Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 6 Preview
The prediction was correct again, and in what way! Like writen Max Schachmann managed to get in the break, rolled all day long, distanced his companions and went on for an exciting solo win in Sant Cugat del Vallès, managing to hold of the peloton by a mere 13 seconds, which was led over by Michael Matthews and Ryan Gibbons.
It was a busy start of the day. Bert-Jan Lindeman (Jumbo-Visma), Andrey Amador (Movistar) and Tejay van Garderen (EF) attacked and gapped over the first climb of the day, de Gendt tried to jump across but didn't manage to hold on but Schachmann did. The 4 riders then went on for most of the day, although the gap never went over 3:30 minutes, the struggle to eliminate it was clear in the peloton, with Sunweb, Dimension Data and Arkea doing the chase.
In a slow-burning ride the fatigue was built, and with 10 kilometers to go Schachmann did the decisive move, he went clear easily from the others in the group and was able to retain his gap steadily over the peloton.
With 10 kilometers to go aswell this was the situation in the peloton. In a normal situation it wouldn't be of much concern, but there was evident fatigue in it, with only Sunweb in the chase. The gap was at 50 seconds and only coming down slowly, Mitchelton, Bahrain also had short spells in the front, desperately trying to reel the German back in, but he proved too much. Wilco Kelderman in the meantime had crashed, creating some deorganization and giving Schachmann a little bit more breathing room, which in the end proved vital, as he managed to go all the way into the line without being caught, an amazing display of power that you don't see everyday.
The peloton was resigned to fight for the remaining places, Matthews topped Gibbons in the sprint with Bevin, Impey and Bauhaus also in it, with a short gap over the peloton. Michael Woods and Egan Bernal had technical issues inside the final kilometers but were given the same time as the group so they remain in the fight overall.
Perhaps the most sprinter-suited stage in the race. In theory it's the 4th stage that can fall to that side, but this one is the last chance for them and the parcours isn't as hard as the previous days (despite the 2246m of elevation gained). The bulk of the stage isn't easy, in the classic rompe-piernas spanish terrain, but the final 50Km are almost all downhill and should be terrain where an organized chase can easily bring back the escapees.
Specially being the final sprint stage all the teams with a strong contender will try and get some glory in here, mainly as there was only one sprint stage so far and the puncheurs took the results.
There will be a headwind for the first 50 kilometers of the stage but from then on it's mostly tailwind. That includes the climbs and the descending terrain. So unfortunately for many, it is yet another day suited for the breakaway.
Who can we expect to see?
There's a big mark on tomorrow and that is Sunweb. They already won a stage, today they chased all day long, lost Kelderman due to a crash and in the end didn't even manage to catch the remains of the breakaway. With another perfect stage for the breakaway tomorrow I honestly don't see them doing the same work again, they will want someone in the break.
Without Sunweb chasing the motivation will be low. Dimension Data/Arkea helped today but as we saw their help didn't manage to bring Schachmann back, and with Greipel not even in the sprint and Gibbons beaten by Matthews, I doubt they'll want to seriously work. So the presence of a Sunweb in the break means it goes for them, if there isn't, there's a shot for the peloton.
The GC teams will also likely not have a say tomorrow as they will look to save themselves for Sunday's Montjuic stage, but that should only affect the chasing and not who gets in the break.
Matthews and Gibbons are the only favourites for a sprint, everyone else seems very distanced. Greipel wasn't even in the sprint after the team working all day long, Bevin and Impey were there but they don't have the power to match the other two. Bauhaus was there but didn't have the legs, and Hodeg didn't finish the stage today. So the most viable thing is again to try to guess who will be in the breakaway and have a shot to win.
There's a particular duo that's been racing strongly and thats de Gendt and Lambrecht. Both have a good sprint and both can climb well. No doubt de Gendt is a better rouleur that can go from distance, his KOM lead will always be a motivation for him to be in the move and try to repeat his feats of stage 1.
Bevin, Impey are two riders who might have a go tomorrow since they haven't been able to beat Matthews yet, they aren't as fast as the pure sprinters but both can climb very well, Dion Smith of Mitchelton is also a decent call.
Gougeard, Devenyns and Weening are riders racing without pressure, they all should like such a profile. Weening not for the sprint but if he manages to get in the break he should be a great engine for the gap to mantain, the other two are great rollers, with Devenyns having a great touch in the climb.
And as Bora have been in the break and may be looking out for more, I don't believe Schachmann will put himself on the game back-to-back, but Jay McCarthy and Muhlberger are great names for tomorrow, possibly even Formolo although he may struggle to get in as he's a lightweight rider.
⭐ de Gendt, McCarthy, Lambrecht, Bauhaus, Greipel
Bevin is my call for tomorrow. Sure he can be up there in the sprint but I really believe it'll be another one for the break, he is agressive, climbs well and rolls extremely good. Bevin can do it in all ways and he's racing without pressure, I'm sure tomorrow he'll give it a go as he's been riding magnificently and doesn't want to leave Catalunya without winning a stage.
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