Vuelta a España 2018 Stage 11 Preview: Mombuey -> Ribeira Sacra. Luintra

Today’s Recap

Viviani won.

Moving on…

Just kidding, it was a pretty dull day so it all came down to the expected big bunch sprint. Quick Step delivered one of the best lead-outs I’ve seen all season, dropping the Italian champion off in the perfect position at just over 150m to go. No one was coming round him after that.

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Sagan came home second and Nizzolo rounded out the podium in third. I think the rest of the sprinters and their teams got scared to take it up too early in case they ended up in a poor position. However, with everyone riding a phony tempo on the front of the bunch it just worked into Quick Step’s hands as they could save themselves and hit it fully from 2.5km out. If there was some disorganisation then some of the other sprinters might have had a chance. That’s a big might though…

Anyway, let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The longest stage of the race at a tad under 208km, it is no easy day in the saddle for the riders though with 3700m of climbing throughout the afternoon.

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As you can see on the profile there are no real mountains as such, just several long hills with shallow 4-5% average gradients. To add to that, there are also numerous uncategorised kickers and drags throughout the afternoon: the road is barely ever flat!

We might see a Ruben Plaza 2015-style solo 114km attack from the break but considering I think that is unlikely, tomorrow will be decided by a tactical final 50km.

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The road rises through the intermediate sprint point before the road descends into an uncategorised 2.9km at 5.8%. We will then see the peloton tackle the last categorised climb of the day.

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As you can see, it isn’t an overly difficult climb and stays very consistent. It definitely suits the all-rounders better than the pure climbers so to speak. The road then descends for almost 12km, although it is very shallow in some parts with that 12km only averaging -2%.

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At around 5.6km to go, the riders will face the above uncategorised climb. It is steep and long enough for the puncheurs to try to make a difference but those hoping to grind their way up it will think the opposite. It really is a perfect climb for its position in the day. Given the almost 2kms at 7.8% though, I think it tips it in favour of the puncheurs.

With it cresting with just over 3km to go, will a rider be able to solo to the line, or will we see a slight regroupment?

Breakaway Day

No beating around the bush here, tomorrow is most definitely a day for a break in my opinion. With the constant rolling terrain throughout the afternoon, it will be nigh on impossible for a team to control a strong group ahead. Furthermore, it will take a lot of energy expenditure to even try that – not exactly what anyone wants to do with the more important GC days to come. Unless of course Mitchelton Scott haven’t learnt anything from the Giro and decide to close everything down just for the sake of it. I wouldn’t count that out actually now I think about it a little more…

Nonetheless, time to play everyone’s favourite game. Again.

TheBreakawayLottery

The Fruitless Four

Steve Cummings.

Yep, it’s finally that day. I’ve had this day marked down as possible Cummings territory from before this race and since he has done absolutely nothing so far in this race, then I’m equally both more and less confident in the pick at the same time. He has been pretty rubbish this season, even he has admitted that, but he would have had a stage win in Austria had it not been for a mechanical in the closing kilometres. The rolling terrain of tomorrow suits Cummings well and I would expect to see him attack the breakaway around the final categorised climb and try to hold on to the finish.

Victor Campenaerts.

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After the tricky finish on stage 7 I promised I’d back Campenaerts on a rolling breakaway and tomorrow is that. Obviously a strong rider on the flat, the Belgian can actually go well on the hills too due to his quite slight nature. Lotto Soudal have had a pretty poor Vuelta so far, marred by crashes, but a good result tomorrow would set them up nicely for the final week.

Tao Geoghegan Hart.

When was the last time Team Sky had a rider in the breakaway at a Grand Tour? It certainly seems a while ago, that’s for sure. However, with De La Cruz and Kwiatkowski not looking convincing in their GC tilt at the moment, Sky might change their approach. Geoghegan Hart has had an exceptional season so far, proving to be one of the stronger climbing domestiques in the peloton at races like Dauphine. If he’s at that same level again in the break, then there won’t be many there stronger than him.

