Vuelta a España 2017 Preview – The BFOG

Vuelta a España 2017 Preview – The BFOG

In a slight change-up to previous races where I’ve rolled out separate previews for the various jerseys, this year I’m going to include GC/Sprint/KOM all in one, in a Giro Rosa style BFOG.

Last year’s Vuelta saw some very aggressive racing with Quintana beating Froome by 1’23, with Chaves finishing in 3rd.

WATSON_00004746-027-630x420

Most of the time Quintana had over Froome was gained on a crazy stage 15 and I hope we see some similar tactics deployed this year.

I’ll be disappointed if my favourite Grand Tour of the year is a let down.

Over the coming three weeks expect some bold tactics, super steep finishes, messy sprints, random breakaway days and some surprising results!

The Route – What You Need To Know

To some it up in a word: tough.

Again, as I’ll be doing daily stage previews then I won’t be going over the route in massive detail here, just the key stages. Although this is the Vuelta, so any stage can almost become a key stage…

The opening day sees a TTT around Nîmes (yes, we start in France) which should set the GC order for the following few days. Thankfully, at only 13km long, the time gaps between the overall contenders shouldn’t be too big at the end of the day.

It is not long before we’ll get a rough idea of who has some early climbing form as Stage 3 features two Cat-1 climbs and a Cat-2 all within 158km. With a slightly technical downhill run I don’t expect to see any of the GC favourites try to attack 100%, maybe an aggressive top 20 candidate can escape to take the spoils?

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-3-1484252451

Stage 5 offers us our first hill-top finish with the Cat-3 climb of Ermita Santa Lucía. It doesn’t sound much, but remember that this is a SPANISH Cat-3 climb; 3.7km at 8.58% with max gradients of around 15-20%. It’s a shame Reijnen isn’t here so he can get Spained…

We then have a couple of rolling days that give the sprinters or opportunists a chance at stage glory.

The weekend before the first rest day sees two stages that both have Cat-1 climbs in the closing 10kms of the race.

Stage 8 will have riders summit the brutally steep Alto Xorret de Catí. Officially 5kms at 9%, the crux of the climb is more 4km at 11%! From there, they will then face a short but steep descent into town for the finish.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-9-cumbre-del-sol-1484252526Stage 9 finishes atop the Alto de Puig Llorença which is another short but steep climb, averaging 8.8% for 4.1km. It certainly seems the organisers designed a route hoping that Valverde would be here! With a rest-day to come, expect the GC contenders to be full gas here and we could see some surprising time gaps.

After the rest day we should see a break survive on Stage 10, but the following day is the most challenging one so far with back-to-back Cat-1 climbs.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-11-observatorio-astronomico-1484252543

Climbing or descending from pretty much 60km out, this could be a fairly brutal day in the saddle. With the finish above 2000m, we might see a GC favourite suffer from the altitude. One thing is for sure, this Vuelta isn’t a race you can ease yourself into for week 3!

Another couple of “who knows what these stages could turn into” days follow, before we get out first Especial finish of the race on Stage 14.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-14-sierra-de-la-pandera-1484252560

Once again the riders are pretty much climbing for the last 25km of the race with the Cat-1 before the Esp finish. However, the two can be combined to form the climb below.

PanderaN

It’s not a crazy average gradient at only 5.3%, but the 23km could see some weary legs by the top. Not great then when the toughest 3kms come within the final 5km! Someone could go pop. With a “flat” finish though, a small 5 rider sprint could be likely.

Either way, it will certainly stretch the riders legs for what is to come the following day.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-15-sierra-nevada-alto-hoya-1484252566

This is the type of Vuelta stage I love as a spectator. Pretty sure the riders might not think the same. Pure madness!

It finishes with a Cat-1 then Especial climb, but like a few of the stages here, they can be pretty much rolled into one.

VueltaS15 finish

Ouch. Ouch indeed!

With the last rest-day to follow, expect the riders to leave everything out on the road.

After their day to recuperate and recover, the riders will be faced with a decisive 40km TT. It does climb and roll a little bit but it is certainly an effort that should suit a specialist. This stage will scare a lot of the pure climbers who will be gunning for a good GC position.

The GC days continue to come as Stage 17 finishes atop the now viral Alto de los Machucos.

