Vuelta Stage 20 Preview: Benidorm -> Alto de Aitana

Today’s Recap

Wow.

Froome smoked everyone.

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He managed to beat the guy who smoked everyone else, Castroviejo, by 44 seconds. An utterly dominant display. I mean, he only beat him by 4 seconds at Rio on a much longer TT. Plus, all the local advantages that Castroviejo had, it’s just an insanely unbelievable, strong ride!

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Anyway, enough about today, on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Last chance saloon for the GC riders as we reach the penultimate stage of the race. In typical Vuelta, and Grand Tour fashion, the organisers have created a tough-ish day out on the bike. It’s not the Queen stage, but probably the Princess!

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Four Cat-2 climbs followed by an Especial ascent.

With the GC battle now a lot closer after today, we could see all hell break loose on tomorrow’s stage. Sky might try to take it up early on the first climb of the day; Coll de Rates. 13km at 3% and it’s a Cat 2? Well a lot of the elevation gain (230m -> 505m) is made at the start; 5kms at 5.5%. Before a plateau (if you can call it that) then another kick up at the end.

I don’t think the following two climbs will have an impact on the outcome of the day so I’ll miss them out and get onto the penultimate climb. Although even then, the Puerto de Tudons isn’t overly difficult, coming in at 7.1km long, averaging 5.4%. Nothing the GC guys can’t handle.

So it looks as if it’s over to the final climb. The Alto de Aitana.

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Long, but not very steep with only a 5.9% average gradient. There are a few steeper sections within the climb but if anything will create gaps between the GC guys it’s the length of the climb, at 21km. Combine this with the amount of ascending we’ve had at the Vuelta so far and there could be some splits.

How will the stage pan out?

Before today’s reshuffling I had this down as a breakaway day. Like most days have been at the Vuelta and something we see commonly on the last “proper” day of a Grand Tour.

However, Froome’s time gain does throw somewhat of a spanner in the works in regards to a breakaway victory. Some people will suggest that Sky will go all guns blazing tomorrow to try and isolate/weaken Quintana and we’ll have another epic stage on our hands.

Yes, it is feasible, I mean, nothing is impossible but it seems implausible to me. Not that I’m controversial or anything 😉 Let me explain.article-2043608-0E278F2700000578-613_306x423

The only problem with that plan, is that in the mountains Quintana hasn’t been in trouble at all this entire race. He only lost small amounts of time to Froome on Stage 3, but since then he’s been at least on an equal footing with the Brit and has beaten him several times. As I’ve said above, the climbs tomorrow aren’t overly difficult (which actually favours Froome) but Quintana should have no issue following. Unless he cracks majorly. Heck, he can afford to lose a minute, which is an enormous amount of time for these guys.

Isolating Quintana through the use of Froome’s team-mates doesn’t make much sense either. If it’s left as a 1 v 3 then all the Colombian has to do is follow Froome’s wheel. Numerical advantage won’t make a difference. Bet they regret not having Konig up there on GC now!

Finally and most important of all, I think Froome knows that Quintana’s better than him in the mountains just now. He’s tried a couple of times to crack him and has failed. It would be a big loss mentally for next season if he tries again and it doesn’t work. As bad as it is, I think he might be happy with his 2 stage wins and 2nd on GC.

So once again, I think we’re left with a…

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Candidates

There are a lot of guys who’ll be keen to get in the move to showcase themselves but especially because they will fancy their chances on the final climb.

Look to your obvious guys, such as Fraile and Elissonde who both have to make the move to continue the KOM battle. Gesink will probably be there too. However, I’m not suggesting any of them. Coincidentally, the guys I am naming took it “easy” today as well, all finishing outside the top 100, saving their legs… (?)

Joe Dombrowski.

Giro d'Italia - Stage 16

A regular pick of mine at the Giro earlier in the year, he’s a great climber with a solid engine. One of the most naturally gifted cyclists in the peloton, much like Ryder Hesjedal, he’s someone who seems to get better as a race progresses. Before the Vuelta, Talansky said that Dombrowski would win a stage here. He’s not done so yet, and tomorrow is his only chance. 3rd on the penultimate stage in the Giro, he’ll be hoping for better tomorrow!

Darwin Atapuma.

2nd on that same stage, Atapuma has been very quiet since taking the leader’s jersey earlier in the race. With Sanchez’s unfortunate crash today BMC have lost their top 10 rider and will want to go on the attack. Hermans may be that guy, but Atapuma has a lot more time leeway to play with. An exceptional climber on his day, the final ascent should be a walk in the park for him.

Hugh Carthy.

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The Lancashire lad has had a Vuelta full of learning experiences. He was unfortunate enough to crash and need stitches to his hand earlier on in the race, but he did manage to make it into Froome’s group on that very chaotic Stage 15. This type of stage suits him perfectly (the climbs are consistent) and I hope he’s recovered and makes the break, just to remind everyone what he’s capable of!

Gianluca Brambilla.

