Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 5 Preview
Miguel Angel Lopez emerged the winner in La Molina. The Colombian took advantage of some unsureness of the other favourites on chasing him down, and had a brutal performance in the mountain attacking several times to shed his opponents every time, winning the stage by a margin of 16 seconds over Muhlberger and Soler, who were caught on the line by leader Adam Yates and Egan Bernal.
A big break of 25 riders got away in the begining of the race, as expected Movistar placed some riders, Carlos Verona and Marc Soler with the intent of putting on the pressure. Also there were Muhlberger and Schachmann of Bora, Tony Gallopin, Michael Matthews, Damiano Caruso, Guillaume Martin, Sebastian Reichenback, Hugh Carty and Joe Dombrowski, and many others.
The group didn't get more than 3:20 of lead in it's peak, as Sky retained a small leash, not letting Soler and others to gain too much of a gap, and with that the breakaway also lost out members in small groups.
As the peloton rode quickly over the first 3 climbs of the day, there weren't any attacks from outright overall contenders. Soler took the opportunity and in the first climb of La Molina attacked the remains of the group and Muhlberger was the only one who could go with him.
The pair worked together and made it onto the final climb with a lead of 2 minutes, which was slowly coming down as the climb was drawing near. In the peloton there was some work by Jumbo-Visma and UAE Emirates to help the gap shut down, and when the climb started Sky put on an infernal pace as they did yesterday, in order to narrow down the group. Leader Thomas de Gendt was quickly distanced, and would end up surrendering the race's hardness.
It was from far that Miguel Angel Lopez first tried to distance his rivals. With 8.5Km to go he antecipated his rival's attacks by going solo, but when Egan Bernal put in a dig of his own the gap was shut down. Bernal forced the pace until only Lopez, Quintana and Yates were left in the group.
When there was no agreement the attack came again by him, no-one followed immediately. Yates let the pace down and waited for his brother who in the meantime was bridging across alongside Kruijswijk. Simon put in a bit of a chase and allowed Adam to get his breath back and when the gradients ramped up again so did he.
It seemed as if Yates was going to close down the gap but in a small descent Lopez, who had previously caught up with the two leaders on the road, really forced the pace and got some more seconds advantage, whilst Bernal had caught up with him.
With 500 meters to go Quintana and Kruijswijk caught up with the other two, in the same ramp as Lopez dropped his two companions of occasion, and soloed away for a prestigious win, getting the leader's jersey on the way and now leading Yates by 14 seconds and Bernal by 17, who in the final dash managed to get a 3-second gap over the other two.
The race then will come back down from the mountains. The start by the border in Puigcerdà will provide the chance for strong and powerful riders to make a gap in the first climb of the day. Hard enough for a strong selection of riders to get away, and there will be lots of riders trying to do so as from there the finish will be 1600 below that point, so an ideal route for a breakaway to succeed.
It is definetely one which should balance out in favour of a breakaway, the rolling terrain in the middle of the stage accentuates it even more. In case of a bunch sprint it's also gonna be a hard one as the speed will surely be very high.
There will be a slight headwind for most of the stage, perhaps that can balance out things between a possible strong break and the chasing pack.
Who can we expect to see?
Michael Matthews should emerge as the day's favourite, having won the previous bunch sprint and being one who deals with the climbing well. The climbing isn't that hard though so there are other rider who may fancy their chances tomorrow better aswell.
The two German powerhouse sprinters are those that can benefit. Neither Greipel and Bauhaus have shown their best legs so far, but tomorrow's stage won't be as hard as the other two, so there's a possibility of seeing them well in the end.
Ryan Gibbons is another contender, struck out by a puncture on stage 1 and struggling with positioning on stage 2, perhaps tomorrow will be the more balanced option for him, there's still a high hope for me to see him try to win a stage here.
Daryl Impey had a big crash two days ago but today was on the break, that gives some hopes to his recovery, if he has he will be a candidate for tomorrow, just as long as he times his sprint better than the other two.
Alvaro Hodeg at this point is a joker. He has a very strong sprint but hasn't shown himself in the race yet. The stage isn't very hard but there still is some climbing, he first as to resist it to see if he can be in contention for the end.
Hugo Hofstetter, Pattrick Bevin and Grega Bole are two outsiders to have in mind, although we shouldn't see them much in the sprint, Bole especially as he might be leading Bauhaus in.
However for tomorrow's big possibility of a breakaway succeding we should also take a look at who can be in it for it to be a good one. The stage will begin with a hard climb so there's properly good timing for a dangerous break to form itself.
de Gendt may be feeling the fatigue from these days defending his lead, but tomorrow's stage suits him like a glove. He has a KOM lead to defend so that should be the confirmation that he'll be there unless he's empty for the fatigue so far. Schachmann was in the break today, he won a stage here last year and looks in great form, the rolling route should favour him like it has in the past.
From the other sprinters' teams ther should be options. If there's a Sunweb rider in front it should dictate the success of the group, Bakelants perhaps a good option. Devenyns, Lindeman, lots of riders from EF might have a dig too. Bevin is too a good option, he should be an agressive rider like he was today. Lots more riders with good quality for it to succeed it shouldn't range very far from that list.
⭐ de Gendt, Schachmann, Hofstetter, Impey, Bevin
I'll go with a long shot tomorrow. It's very hard to happen but I have a gut feeling that Schachmann will try something tomorrow. He's 19th in the GC which shouldn't give him too much of a leash, but the breakaway should be very strong and packed with good climbers and he's part of the list. The sprinter teams should try to put riders in the break too as to avoid chasing, so it just feels right. If for the peloton Matthews is the call obviously.
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