Who knows what the GC composition will look like before the stage, and who knows what it will look like after! Those who lost time on the TT the day before hand will certainly be hoping to bounce back with a good performance.

Stage 18 finishes on one of those classic Vuelta Cat-3s; 2.3km at 8.3%. I wouldn’t expect any major splits between the GC guys but you just never know…It could be a day for the break, likewise is stage 19. Although a few teams might control it and hope for a sprint.

The last huzzah GC wise comes on Stage 20 where the riders will finish atop the mythical Angliru.

vuelta-a-espana-2017-stage-20-alto-de-l-angliru-1484252595

Four categorised climbs in a 119km stage, including the three major ones in the last 50km. A very Vuelta-y stage to finish the Vuelta GC battle with!

Any sprinters that we have left will then fight it out for stage honours in Madrid on the final day. Although considering we don’t have many here already, could a late attack succeed?

GC Contenders and Pretenders

With the defending champion Quintana finally deciding to have a Grand Tour off after doing 4 in a row, we could well see a new winner this September. I’ll have a look at some of the contenders and outsiders for the title below, some in much more depth than others!

Chris Froome.

20165710-333928-800x534

This years Tour winner is gunning for a famous Tour/Vuelta double. He has tried to pull off the feat in the past but this year could be his best shot, given the 40km worth of individual time trialing. Starting as the bookies favourite, his form is massively unknown going into this race. In fact, he hasn’t made an appearance at any UCI event since the end of the Tour, instead, opting to earn a couple of extra quid with some post Tour crits. Not ideal preparation in my opinion for a race where you need to be on good form in the first week!

One of the things he does have going for him though is that he won the Tour not looking his best. In previous editions he has cruised the Tour but never had just enough left to win the Vuelta, so maybe that was in the back of his mind going into that race. Or is he on the decline in general? I thought the latter before the Tour, but I’m not so sure now. His team is strong, not as good as his TDF hit squad, but bloody close to it! He is still the rider to beat once the dust has settled.

Vincenzo Nibali.

Arguably Froome’s biggest contender for the crown, the Italian is a much more rounded Grand Tour rider than the Brit, showing consistency across all three of the races. I mean he has won them all! He finished third at this years Giro, a result I’m sure he’ll be disappointed with but it wasn’t a bad performance and he did beat some good riders. Traditionally, Nibali doesn’t show much form before a Grand Tour but that seems to have changed this season. A solid 9th place in Poland, where he looked fairly skinny, was good for him and he will no doubt be gunning for no less than the win here. The only issue is that his team is fairly weak, with the missing Izagirre a big blow. I can’t see him winning the race, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does in the end.

Alberto Contador.

I said at the Tour last year he was past his best and his performance this year highlighted that even more. I’m sure he’ll go on a few hail mary attacks which could see him move up the standings. Will it be enough for a podium? Probably not. But a stage win and a top 10 is very much achievable.

Fabio Aru.

2121807-44393350-2560-1440

Another rider who comes straight here with no other racing in his legs after La Grand Boucle. A former winner of this race, as more of a pure climber some of the very tough stages should suit him well. However, the long 40km TT could be his downfall in his overall title bid. I have no idea where his form is at, considering he was apparently struggling with bronchitis at the end of the Tour. He could be great, or he could be awful! Being near the top on GC is helpful, especially when Astana have another potential GC card to play…

Miguel Angel Lopez.

My outsider/dark-horse/whatever you want to call it for the podium and possibly even more. Which now inevitably means he is going to fall by the wayside after picking up an illness on stage 4.

The young Colombian is a super talented, all-round GC star of the future. He can climb very well, but he is also a deceptively good TTer for someone of his stature. It is a tough ask to see him compete at the pointy end of the race in what will be the first Grand Tour that he should hopefully complete. Nonetheless, I think he has the pedigree to do just so. Having been raced lightly this year after spending the first 6 months of the season sidelined due to injury, he should have plenty of juice left in the tank to go well here. He warmed up with a good showing in Burgos recently, winning the final stage. Coping well with the heat there is a promising sign for what will no doubt be a scorching Vuelta. Can Superman fly?!

Ilnur Zakarin.