The winner of that incredible stage 15, Brambilla has taken it relatively easy since. Rolling home a few minutes down each day, saving some energy. Coming into this race, I thought he was a decent outside shot of a top 10 on GC. However, that is obviously beyond him now, but it highlights the quality of rider that he is. He’ll be able to stick in on the final climb because it’s not so difficult and he could out-sprint anyone to the line.

Prediction

I say Brambilla takes his second stage win!

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Behind, we might see some GC action, but Quintana still wins the Vuelta. All he has to do is stick on Froome’s back-wheel all day and I’m confident he’s capable of that. Even if he does end up losing 20 seconds at most. There might be some more movement within the top 10 itself. The battles for 5th and 7th look exciting!

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Betting

0.45pt WIN Brambilla @ 22/1

0.25pt WIN Dombrowski @ 80/1

0.15pt WIN Atapuma @ 50/1

0.15pt WIN Carthy @ 125/1

All of these are with B365 as they’re the only bookie to price up by half 8. Hopefully others will be more favourable later!

Hope you all enjoyed the preview. How do you think the penultimate stage will go? Am I completely wrong, and will we see a massive GC fight throughout the stage? Does the break have any chance? Like always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

TDF Stage 20: Megève -> Morzine

Today’s Recap

Hopefully Nieve was let off the leash, got into the break, and won the stage.

Again, I’m writing this preview in advance as I’m away from home all day today so it might be a bit shorter/less succinct. Apologies!

*Edit, looks like it was a GC day instead*

 

The Route

Another short and sharp test for the riders! With Paris metaphorically very much in sight, this will be the last chance for many to try to take a stage win.

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After today’s gruelling start to the stage, the riders will be happy to see a bit of flat at the start of the map. However, this won’t make the racing any less frantic as a break tries to escape. It could even be after the sprint point that it manages to properly form! Before we get to the sprint point though, we have the Col des Aravis. A Cat-2 climb that drags on for 6.7km, averaging a 7% gradient. This won’t be fun for the guys at the bottom of the GC, after they suffered today.

The sprint point comes at the foot-slopes of the next categorised climb, the Col de la Colombière. This is a much longer climb than the previous one (11.7km), but it’s gradient is a lot less severe, averaging only 5.8%.

The second half of the stage is characterised by long valley roads, tough climbs and descents.

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Next up is the penultimate climb of the day, the Col de la Ramaz. 13.9km at 7.1%, it will probably see the break split up here, maybe with 5 or so cresting the climb together. Behind, it shouldn’t really cause any GC difficulties unless of course someone is on a terrible day.

Once again, there is a long descent and a valley road before we reach the final climb of the day; the Col de Joux Plane.

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The toughest climb of the day has been saved for last, it barely goes under 7% for the whole climb, with several 9%+ sections. This in theory should blow the race to pieces, whether that’s in the break or in the GC group. Riders will give it their all on the last major climb of the Tour. Once over the summit they have to cut across the mountain, descending slightly, before climbing another 70m again, up to the peak of the Col du Ranfolly. From there it will be a steep and exciting descent all the way into the finishing town of Morzine.

The riders descend all the way into the final km.

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How will the stage pan out?

Breakaway win, most likely.

If there have been GC fireworks today and the fight for the podium is incredibly close then there is a chance this goes to the main contenders. However, none of the teams have looked strong enough to control a stage like this all day, apart from potentially Astana. Movistar and BMC have been relatively poor this Tour.

Break candidates

Look to all your regulars, such as Majka, Pantano, Zakarin etc.

Again though, I’m going to name three riders who I think can go well here.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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The Shark had a sloppy start to the race, underperforming when in breakaways but seems to have turned a corner. He did a great deal of work, a truly monster turn for Aru on stage 17. This to me shows that his form is getting better. As I’m writing this one day early, I’m going to assume that today he’s worked for Aru and then rolled in to the finish, resting up his legs for tomorrow. He’s a favourite for the Olympic RR so will need a good test of his form, tomorrow looks exactly like that type of stage. If he makes the break, he wins.

Alexis Vuillermoz.

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Another rider going to the Olympics to do the RR, he may have ambitions of going well there. After all, he did win the test event last season! A rider who’s really flown under the radar so far this Tour, he’s done a great deal of work for Bardet. He always seems to be the last man left for his team-mate, I’ve been impressed! Vuillermoz took a solid 3rd on stage 15 but says his form is getting better. As a classics specialist, he loves the steeper gradients and should relish some of the tougher climbs.

Vuillermoz in break today, doubt he’ll go again tomorrow.

Damiano Caruso.

Cycling: BMC Racing Team 2016

A more left-field pick, he’s had a very solid Tour so far, working well for Porte and TVG. So might be given his freedom by the team here to go and have some fun. Having hung on well to the GC favourites group on several occasions, he seems to be climbing well. Furthermore, he packs a good sprint on him so could beat quite a lot of riders if it comes down to a sprint in Morzine with a break companion.

