Stage 15 turned into more of a damp squib than I was expecting with the majority of GC riders coming home together. Well, apart from Superman Lopez who forged ahead to take another stage win. I told you pre-Vuelta to keep an eye on him!
Froome though is still in control of the race with closest rival Nibali just over a minute behind and third placed Zakarin 2’08 in arrears.
There is still a lot to play for going into the final week and the battle for the podium should be a great one, even if the GC win might be out of reach.
Will that be the case after tomorrow’s TT? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.
A 40km individual effort against the clock that could (will) have a big say on the outcome of this race overall.
In terms of the route itself, it is book-ended by two fairly technical sections. The stage starts on the motor racing “Circuito de Navarra” which has a lot of tight turns that will mean the riders can’t get up to full speed. Saying that, it is a fairly wide track so it is not like a street circuit where they would have to go really slow!
Once out and through Los Arcos they will power along mainly straight roads but with a few sharp turns littered throughout the itinerary. Nonetheless, it should be mainly full gas until they enter Logroño.
The riders will have several roundabouts to traverse (classic Vuelta) and a very tricky closing kilometre. A good bit of time could be gained or lost here!
As for the parcours itself I’ve made a VeloViewer/Strava profile of the stage, as is tradition. You can view that here.
It is by no means a completely flat TT, as the official profile somewhat suggests, but it isn’t crazily difficult.
We have a couple 1-2km drags at roughly 2.5-3% in the first 15km of the stage, before we reach the “hillier” part of the route.
The above image is from 15.5 -> 19.9km into the route.
As you can see it is not leg-breaking, especially by Vuelta standards, but it will still require riders to manage their effort well. Quite a bit of it is false flat mixed in with some more standard climbing metres at 5% etc, but there are a few steep 10% ramps thrown in for good measure too!
From there, the riders will be onto the easier part of the course.
The second half of the TT dos have a few kick ups as you can see, which will knock some of the speed off from the descent, but the majority of it is mainly downhill.
Will riders keep enough in the tank to tackle the more rolling final 3kms?!
As is often the case in time trials, the weather can play a big part in the outcome of the day due to the long time period between the first and last rider setting off.
Dunne will be the first rider down the ramp, starting at 13’34 local time, with Froome beginning his effort over 3 hours later at 16’52.
A full start list can be viewed here.
Fortunately for everyone they should all face the same road conditions, with no rain forecast for the area at all.
However, they will have different wind conditions…
Those starting later will have a lower wind speed, but a much more favourable direction, with a tailwind for the majority of the course. Whereas those who’re off at the start will have a less desirable cross-tail wind.
It might not play a massive part, but it is something to consider.
Unless of course that massive change in wind speed comes in a bit earlier then Froome might fly along the course!
With Dennis now gone, it does open up the stage for some riders. Well, I had originally wrote that I thought Froome would run the Australian close due to the latter’s not so great form on longer TTs recently. So with that said…
Has to start as the overwhelming favourite. His past results in second week Grand Tour TTs are rather impeccable; 3/1/1 in the Tour/Vuelta/Tour. It is that win at the Vuelta last year that really stands out for me. In my preview for that day I wrote that I thought Froome looked tired after the previous stages and didn’t seem to be at his best fitness anymore. Sound familiar? He went on to crush that day and secure his second place. I think he’ll crush it tomorrow and secure his first place on GC.
There are a whole host of riders who’ll be lining up to hopefully take the win if Froome misfires, but they have a more realistic chance of taking the podium behind the Sky rider.
The Portuguese rider has been targeting this stage all race and he should be close to the front by the end of tomorrow. He started off the Vuelta very strongly but has faded recently. Whether that was due to him getting ill, or saving energy, we’ll only really find out tomorrow through his performance.
Winner on the opening road stage, the Belgian TT champ has ridden well in service of his team-mates over the past couple of weeks. Tomorrow is his chance to shine as an individual again though and he’ll certainly be up there. He finished 4th at last year’s TT and will hope to go better this time round!
Seems to have avoided the illness that has plagued his team as of late, but he was slow to respond to his podium challenger Zakarin on the last stage. Was that a sign of weakness? He used to be considered a fairly strong TT rider while at Jumbo, but he seems to have regressed since his move to Sunweb. I don’t think we’ll see him on the podium tomorrow.
Luis Leon Sanchez.
The experienced hand at Astana always seems to go fairly well in long TTs at Grand Tours. He’s looked good in this race, picking days to attack but also willing to sacrifice himself for Aru and Lopez. On stage 14 he did a lot of the driving work to help pull the break back somewhat so I think his form is there. He took it a bit easier the following day and with Astana leading the Team Classification, I think he’ll go full gas tomorrow.
I could not mention Big T, now could I?! Third on the final TT last year, the FDJ man has looked comfortable this race, but he’s not been as prominent and attacking as I had hoped for. Nonetheless, he will give it a good bash tomorrow and will certainly be in contention for another top 5 result.
Another rider who falls into the “strong team-mate who might be eyeing up this stage” category. The former Luxembourg champion should have the power to match the best over this type of distance, it just depends if he goes 100% or not. He was third on the similar TT during the Giro this year. Can he repeat that here?
As for some others, I’m quietly hopeful for a good time from Superman! He produced a very good time in the Tour de Suisse last year. That TdS result did come at altitude which could have helped him a bit. Nonetheless, with his current form, he should be closer to others than expected.
Safe – Froome.
This is the day I have been saving the Brit for!
Wongshot – LLS.
A Spanish rider who’s going well and has a proven track record over the distance.
Lanterne Rouge – Blythe
The Brits to book-end the day.
You haven’t been paying attention, have you? I told you above – Froome to win!
Luis Leon to sneak onto the podium somewhere and Superman Lopez to remain in the GC podium hunt going into the last few stages.
The good prices on Froome are gone now after Dennis’ withdrawal. Some bookmakers might Rule 4 any previous bets that you’ve made but I still think his current odds of 4/5 in some places offer value. He’s 10/11 on the exchanges if you can get there.
I genuinely can’t see past anyone else and although I don’t like advising odds on for stages;
5pts WIN on Froome @ 4/5
2pts LLS to finish Top 3 (with B365)
Then 1pt on this H2H treble…
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will it be Froome domination, or can someone upset the apple cart? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.