After Froome, the Russian is arguably the best TT rider of the GC contenders here. He’s an attacking rider and in a race that is known for its crazy moments, he might just prosper. I’m still not 100% sold on his ability to climb with the best, especially at altitude but you just never know. He’ll be hoping for at least a top 5!

Yates / Yates / Chaves.

Thought I’d just combine Orica’s three-pronged attack into one here! Out of the Yates brothers, I imagine it would be Adam who will be going for the higher GC placing, but that doesn’t mean Simon can be discounted completely. However, Chaves should be their main charge. The only issue with that is the Colombian has struggled with injuries this season and took a big knock to his mental confidence after one of his friends tragically died back in Colombia while he was riding at the Tour. I’m sure his form will be a lot better at the Vuelta as that was the plan during the Tour anyway, to get up to race speed for this event. If he is firing on all cylinders, he could be a danger. The only issue for all three of them is the massive 40km of TT, it is by far their worst discipline and they could all lose bucketloads of time. Which should make for an exciting few mountain stages if they have to chase the race…

I feel like I have already named a load of riders but the list of quality top 10 contenders could continue for a while yet! Other guys we have here include but not limited to; Bardet, Jungels, Kruijswijk, Poels, Pozzovivo, Majka and Kelderman.

Prediction

Froome is the guy to beat but Sky are never as convincing at the Vuelta compared to their dominance at the Tour and there is a chance the Brit could be isolated on a few occasions. We saw in France that he didn’t seem to be at his best and he can’t chase everyone down when it is just the group of GC favourites. If Froome is to win, he needs a massive race from Poels.

I just can’t help shake the feeling that some of the teams will look to isolate him at some point, like the famous Stage 15 from last year. Will they succeed?

 

Hmmm, I don’t know. Surely Sky will be more alert this year…

Froome probably wins the race but you’ll read that a lot this week so I’ll go for young pretender turned young contender Miguel Angel Lopez to pull off a shock result!

news_idnews919_photo_1499363408

I’m really looking forward to the double act with Aru over the coming weeks.

Watch out for the Shark though, he’s lurking ready to strike.

King of the Mountains

article-Calendario-2017-Omar-Fraile-5857a6ed0bdb1

Unlike the Tour, the Vuelta’s KOM competition is much more traditional in the sense that climbs at the start of the stage are weighted equally compared to those at the end. None of this final climb double points nonsense!

Given the amount of summit finishes at the Vuelta you would think that a GC rider has a good chance of taking the jersey. However, there are bound to be several breakaway days during the race which makes it difficult for someone high up on the overall to challenge. In fact, you have to go back to 2007 when a proper GC guy won the jersey.

Omar Fraile has won the jersey the past two years; can he make it three in a row?

As for points distribution, it is as follows:

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 15.04.22

Thanks to Velorooms/@Searchhhh for whom I tea leafed the table from.

Overall, there are 315 mountain points available, with 91 of those coming at the end of stages. You can therefore see how it is tough for the GC favourites to compete.

However, unlike recent years, there are no nailed on breakaway days that garner a lot of points. Instead, we have 6 stages where there are between 15-25 points available during the stage, not including the finish climb, and they are Stages 3/5/12/17/19/20.

You would expect the break to take the majority, if not all of the points on those days. However, there are a few mountain top finishes where the break could stay away until the end as well.

Stage 14 is an example of that where we finish with an Especial climb, meaning that a rider could potentially take 28 points if they win the stage.

The following days action is similar too if the break manages to stay away and take the stage/Cima Alberto Fernández, totalling 40 points if they can do that.

How will the KOM race pan out?

It is tough to name a favourite for a competition such as this given the huge amount of variables. At the Tour, Barguil lost a lot of time in some of the early stages so that he was given the freedom to hunt KOM points later in the race. Whether that was intentional or not, I’m not too sure. Equally, Landa turned to the KOM jersey once he was out of GC contention at the Giro.

However, the difference between those two races and the Vuelta is that a lot of the KOM points were back loaded towards the end of the Grand Tour. Here, they’re much more evenly spread out.

In fact, on stage 3 (25pts) and stage 5 (21 pts) a rider can put their name into the mix with a strong early lead in the competition. If you look at the past couple of seasons the highest winning points total has been 82 by Fraile in 2016.