If none of my picks from yesterday’s blog made it into today’s move, they could well give it a go tomorrow. In particular a certain Brit might be targeting this one.

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Prediction

If we get a break, Nibali wins.

If it’s GC guys, Aru descends like a mad man and steals victory.

Either way, Astana win this penultimate stage!

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Betting

I’ll be backing the 3 riders above, with Nibali receiving most of my money (unless of course he went in the break today), then Vuillermoz, then Caruso. A similar staking structure to previous previews but maybe a bit more on Nibbles than normal. Obviously, I don’t know prices etc, so just have a hunt around yourself. This planning and writing ahead thing is tough!

*Late Friday edit. Nibali shortly priced, gets majority of backing. Caruso gets smaller weighing. 80/20 split.

 

Again, apologies for the slightly shorter preview. Hopefully we get an exciting end to the Tour’s time in the Alps! As usual, any feedback is great and thanks for reading! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

 

 

Giro Stage 20: Guillestre – Saint’Anna di Vinadio

*I apologise in advance if this preview seems more rushed than normal. I’m very hungover and also have to pack as I’m moving out of my flat tomorrow*

Today’s Recap

My oh my, what an exciting stage!

A real shame for Kruijswijk who loses the Maglia Rosa lead after falling on the descent over the Colle Dell’Agnello. Apparently he’s a bit bashed up, sore ribs etc but will carry on tomorrow. If he’s as sore as he says then he’ll be looking behind, protecting his podium spot, rather than ahead of him.

Unfortunately, Zakarin had to abandon after a bad crash on the same descent. It’s a suspected broken collarbone, nothing too serious. It says a lot for the strength of these guys that a broken collarbone is regarded as a minor injury.

Back at the business end of the race, Nibali dropped Chaves on the final climb and rode away to a superb solo win, destroying the field and setting up a very exciting final day tomorrow. A lot of people will argue that it was bad etiquette that Nibali pushed on after Kruijswijk’s fall. However, in my opinion he was perfectly fine to do so. It was Kruijswijk’s own fault that he crashed, it wasn’t a mechanical or someone else bringing him down. That’s just the unfortunate side of bike racing.

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Chaves a.k.a the Smiling Assassin (very apt after today, going in for the kill after Kruijswijk’s misfortunes) moves into the leaders jersey ahead of Nibali. Leaving the GC looking like this going into the final proper day.

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The Route

All guns blazing from the start, and a very tough day to finish the GC battle with. At only 134km long, it’s going to be fast and furious. Some riders will be very concerned about time limits.

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The climbing action starts straight away with the Col de Vars. 18.2km long at an average gradient of 6%, max gradients of 13%. I hope the riders have eaten their Weetabix in the morning!

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Next on the menu is the famous Col de la Bonette. At 22.2km long with an average gradient of 6.7% (max 10%) it’s a proper Alpine climb and energy sapper. One that Vincenzo Nibali will love.

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The final Cat-1 climb of the day comes with just under 30km, the Colle Della Lombarda. Another brute of a climb at 19.8km in length and an average gradient of 7.6% (max of 12%), we’re bound to see splits here, especially if there has been no action on the previous climbs.

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Once over the summit, the riders face a fast descent, before a final kicker up to the line.

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It may well be that the winner of this stage wins the Giro.

Who are the stage contenders?

The last mountain stage of a Grand Tour often lends itself to a breakaway win, but there is no chance that is happening tomorrow. With the profile climbing from Km 0, all hell is going to break loose, with Astana trying their best to put Chaves into difficulty.

I can’t see who would be given freedom. Those 10 bonus seconds on the line could be the difference between the top 2 on the podium.

Chaves has looked so strong going uphill this race, but faltered a little today. He was made to do a lot of the work by Nibali and others throughout the race. Maybe that took it out of him at the end? He won’t go down without a fight tomorrow.

Whereas Nibali has remarkably came back from the doldrums and now looks the strongest in the race. Is he strong enough to put the required time into the Colombian?

As for the others, I don’t think Kruijswijk will recover for tomorrow unfortunately, and Valverde and Majka can’t match the top 2.

If we somehow do get a break, look to those who’ve been active so far. Potentially Ulissi and Nieve again, with the young American Dombrowski being a strong break candidate as well.

Prediction

As I’ve expressed above, I can’t see past a GC winner for this stage. Going off of recent form (i.e. today) I can’t see past Nibali. The Shark will smell blood and take back-to-back stage wins!

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The big question remains, will he take the GC too?! I can’t call it, it’s going to very close!

Betting

Keep your money in your pocket and just enjoy the race!

 

Again, apologies for the shorter preview. I don’t really have much to say for this stage, and as expressed above, I’m not feeling too jolly/need to pack. I should be back with a more flowery and wordy preview on Saturday night. Although that will be late as Saturday evening will be family time, so I probably won’t have it out until 11pm GMT. Hope you all enjoyed today’s stage, we should be in for more of the same tomorrow! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.