As expected it was a long and tough day for the breakaway and we got the inevitable bunch sprint.
The run in wasn’t without danger though and a crash at 3.2km took out Moreno, Pozzovivo and blog pick for the day Molano to name a few. Good to see the Haughey Curse is back with a vengence!
The final 2kms were incredibly hectic with riders and teams strewn all over the road. Quick Step asserted their dominance leading, but it was Lobato who jumped first and launched his sprint early. However, Trentin quickly got into his slipstream and came round him relatively easily in the end, taking the stage win.
Lobato held on for second with Van Asbroeck taking third.
*Overused fact alert*
That win makes Trentin the 100th rider to win a stage in all three Grand Tours. Quite the achievement.
It’s unlikely he’ll be doubling up tomorrow though. Let’s take a look at what is store for the riders.
A rolling day in the saddle that typifies the Vuelta.
Three Cat-2s and Two Cat-3s (quite the tongue twister there) litter the route, totalling 2733m of elevation gain according to the road book.
With it being a stage that is unlikely to see any massive gaps, the fight will be on to get into the breakaway and we’ll most likely see the move go on the first climb of the day; the Alto del Desierto de las Palmas.
Averaging only 4.8% for 8.2km, it is a fairly generous Cat-2 climb going by Vuelta standards. However, it is incredibly inconsistent with lots of changes in gradient, especially in the second half. This makes it difficult for riders to settle into a rhythm and should suit the punchier climbers looking to make the move.
Nonetheless, if there is a big fight to get into the move it might not even stick over the top of the first climb. Instead, it could go on the flatter land that follows, or possibly the second climb of the day.
Alto de Cabenes is a fairly easy climb, averaging a lowly 3.8% for 9.4kms. It shouldn’t be of any major difficulty to the majority of the peloton. If we do see a breakaway go here then some of the power climbers could make the move, rather than it just being the more mountain goat style riders.
The Coll de la Bandereta is next on the menu for the riders. With the break having already been established, it shouldn’t cause any issues and the only action it will see is possibly someone chasing KOM points. It is a sharper climb than what the riders will have faced earlier in the day, averaging 6.8% for 4.6km.
At just over 60km to go, the riders will face the penultimate categorised climb of the day.
The Alto de la Serratella is a long climb at just over 14km, but like a few ascents they’ve faced today, it is not that steep. If anyone wants to forge on out ahead, then they will have to do so early on in the climb between kilometres 4-9 where the gradient is the steepest.
Once over the top they face a long descent that features a kick ups, before a few more serious climbs on the “flat section” before the rise to the finish in Alcossebre.
You can view my full final 6km profile here, if you want to look at the finale in more detail.
After the lower gradients on the previous climbs in the day, this is the typical Vuelta Cat-3 climbs we’ll see throughout the race. It is an absolute leg breaker and the style of finish I love to watch!
Some of it is truly cruel, with 800m at just over 14% (1.7km -> 2,5km in the image above) and 260m at 18.5%; that stops at roughly 400m to the line.
Just look at that kick up! Hopefully the road surface has been improved, other wise it will be like riding on the cobbles of Roubaix.
How will the stage pan out?
There is of course the chance that the GC teams keep things together to chase for bonus seconds on the line, but I struggle to see that happening. Although saying that, Sky are in the lead and Froome looked very good on the similar last climb during Stage 3. They could fancy his chances and consequently keep tabs on the move. In their report of today’s stage Froome says he won’t give any gifts and fight for bonus seconds and at the finishes. Make of that what you will!
Yet, with the penultimate climb coming a long way from the finish then it becomes less likely. The reason I say that is because Sky would prefer a climb/descent just before the kick up the line so that the pace can be made hard and put everyone else into difficulty.
If they arrive at the bottom of the slope controlling a pretty much full peloton, then there could be a couple of his contenders who go better on this type of finish. Therefore, Sky might keep their powder dry and hope Froome can just gain time on the road instead, rather than bonus seconds.
So it looks like a…
kind of day again, with backing a GC guy in-play.
However, even that has some permutations.
If the break goes on the second half of the opening climb then we will see more traditional lighter climbers up ahead, but if it goes anytime after that then a few more power climbers could make the move.
With the other climbs on the road not being too difficult (until the finale), then a splinter group of the breakaway could attack anywhere after the penultimate climb. Heck, we could even see a long-range solo attack a la Plaza from 2015 but that would be very hard to maintain for anyone!
We have a lot of strong riders who are already 6 minutes plus on GC, with plenty much further back than that.
The issue is trying to figure if they are that far back; out of choice, i.e. wanting to lose time to hunt stages; simply not in form; or ill. Although the last two are kind of linked.
Currently there seems to be a bout of stomach issues going around the peloton with Majka and Contador the notable riders to have complained so far, and Ben King pulling out because of it.
It’s a minefield, but I’ll throw a few darts at it anyway!
Incredibly strong in Burgos, he hasn’t been as good as I had expected here so far, shipping a lot of time on Stage 3. Falling into the “possibly ill” category, if he has been bluffing and losing time deliberately to hunt stage wins then tomorrow looks good for him. Aside from Landa and De La Cruz, he was next best on the brutally steep finish of Picon Blanco in Burgos. A similar performance could see him take the win and mean QS take 3 out of the 5 stages.
Alessandro De Marchi.
Willing to put my faith in the BMC man again, he’ll get in a good move at some point this Vuelta. It will be tough for him to out-climb some mountain goats on the finish so he’ll be hoping for a pre-selection before the last climb itself. If so, he can then attack around 10km before the start of the ramp and hope to win Cummings style. He has the class to do it.
The super light Eritrean climber in theory should be able to cope well with the steep gradients of the final ascent. He was incredible at the start of the year in Llucena and he wasn’t too far off the pace on the steep finish in Burgos recently. Dimension Data are bound to get someone up the road tomorrow and in the right company the Eritrean could win.
I have a lot of time for the Movistar man. He has slowly progressed through their system, and although it has not been the meteoric rise since his l’Avenir win that some might have expected/hoped for, he has been very solid. Last year he was great on the steep finish of third stage, taking second place on the day and with it a stint in the leader’s jersey. He’s been a bit off the boil recently, but with no GC leader here as such, I think Movistar will be targeting stage wins. Fernandez could be that guy!
Well it didn’t go well today for me and my Molano pick, after he crashed in the finale. Tomorrow’s stage is a bit of a land mine and we could see a few more hiccups.
“Safe Pick” – Bardet
If you’re near the top of the table take a GC guy and hope that they are near the front of their group at the end of the day. Bardet was one of the strongest on the final climb on S3 and he should be close again.
“Wongshot Pick” – Any Break rider i.e. Mas.
The boat I find myself in just now. You’re almost guaranteed to be out of the overall game so it is time to choose a bold breakaway contender and hope for the stage win. Plus, it saves some GC contenders for later in the race.
“Lanterne Rouge Pick” – Manzin.
The sprinter struggled on Stage 3 and will do so again tomorrow.
I think the break will stay away but it is not clear-cut and all depends on Sky’s attitude. If they think Froome can win the final climb they might bring it back. Nonetheless, I would say it is still a 65/35 split.
So with that said, it is the name in a hat time and I’ll go for Fernandez to finally step up for his first pro win.
So two of my picks aren’t priced up yet, hoping they will be later…
0.5pt WIN on them all though which currently means;
Kudus @ 250/1
De Marchi @ 28/1
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be a breakaway win or another GC day?