A weird stage where the break never got more than three minutes but that was all that was needed.
With Luis Leon Sanchez up the road, Sky kept the break in check for a lot of the stage. However, it was Trek and Contador who tore things up on the final climb of the day, shattering the peloton.
We had a slight regrouping on the descent and flat run-in, with the gap coming down to 6 seconds at one point! Yet, three riders from the morning move kept their heads down, eventually increasing the gap and ultimately fighting out the stage win.
Enric Mas lead out the sprint, but it was Marczynski who was the strongest, beating his countryman Poljanski into second place.
It was a bit of a weird ending to the stage as at one point the Froome/Contador group had 40 seconds on a group containing De La Cruz and Yates. Yet, none of the teams fully committed and in the end DLC only lost 17 seconds.
Will we see something similar tomorrow?
Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
Another 200+km day for the peloton over some undulating roads.
Although we don’t have the same number of categorised climbs that we had on today’s stage, the peloton will actually have to face more elevation gain at 2700m compared to the 2600m today.
There is a lot of uncategorised rolling terrain that once again suits powerful riders.
For example, the opening categorised climb of the day (Puerto La Montalbana) is 8km long at an average of 4.3%. Nothing too strenuous but they do climb for roughly 10km before then!
This is where the break is most likely to form.
Once over the top, there is a short descent followed by another few uncategorised drags. The riders will then tackle a longer descent before the second Cat-3 of the day.
The Alto de Santa Cruz de Moya is another power climb; averaging 4% for 8.7km.
From there, the riders will traverse a plateau of sorts for the following 100km. Kind of flat, but kind of hilly at the same time!
The last climb of the day is enticingly positioned, cresting just 12km from the finish. I would take some of the gradients and bumps in the profile with a pinch of salt as Strava does sometimes seem to struggle when the route follows contour lines very closely. However, the average percentage for the climb is correct and it does have ramps of 15% or so in it, just maybe not the 25% or so.
Two important things to note about the climb are that it is cobbled, well paved, and it is very narrow in points.
One car width wide in parts, positioning will be crucial for anyone who wants to contest the stage.
There is a slight plateau after the crest of the climb, but the closing 5kms are all downhill ever so slightly.
Will it be a solo that comes to the line or will we see a reduced sprint?
How will the race pan out?
Another really tough day to predict. We could easily see a number of situations play out during the stage!
The early break obviously has a good chance at survival given what we’ve seen over the past few days and with terrain that is tough to control. For sprint teams that is.
Contador seems very sprightly just now and he may get his Trek team to help Sky keep check on the break so that he can launch an attack on the final climb. Considering the much shorter distance to the line that today’s stage, he could feasibly hold on with Froome and a few others. But is the climb tough enough for that? I don’t think so.
We could see a couple of teams control the day and hope for a reduced bunch sprint. Trentin was impressive today in making it over the final climb relatively close to the head of the peloton, eventually arriving home just behind the De La Cruz group. Lobato is another rider who might fancy his chances on making it over the short, not too steep climb.
Like today though, it would be wise for QS and Jumbo to send riders in the break so they don’t have to work behind.
Witha fast stage today, some riders will be hoping for a quieter and less stressful day tomorrow. Stage 8 should produce a GC showdown so the overall contenders might want to keep their powder dry for another day.
Consequently, if the right mix of teams and riders goes, then it should be another day for the break to stick!
Time to play everyone’s favourite game at the Vuelta…
Time to throw some darts again.
Big T didn’t make the move today but I’m willing to give him another chance tomorrow. He came home in the Bardet/Moreno/Pozzovivo group today, i.e. the next main one on the road after the groups that included the top 20 on GC and the break. Clearly he has some kind of form and this is a race he seems to perform fairly well at. He climbed well here at the Vuelta last year and I was really hoping to see him push on this season. That’s not happened yet, but could tomorrow be that day?
Arguably one of the biggest talents to come out of Ecuador in a long, long time; he is a solid climber and good all-rounder. He impressed early season, picking up a second place behind Adam Yates in Industria, along with a few top 10s on GC in Spanish 2.1 races. However it was his second place overall in the Route du Sud that really highlighted his talents. After Betancur’s fall today Movistar only have one rider in the top 25 in GC so they are guaranteed to be attacking. Can Carapaz turn their bad luck around?
Another rider to make his return to the blog, he spent the day in the break on stage 5. He missed the key move that day but still finished strongly to take an 8th place at the finish. Tomorrow’s stage looks great for the Manzana rider and like many other teams, they’ll be hoping that the break makes it all the way. Bol is a rider who can climb well but he also packs a good sprint, will that see him through?
This type of terrain is perfect for the Astana rider, who excels on rolling days. I’m still not 100% sure about his abilities on the long Alpine climbs, but nothing tomorrow should be of difficulty for him if he is fit! Punchy enough to make an attack on the closing climb, he could get a gap that way. However, he also packs a fairly solid sprint so he may hope for a reduced gallop to the line.
Picking a GC rider today was definitely damage limitation for anyone near the top of the table. The same approach tomorrow is definitely advised too.
“Safe Pick” – Simon Yates.
A guy that should be there at the finish and relatively near the front of the bunch. It will save some of the “bigger hitters” for later in the race.
Wongshot Pick – Jetse Bol.
An almost smart Wongshot pick as it covers a possibly reduced sprint and breakaway.
Lanterne Rouge Pick – Lasse Hansen.
One of the many riders suffering from illness.
Jetse Bol 2.0 to take a great stage win for Manzana. Vamos!
Bol 0.5pt WIN @ 50/1
Ludvigsson 0.25pt EW @ 300/1
Carapaz 0.25pt EW @ 200/1
Bilbao 0.5pt WIN @ 80/1
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow on this upredictable stage? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.