For so long it looked as if all of the break was going to finish ahead of the main GC guys. However, Bahrain/Astana/Trek all had a different idea for how the day was going to pan out and they started to chase.
The gap tumbled but Majka forged on at the bottom of the climb and the talented Polish climber held on for the stage win.
It is going to be interesting to watch him over the coming week, now that he is back to his best. Another stage win or two are certainly possible!
Behind after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, the GC gaps weren’t overly significant. Lopez once again confirmed that his form is on the way up, nabbing a few seconds ahead of a chase group which was led home by Nibali.
Saying that, some riders did lose over 20 seconds and we seem to have a strong 6 that are a bit better than everyone else at the moment.
Will there be more significant gaps tomorrow?
Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
What a stage!
Two Cat-1s and an Especial climb all rolled into 129km of racing. This is going to be hectic!
The race starts off somewhat benignly, with a couple of uncategorised 3% rises in the first 20km of racing before the race plummets down to the 30km mark and Pinos Puente. From there, the riders will face 27km of false flat (0.8%), hitting the official start of the opening climb with 71.7kms remaining.
I would say that those remaining kilometres certainly fall into the “tough” section.
The Cat-1 climb of Alto de Hazallanas averages a fairly low 5.8% for 15.1km. However, when taking out the 3km of descent and false flat, that gradient shoots up to 7.2%. That sounds a bit harder!
The second part of the climb is the hardest though, with the final 7.6km averaging a very sore 9%. It is the perfect launchpad for riders to take some risks with an early move.
Once over the top the riders get some respite on 18km of descent, before some valley roads and the double ascent to finish the day.
I’m not even going to bother to distinguish between the Cat-1 and the Especial climb, just lumping it all together!
That looks like great fun…
27.7km at 5.9%, some riders are going to suffer tomorrow. Thankfully, or not, depending on who you ask, the opening 6km of the climb are the toughest (the Cat-1), averaging close to 10%.
From there things get “easier” and the closing 14km are great for riders who like to ride tempo, with the gradient only edging just over 5.5%. However, those ramps will feel a lot tougher considering the inevitable fast pace throughout the day and because of the duration of the climb itself.
We then also have the small factor of altitude to consider too.
Roughly the last 8km of the climb are at over 2000m. With the air being thinner, the riders who come from flatter lands could struggle and find themselves not as comfortable as they would hope.
How will the race pan out?
I’m hoping for chaos.
This is one of the stages I’ve been looking forward to all Vuelta and I hope that with all the hype it doesn’t become a damp squib.
We’ll see a big fight to get into the break as the GC contenders try to get some of their team-mates up the road. The battle to get into the move could easily take until the sprint point at 45km into the day.
Astana, Bahrain and Trek were lively today in their efforts to chase down the break today and I’ll be looking to them to bring the fireworks tomorrow.
We could well see a GC rider attack on the opening climb of the day; all eyes on Contador for that now typical banzai attack. From there, all hell will break loose if that is the case. Especially if someone like Nibali follows the Spaniard.
I would be interested to see what would happen if Lopez and Contador went. They aren’t immediate dangers to Froome’s lead, but they aren’t exactly the type of riders who you want to give a few minutes to either.
One thing that the opposition teams will take from today’s stage is that although Froome looked strong, his team was the weakest they have been so far. Nieve cracked a lot earlier than was expected and it was only Poels who was left at the business end. Froome needs a big day from the Dutchman tomorrow. If not, our race leader could be tired out by chasing a lot of attacks. Even though he is clearly in stellar form, he can’t mark everyone by himself. Unless of course he just rides away from everyone!
He’s been tested so far this race but the Sky rider hasn’t looked as if he is going to falter anytime soon. However, he will be very worried about tomorrow, especially after his team looked tired today. Nonetheless, Froome is a great climber and he should be there fighting for victory at the end of the stage. He’s never won a stage that has finished with a +2000m summit, so it will be interesting to see how he copes.
Froome’s immediate rival and main concern tomorrow, the Shark has looked ominous recently. He was strong today and when Contador didn’t want to work with him, he seemed to knock things back a bit. However, he produced a fast finishing to take third on the day and pick up some vital bonus seconds. Unlike Froome, he has had previous for performing well on days where the altitude has really kicked up and he’ll be hoping to go well tomorrow.
My guy! It is great to see the Colombian grow into the race after being lumped with the Haughey Curse at the start of the race. Not an immediate threat to the podium he could once again be given a bit of leeway like we have witnessed the past two summit finishes. If Bilbao makes the break, they could form a deadly duo on the last climbs. Oh yeah, Lopez’s home town is situated at 2800m so tomorrow should be a walk in the park for him!
The rider that everyone will look to, to animate the stage. He wouldn’t disappoint now, would he?! After his mishap in the first mountain test, El Pistolero has followed almost every move and forged on himself at times. I reckon he’ll light the stage up, but he just won’t have enough to finish it off. Nonetheless, he’ll vault up the GC.
Kelderman and Zakarin.
I’m taking these two as a duo as they seem to be just below the level of the four above. It will need some attacking racing from them if they want to escape the clutches of the better climbers, but that could well happen if there is some looking around. Yet, I think they’ll fall a bit behind tomorrow.
I almost feel like I have to put him in here due to his Colombian background and Bogota residence. However, the Smiling Assassin has been just off the pace the past few stages and it will take a lot for that to be turned around tomorrow.
Safe Pick – Lopez
Should top 5 at least barring any misfortune!
Wongshot Pick – Bilbao
Sky call everyone’s bluff and the break gets a big advantage. Bilbao gets the nod to go for the stage win.
Lanterne Rouge Pick – Haga
There’s an illness floating about the Sunweb camp.
It should be a Froome v Lopez v Nibali battle.
Lopez has the advantage of being further back on GC and an altitude native. So yup, you guessed it, I’m going with Nibali.
He really impressed me on the final climb and I get the feeling that he could have followed Lopez today if he had wanted to. His history in big altitude stages is great and that should help him out tomorrow as well.
In what should be a three-horse race, I’m going to play a bit of a safety net and go EW on Nibali as he should surely podium…
2.5pts EW Nibali @ 8/1
Thanks as always for reading, and any feedback is appreciated. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.
One thought on “Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 15 Preview; Alcala La Real -> Sierra Nevada”
Realy cool bro.. fun to read and most of the time spot on! Keep up the good work.