Vincenzo Nibali.

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Nibali might just be that guy who is stronger than Geoghegan Hart. He tried to escape with Trentin earlier on in the race but was still deemed too close on GC to be given any leeway, that’s how much his competitors respect him. The Shark of Messina has been struggling with form since crashing out of the Tour but he looked a lot more sprightly after his rest day this afternoon and I think he’ll be eyeing up one of the stages over the coming days. Does he have the legs to deliver?

Prediction

Yup, I’m going there.

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Steve Cummings to win and save his season, continuing Dimension Data’s great Vuelta.

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break survive all the way to the end? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 11 Preview; Lorca -> Observatorio Astronómico de Calar Alto

Today’s Recap

Crazy start to the day and we didn’t see a breakaway go clear until 65km from the finish. From there though, the peloton was happy to sit up and let the move contest the stage.

We had a group of 4 push on over the top of the final summit that included Trentin, Rojas, Van Rensburg and Roson.

The latter two couldn’t keep up on the very technical descent, and with Rojas and Trentin working well they would never get back.

It meant we had a two man sprint coming in to town, but I have to say, Rojas’ tactics bemused me. Trentin is clearly the faster of the two and in exceptional form at the moment, but the Spaniard was happy to share the work. In fact, he drove it into the final kilometere which I thought was very bizzare. The result was inevatble at that point, with Rojas delivering the perfect lead-out for Trentin who took his second stage of the race.

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Behind, Roson took third place.

The GC riders all came home together. Well, apart from Roche who had forged ahead on the descent and ultimately gained 29 seconds on his rivals. That result moves him closer to Froome at only 36 seconds back, joint on time with Chaves.

Will we see some similar GC shake-ups tomorrow? Let’s have a look at the what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A stage that I would label as the first proper mountain test.

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After the neutralised section at the beginning of the stage, the riders will be climbing almost instantly. Thankfully, the climb isn’t too difficult but it will no doubt be raced aggressively.

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This will make the 3% gradient feel tougher than it probably is!

Once over the summit, the riders will then descend for 15km before a long period of flat. Could this be where the day’s break is established?

75km into the day marks an interesting point in the race, as the road essentially climbs almost all the way to the finish; with only some periods of shallow descent and flat land.

However, it is when we reach 60km to go that things get interesting…

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Before we even start the climb of Alto de Velefique the road rises at an average of 2.7% for 17km; a nice warm-up some might say!

Now, it depends what source you consult for Velefique itself as various places have the climb marked out differently…

The road book suggests it is 13.2km at 8.6%, Strava/Veloviwer plucks for 13km at 7.2% and ClimbByBike goes with 14km at 6.4%. Quite a wide variety there.

I’ll go with the middle ground!

Velefique

As you can see, the majority of the steepest sections of the ascent are located near the beginning. Will we see anyone try to go early? I doubt it. Instead, it will be more an attritional process, with riders going out the back rather than off the front.

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The many hairpins of Velefique – Thanks to @loictraquelet for the photo

Although, the early weather forecasts suggests there are potentially thunderstorms and a few heavy showers in the area during the afternoon. This could entice some onto the attack before a very technical descent…

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At least for the final climb the varying sources are more in agreement; with it being roughly 16km at 5.6%.

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The climb can be split into two sections almost, with a very challenging opening 7kms that average 8.6%. From there though, it is a fairly “easy” 9km at 3.2%, although that does include a penultimate kilometre at 10%.

It will be interesting to see how teams and riders approach it. Do they go early in a hope to tire Sky’s domestiques out and isolate Froome, or wait until that penultimate kilometre and go crazy? Given how well the current race leader is riding, they have to risk it and go early in my opinion.

How will the stage pan out?

Once again, we have the now daily toss-up between break win or not? The current trend is very much break, with the last 5 out of 6 stages going their way.

Will tomorrow be any different?

Hmmmm.