Therefore, a rider could take 43 points (not including the Cat-3 summit finish on stage 5) and be in a very commanding position at the end of the first week. I wonder if we’ll see some riders roll home at the back of the pack on Stage 2 to get some freedom the next day….

A poor TTT could set things up nicely to allow a rider the freedom to go into those moves. It’s also important to consider that the Pro-Conti teams will be gagging to get away in breaks for TV exposure, so a rider from their roster could be the one to take up the charge.

So with all that said, I’m going to suggest three names who might be there or thereabouts in the competition. Or probably not…

Merhawi Kudus.

20175915_353493_670

I’m a big fan of the talented Eritrean rider, he’s really taken a step up this season in terms of performance. A traditional mountain goat, he should be able to cope with a lot of the steep ramps and rises that the Vuelta has to offer. Now, Fraile is the most likely candidate on the Dimension Data squad to chase the KOM jersey, but there is a chance that the Spaniard might want to go for stage wins and leave the KOM hunting to someone else in the team; Kudus might be that man.

Jetse Bol (2.0).

The new and improved climbing Jetse Bol has found his passion for racing again with Colombian Wild Card team Manzana Postobon. They are guaranteed to lose a lot of time on the opening day TTT and will no doubt be chasing the breaks from therein. Given his sublime performance at the recent Vuelta Burgos, Bol seems to be in rather good shape at the moment. A jersey win for the Pro-Conti team would be incredible and the Dutchman might just be the guy to deliver it for them.

Larry Warbasse.

20176135_378168_670

There would be something poetic about Captain America taking the KOM jersey at the Vuelta. It was at this race last year that Warbasse gained a lot of my respect, so much so that I think he was the most heavily featured rider in my previews! He couldn’t manage a breakaway win but impressed enough to gain a contract with Aqua Blue for this season. I think it is fair to say he has delivered for them, taking their first ever win. Not bad considering it was at WorldTour level! Another team who are bound to be on the attack throughout the race Warbasse is their best climber and I would be surprised not to see them go for the jersey; they’ve done so in a lot of smaller races throughout the season so why not here too.

You know what, Warbasse is my KOM winner for this race!

Points Classification

Vuelta a Espana - Stage 21

Much like the KOM jersey, the Vuelta keeps things simple for the points classification and does away with the hassle of stage categorisations etc. Instead, riders will be given the same points for winning one of the sprint stages or the mountain top finish up the Angliru.

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 16.11.40

Again, the table is tea leafed from the same sources as above!

Therefore, it is very rare that a sprinter wins this jersey. It will be even harder this year given the parcours and the lack of proper sprint stages. Consequently, it will be a rider who can compete on multiple types of finishes that will win the jersey.

Valverde has dominated this competition and it is clear to see why. Packing a fast sprint, he can pick up a few points on the flatter stages but his climbing ability allows him to challenge for stage wins on the tougher days.

We could see a GC winner take the crown by being consistent on all of the mountain top finishes but I think we might see a few breakaways deny them the opportunity of competing for points.

Unlike the KOM competition, I only have one rider in mind for this competition.

A guy who is very much built-in the ilk of Valverde, albeit he is not as good a GC rider. Yet.

Julian-Alaphilippe-time-trial

There are several stage finishes that seem to suit the explosive French climber down to the ground. He’s had to miss both the Ardennes and the Tour for various reasons which would have been a massive disappointment for him. Nonetheless, I’m sure that means he’ll turn up here ready to perform well. On his return to racing in Burgos he was good, not great, more promising than anything else. With the cobwebs blown out now, I think he’s in for a big race. If he is performing to his Paris Nice level, then the Points jersey is his to lose!

Vuelta Picks

After continuing on from initial success, we had the highest numbers ever play the Tour Picks game back in July and I’m hoping to entice you to join Vuelta Picks for this coming month.

The premise of the game is simple; pick a separate rider for every stage, with their position on the day counting as your points. With the lowest cumulative score at the end of the Vuelta winning the prize pool.

However, one bad day does not mean that you’re completely out of it, with a prize on offer for the most stage wins too. In fact, at the Tour there were enough participants to introduce a KOM prize (lowest accumulated score over certain stages).

