Huérca-Overa - San Javier. Mar Menor (155.7 km)
Gotta keep the kids happy and there has been some disgruntled moaning from the sprinters in the backseat.
What Did We Learn from Stage 5?
That now there are no winless World Tour teams. EF Education were the last to get on the score sheet with a strong win from a big breakaway group for Simon Clarke. Sky also lost/managed to offload the red jersey to a deliriously happy Rudy Molard who crowns one of his best seasons with his first leaders-jersey in a Grand Tour. Also that Alessandro De Marchi is on a bit of a rampage that should most likely end up with a stage win somewhere or a strong result at Innsbruck Worlds.
What’s Stage 6 About?
Calling an end to the early days Andalucian adventures and moving the race north toward the next phase. And we do it with a lovely leisurely ride along the coast, with a very limited amount of obstacles on our way to what looks like a certain sprint in San Javier.
Nothing much of note here, we have a couple of Cat 3 climbs to perhaps keep some spice in the KOM competition and lure some of the players on the attack. There’s a points sprint in Cartagena (37 km from the finish so not the one in Colombia but presumably the original one). And once we get to San Javier it’s an all-flat uncomplicated run-in for the sprinters to do their stuff.
Did You Know?
The “Mar Menor” in the name of the finishing town actually refers to the giant lagoon outside of town that separates the town from the Mediterranean. A 22km long sand bar called La Manga shields the lagoon and creates an area that has made it a glorious tourist haven since Roman times. Predictably with tourism has come such bad pollution that it now borders on ecological collapse with its beaches downgraded from Blue Flag status. But the sailing is excellent I hear.
Who Will Win?
We got a pretty comprehensive intro to the sprinting cast here on stage 3. Viviani, like so often this year looks easily the strongest while Sagan looked ok but not really at the top of his game. More importantly Quick Step really are a fine tuned little engine when it comes to setting these things up whereas other teams struggle to find a really winning strategy for leadouts. Lotto-Jumbo tend to do the classic “Super impressive at the 3 km mark- disintegrated when it matters” thing and Danny van Poppel isn’t quite good enough to compensate for a delivery that isn’t 100%. Trek do their “2 guys or more sprinting simultaneously but not necessarily in any kind of coordinated manner” and guys like Trentin and Van Asbroek aren’t quite fast enough in this kind of competition. So that leaves Nacer Bouhanni to fight it out with Viviani in an attempt at a late-season bid to convince people that he is still a man to build a team around in 2019. It could work for him.