• Rúben Silva

Tour of California Stage 6 Preview

Ivan Garcia Cortina own his first professional race, in an impressive sprint win in front of Max Richeze and Sergio Higuita. The stage was very fast, a big breakaway including some of the favourites like Peter Sagan and Davide Ballerini pushed the peloton into working hard, where Bahrain and INEOS did most of the chasing. The final hill saw some attacks, by Zdenek Stybar and later Sergio Higuita, that had George Bennett push in the descent, but eventually the race came back together and Cortina was able to outsprint Richeze for the line.

Positive: Higuita got some time in bonifications today. George Bennett too but only 2 seconds (unlike 8 from Higuita). Bahrain got only it's third win of the season only, but with the Giro currently on they have the opportunity to pick up some wins these weeks following this one.

Negative: Ballerini wanted the KOM classification so he has a good justification, but Sagan's presence in the break didn't look like a very good plan. He could've survived the hill and be a top contender for the break. For the GC, wasn't good seeing Rob Britton loosing time here, 24 seconds whereas he worked hard to get on stage 2.

Stage 6 will be a California classic, with the ascent to Mt. Baldy set to host the finish of the queen stage of this year's edition. As it is usual there will be some ascents around Glendora Ridge in a very short stage, only 127 kilometers in lenght.

The final ascent is well known, there's 8.1Km at 8.3% which is a very dificult ascent at such altitude, although not as extreme as some past days, it summits with almost 2000 meters of altitude, and wil be the final playground for the climbers to attack each other and for the race to be decided.

The Weather

No wind pretty much, cold temperature in the high altitude as obvious, but the weather shouldn't play a part in the stage.

The Favourites

The place to start is EF, with the times mantained in that dramatic stage they remain in the lead of the race. Sergio Higuita has looked very good lately, likely their strategy will be for Higuita to follow the attacks, that are likely to come the biggest from George Bennett, while the rest of the team will stay with Tejay can Garderen, Rigoberto Uran included.

Richie Porte hasn't looked at his best this week but the terrain also hasn't favoured him. The climbing nature and summit finish today will suit him much better than the last stages. And the other major threat to EF is Tadej Pogacar, the best placed of the climbers except the yellow jersey, Pogacar has looked good so far, he's only 16 seconds away from van Garderen which in reality is an easy gap to create on such a stage if he has the legs.

Simon Spilak and Rohan Dennis are two outsiders, they have a bit of freedom when it comes to long-range attacks for sure but EF has the team to control the race it would seem. But these are two riders who can profit from an agressive start to the stage.

Bora duo Max Schachmann and Felix Grossschartner is also in good position. The latter mostly should enjoy more the climbing on the menu, still in good form the Austrian is also in range of the win overall but will need some good legs for it. Cofidis has looked very good so far in the race with good depth, Jesper Hansen is their leader, in GC contention, but other riders like Natnael Berhane and Darwin Atapuma aren't far away, and the strenght in numbers can be put to good use by the French team.

Gianni Moscon isn't exactly a climber but he's looking back in good form, he's a possibility but his team also won't be able to give him good support, the same can be said for Kasper Asgreen, he isn't a climber but he has been looking on superb form, and the Dane has an amazing potential. Rob Britton and Gavin Mannion of Rally are another combination that can work well in the stage.

Prediction Time

Higuita, G.Bennett, Porte

van Garderen, Uran, Pogacar, Grossschartner

Moscon, Schachmann, Dennis, Spilak, Hansen, Britton

Would you believe Bennett is yet to win a stage as a professional? His only win was exactly here in California when he won the GC, but he hasn't won a stage yet despite immense quality. He's looking very sharp this week, always looked to be matched by Higuita and I feel those two will be in front alone again today, but Bennett has experience on his side, and he knows very well the climb.

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