After yesterday’s surprising exchanges between the general classification favourites, Stage 12 should follow a more orderly script, but that is not to say that the outcome will be easy to predict here. Stretching over 193.2km from Los Corrales de Buelna to Bilbao, today’s stage takes in a total of four categorised climbs and will see the roads packed with some of cycling’s maddest fans as it passes into the Basque country. The immediately steep start to the day should lure out a breakaway with a greater number of climbers present, especially those eager to accumulate points in the chase for the mountains classification. The first ascent of the day is also the toughest, the Category 1 Puerto de Las Alisas is 10km in duration and averages a steady 6% gradient, after which the pack drop down to another flat section ahead of the next climb. Second on the day comes the Category 3 Alto La Escrita (6.4km avg 4.5%), then a longer run of flat terrain leads into the first of two finishing laps and onto the Category 2 Alto El Vivero (4.2km avg 8.5%), which will be summited a second time with less than 13km from the finish. Tactics on the concluding finishing circuits will play a huge part in the outcome of Stage 12 and it will be a late call as to whether a small move can stay clear into Bilbao.
Fabio Felline has come agonisingly close to a stage victory on a couple of occasions at this year’s race and is likely to have requested that his Trek-Segafredo teammates commit to the day’s chase in hope of setting himself up for a win in Bilbao. His climbing ability has really caught the eye in this opening week and a bit of racing, now raising the question as to whether or not rivals can make life tough enough for him on the final climb.
Gianluca Brambilla should now find himself with a great deal of freedom to attack by the peloton, as a result of having blown a large amount of time on the general classification. This type of hilly terrain, which concludes with a descent to the line, is perfect for Brambilla to launch a late attack; while he shall also be a favourite to win from a reduced bunch sprint if required to.
Alejandro Valverde could be tempted to contest the finale here, a rider who often emerges as the strongest on a course which concludes with a late ascent that leads into the finish. His focus is now focused upon securing himself another grand tour podium finish, so may instead wish to simply follow the wheels of rivals and ride defensively during what may be a tougher than expected last climb. As ever though, if he is present in a lead group which splinters from the peloton late in the day and reaches Bilbao first, then Valverde will be many’s pick for the win.
Omar Fraile seems certain to join the day’s breakaway in order to continue his mission to secure the mountains classification and shall see the start to Stage 12 as an ideal springboard to do so. The main negative aspect for Fraile in regards to winning the stage is the amount of effort he is likely to invest when securing his points, certain to blunt his ability somewhat come the final climb.
Thomas De Gendt and Alexandre Geniez will be alert to the movements of Fraile in an attempt to prevent him gaining a greater advantage on the pair of them. De Gendt is perhaps the more likely of the two to go after the stage win given his recent form, while Geniez could be playing the long game and instead focus upon collecting points rather than stage honours.
Others with the potential of taking the win include; Luis Leon Sanchez, Mathias Frank and Dries Devenyns.
1st Gianluca Brambilla 2nd Fabio Felline 3rd Thomas De Gendt