The other teams have to start taking responsibility by bringing the race to Sky. Froome has looked great on the uphill, but he seemed a bit shaky on the downhill today and this could be something that some teams try to take advantage of in tomorrow’s stage.

Let’s say if Orica/Trek/Bahrain have riders up the road, we could see their leaders attack in the final few kilometres of the first climb, hoping to put Froome into difficulty on the descent and then bridge up to their team-mates at the footslopes of the final climb.

Again though, this will rely on the other teams helping to chase throughout the day. If they don’t, then Sky will be happy to let the break win and take the bonus seconds, negating the aggressive racing as much as possible.

That then nullifies the effect of having team-mates up the road if the break is ahead by 10 minutes or so.

It really is a tactical day!

I think it comes down to Contador and his attitude. As much as I love Chaves, I don’t think we’ll see Orica operate any crazily aggressive tactics, yet. That will come later on in the race. They still might get someone in the move, but they won’t control it enough so that they’re of any help.

The one thing that is of massive help to the breaks chances is the poor weather that is forecast.

So with that being said, it looks like we’re once again (I’m getting quite bored of this now) playing the…

TheBreakawayLottery

Candidates

The 8.2km rise at the start of the stage could help aid some good climbers get into the move, but if it doesn’t go until after, then it is names in a hat time!

Igor Anton.

The Dimension Data rider has ridden a solid race so far and finds himself sitting in 18th place on GC, at 5’54 behind Froome. A break like tomorrow is bound to have an interloper in it who is “close” to the Brit on GC and Anton could be that man. Not deemed an overall threat due to his poor TT ability and not being able to follow the best on other days, Sky could be happy to let him get back into things. If he does make the move, he will be one of the strongest climbers there and tough to beat!

Jack Haig.

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The fellow JH gets another mention for tomorrow. Orica surely will send someone up the road in the hope that they can then help Chaves if needed. The most logical two are Haig and Simon Yates, but the former seems to be going better at the moment. He’d still be up there on GC if it wasn’t for an untimely puncture! If the gap is too big for Chaves to bridge, then Haig will get the nod to go for the stage. Something he can certainly do.

Aldemar Reyes.

Manzana missed the move today which they seemed most disgruntled at, sending a man up the road on a doomed mission once they reached the climb. Reyes managed to stay with the main peloton, well, the Zakarin/DLC group anyway on the climb/descent so he’s clearly in good form. Could he be the guy to take a wonderful victory for the Colombian team?

Alexey Lutsenko.

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Still gutted I missed backing him for his stage win earlier in the race considering how much I’ve been harking on about him for the past year and a bit! His performance that day was truly incredible and he put out some massive watts for a “bigger guy” to climb that well. I have that in apostrophes because according to PCS he is only one kilo heavier than Froome…Anyway, if he makes the break tomorrow something similar could be on the cards. He’ll certainly find it more difficult, but he can’t be discounted! Can Alexbae make it two?!

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – GC Rider – Nibali

Rinse and repeat for these stages it seems! With the break having a good chance of winning, the safest option for those near the top of the leaderboard overall or in the KOM comp is to choose a GC guy. Nibali seemed happy to push the pace today and the longer climbs suit him better than the shorter ones we had in the first week.

Wongshot Pick – Breakaway – Lutsenko

Another stab in the dark…

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Scully

Cannondale seem to be tired after their efforts the other day…

Prediction

A big break to form with a sneaky Basque rider in there. Sky to shrug their shoulders and let the move get 8 minutes or so, knowing that the time gap will come down before the finish naturally. Anton then seizes his chance and takes stage glory, vaulting into the top 10 on GC!

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Betting

0.5pt WIN on them all;

Reyes @ 150/1 with Boyles (would take 100)

Lutsenko @ 150/1 with PP (would take 100 elsewhere)

Haig @ 66/1 with various (would take 50)

Anton @ 100/1 with various (would take 66)

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see a break survive all the way, or will the GC guys come out to play? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.