Night follows day and Froome wins yet another final week Grand Tour TT.
Kelderman was his nearest challenger on the day, finishing 29 seconds down. With Nibali, Zakarin and Contador all staying within a minute of the flying Sky rider.
He’s certainly not struggling in going for back-to-back GT wins. To be honest, barring any unfortunate crash/mechanical or a terribly bad day; then Froome has the overall win in the bag.
The fight for the podium could still be exciting though and I hope we’ll see some attacking racing!
Special mention must go to Big T who was in the hot seat for the majority of the day, only being knocked off his perch by 5 of the strongest guys at the race! I guess the later starters must have benefited from the tailwind I mentioned in my preview yesterday. He’s a winner in my eyes…
Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.
A fairly typical final week Vuelta stage!
The riders will start with a few uncategorised lumps and bumps (6km at 3% is my rough guess off the profile) and a fair chunk of flat plateau before the plunge down the valley at 50km into the stage.
From there, they’ll face a few more uncategorised climbs before the opening Cat-2 of Portillo de Lunada. According to the road book, it is 8.3km long at 5.7%. Not too tough, but it will hurt after the hard racing we have had up to now. It is very unlikely to play any significance in the outcome of the stage though, that will be saved for the final two climbs.
Once the riders summit Lunada they’ll face a long 30km descent, that does pitch back upwards occasionally. Not long after they’ll go through the sprint point before we tackle the final two categorised climbs which both fall in the last 28km of the stage.
First up is the Puerto de Alisas.
As you can see, it is a very steady climb. Great for Sky to control the tempo and deter attacks! So unless someone is feeling very brave, I don’t think we’ll see any riders escape the peloton here. It will be more a case of people going backwards instead.
The descent off of the climb does feature some tricky hairpin turns, but I don’t think we should see many gaps. The road seems to be in good condition!
However, the same can’t be said for our final climb of the day which is arguably the most “viral” of the whole Vuelta.
Alto de Los Machucos translates to “High from the bruises” according to Google; will anyone be licking their wounds tomorrow?
It looks like an absolute corker of a climb to watch as a spectator, not so much to ride up. Incredibly steep gradients interchanged with some shallower sections will make it hard for the riders to get into a rhythm. Furthermore, the road is incredibly narrow and in some places they will only be able to cycle two abreast.
When you then consider that fans will be standing at the side of the road, it could be single file a lot of the way up.
Team cars won’t be allowed to follow-up the climb due to its narrowness, with only the neutral service cars given the freedom to do so. This will make things very desperate if a rider needs mechanical help and there is no one immediately nearby.
It would be wise to put riders in the morning move to almost cover that option alone.
Speaking of which…
How will the stage pan out?
With the main challenges of the day coming so late on then I’m not so sure that any team will want to take up the brunt of the work by chasing the break down all day.
Instead, it is a much better tactic to try to get one or two guys up the road and then call them back if need be to help your GC leader. If not, then give them the green light to go for the stage.
Froome has a commanding lead, and Sky won’t do any extra effort than what is required so they will be more than happy to let a break go.
The only way we might not see the break hold out for victory is that if a rider from in or around the top 10 gets into the move.
Those 4 are all relatively close to 10th place Michael Woods (who is 7’06 behind Froome). If they get into the move then there is a good chance that we will see Cannondale come to the front of the peloton to help chase and protect that top 10 on GC. It is not great to watch from a fan’s point of view, but it is understandable. You’ve got to get those WT points!
Nonetheless, I think another break win is the most likely outcome tomorrow.
So once again, let’s play…
150 out of the 164 riders left in the race would most definitely be given enough leeway to go into a break that could take 10 plus minutes on the GC group. So it should be good fun trying to narrow it down!
Obviously to win the rider has to be a very good climber. However, the issue lies in that the first 60km of the day aren’t great for the mountain goats of the peloton to make the move given how “flat” it is. Well, for Vuelta standards!
Inevitably a handful will, like Majka on Stage 14, but some will miss out. That is unless of course a massive group of 25 riders is allowed to roll off the front after 10km or so. Then we might see some more make it.
Anyway, here goes nothing…
Super strong at the start of the race, he was always going to struggle to keep that form up, especially when we got the longer, higher climbs. Nonetheless, he is still in great shape and is now far back enough to be given freedom to chase stages. The steep gradients of Los Machucos should be to his liking and he’ll certainly be a threat for the win. Has his confidence been knocked though after the past few days?
My “initial-sake” makes his umpteenth return to this section. After Chaves, he is arguably the strongest rider on the Orica team on the mountains at this race. With the Colombian losing a lot of time in the TT today, I think Orica will look to chase stages now. In fact, that was evident on Stage 15 with Yates’ attack. Haig rolled home 6 minutes behind today, saving himself for tomorrow? I think so!
The Ecuadorian has performed well on some of the mountain stages this Vuelta when he has finished with the GC group, coming home in the top 15 riders twice. I’m still miffed that he had to do all the work for Rojas on the stage that Mohoric won, the youngster is clearly the better climber and he would have had the better chance in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how is body reacts this deep into his first Grand Tour, but he is one to keep an eye on if he makes it up the road.
Quick Step have been incredible so far this Vuelta and they’ll want to keep that going in the final week. Tomorrow looks like a good day to get one of their young climbers into the move; easier said than done though! Mas performed very well in Burgos before the Vuelta on the steep ramps of Picón Blanco so he should find the similar gradients of Los Machucos comforting. Can he win and give QS their 6th stage of the race?!
Another tough day where the break looks like it will win so once again you’ll have to adopt a similar strategy as to other mountain days.
Safe Pick – Lopez.
Any GC rider that you have left would be ideal here. There will be gaps on the final climb but I’m not sure they’ll be fighting out for the stage win, so chose someone who could be given some leeway by their opposition. Lopez is that guy.
Wongshot Pick – Carapaz
Name in a hat time again if you’re being bold and going for a breakaway pick!
Lanterne Rouge Pick – Pfingsten
A consistent low finisher. I like his style!
Break to stay away and Roche to make amends for falling down the GC order by winning a stage!
Behind, Lopez to take some more time in the GC battle as those closer to the podium mark each other out of it.
0.5pt WIN on them all;
Roche @ 125/1 (would take 66s)
Mas @ 50/1
Carapaz @ 50/1
Haig @ 50/1
(Would take no less than 40 for the other three)
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will the break make it, again?! Or will we see a GC showdown on the final slopes? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.