside Ion Izagirre and Merhawi Kudus are still within the GC fight but their support is strong enough to cause mayhem, and they will surely attempt to do so as the terrain is hard and steep and it suits Lopez and the team's agressive style, they know how to do it.
The two main candidates outside from those two duos are Diego Ulissi and Sergio Higuita, both lead the team and are perfect for this type of short and steep climbs, very explosive and with a decent sprint there are several scenarios where they could do some damage in the race, and take control of it too. Eduard Prades is looking very good, one of the best GC contenders so far and he is to be taken into serious account, other riders that may have sole leadership and good legs include Pierre Latour, Robert Gesink but a name I really like is Chris Hamilton, still very under the radar by the ordinary eye but he has the legs to take the race by the horns.
Numbers can be vital in the teams though, from INEOS Tao Geogheghan Hart and Pavel Sivakov usually thrive in longer climbs but with so much amount of climbing in the day they may have better legs than some of the above, there's Matej Mohoric and Domenico Pozzovivo, two very different riders but they can benefit from each other if they race well, there's an interesting setup in Deceuninck, James Knox is the rider I expect to see lead in the climbs, they suit him well and form is definetely there, today also Petr Vakoc emerged and the team chased in the final kilometers so they were well aware. Not ignoring Bob Jungels but he has been working for Jakobsen so it seems as if the team's plans are far from taking him to the GC fight, although he can and even if not the leader he's always a valuable card to play.
Some riders as Carlos Betancur, Antwan Tolhoek and some other names come as outsiders but there is no evidence that they can't be up front, it will all be about the legs tomorrow, lot of climbing and who can handle it.
⭐ Pozzovivo, Vakoc, Hart, Sivakov, Jungels, Prades, Gesink, Betancur
I have a good feeling about Formolo. In fact I have several times this season, he's a rider that gives me lots of confidence, he really likes this type of short climbs and I think he has it in him to win tomorrow, great rolling and descending skills adding to Majka's presence in the team.
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