It’s also a good way for you to laugh at my awful, or terribly unfortunate picks. Picking an ill Sam Bennett on stage 2 of the Giro didn’t really go well for me…

I’ll also be adding a little segment at the end of each day’s blog section to cover; a “safe” pick, a risky pick (wongshot) and a deliberate Lanterne Rouge pick. Just to add a bit of spice to the game!

Think you can beat me and take my money?!

*Hint – the answer is probably yes*

Then follow the Cycling Picks Twitter handle @cycling_picks and simply put your name into the spreadsheet if you wish to play!

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14U89El-B7h05tRgB5Lw8ml9pkF5v0ROvxH96-dk3w7o/edit#gid=0

Spreadsheet above^^^

Betting

Not a fan of betting ante-post on GC riders normally, but I’ll gladly back Lopez as an EW bet for this race.

Outright – 2pts Lopez EW @ 25/1 with Lads/Coral. (would take 20/1 lowest)

As for the KOM competition, I’m spraying some small stakes around on the riders I’ve mentioned above. Nothing too crazy.

0.75pt EW Warbasse @ 50/1 with various (Wouldn’t take any lower)

0.5pt EW Kudus @ 150/1 with Betfred (would take 100/1 lowest)

0.25pt EW Bol @ 300/1 with Betfred (would take 250/1 lowest)

As for the Points jersey, it’s simple.

2.5pts WIN Alaphilippe @ 6/1 with Lads/Coral.

I think I’ll leave it at that for the pre-race bets.

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win the various competitions? I hope we’re in for an exciting 3 weeks of racing and I’m optimistic that we will be! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta Stage 13 Preview: Bilbao -> Urdax-Dantxarinea

Today’s Recap

Phew, that was full gas from the start! The break only managed to get away on the first categorised climb of the day. However, with the likes of Kennaugh in it, Movistar were never going to be keen to let it go. Attacks flew on the second passage of the Vivero, with Devenyns getting a reasonable gap. That move was eventually brought back and we got a reduced bunch sprint. Much to everyone’s surprise (especially Kirby who called it as Rojas from Movistar) Jens Keukeleire from Orica came out on top, producing a great sprint!

WATSON_00004732-001-630x419

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

A classic Vuelta stage.

There are 4 Cat-3 climbs so it doesn’t sound too tough on paper, but don’t let that deceive you: there is over 3500m of climbing during the stage. Combine that with it being the longest stage of the whole Vuelta (at 213.4km), it’s a very difficult day!

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 15.13.12

The Cat-3 climbs shouldn’t be overly difficult for either the break, or the peloton. However, the final one (Puerto de Lizaieta)  will possibly be influential in the outcome of the stage. 7.2km long, at an average gradient of 4.8% won’t leave the riders quaking in their boots but after the past few days and with the climbing already covered in the stage it could cause a few splits in the break.

More than likely though (Ruben Plaza isn’t here), the stage will be won in the final 40km…

download (2)

As with previous stages where nothing is clear on the official stage profile, I’ve created a Strava profile of those final 40km. Or at least I think I have, the road book author seems to have been putting in a lot less effort for these stages, it’s harder to figure out where the stage actually goes…

Anyway, you can view that here.

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 17.49.06
Profile of the final 40km

The final 40km is a microcosm of the entire stage, up and down all the time!

The climb that comes at around 22.5km mark is 2km long and averages 5.6%. With its position in the race, someone could try to launch a move from here. If not, then it will come down to the final climb/descent of the day (which the riders tackle twice), that I’m naming the Zugarramurdi climb.

Averaging only 3.75% for the 4km, it sounds pretty easy on paper. However, that includes a false flat section, before it kicks up again. The first km actually averages 10%, which is the perfect place for a stinging attack.

If someone crests the summit alone, they should be able to solo to victory as the descent will be fast and runs almost all the way to the finish line. There’s only around 600m of flat from the bottom to the line itself.

How will the stage pan out?

I can’t see anything past a breakaway tomorrow. I know I’ve said that the past few days, but it is too much work for any of the teams to hold it together, especially considering the monster stage that we have the following day.

So once again I’ll be naming a few candidates for the escape. Some proper longshots here!

Larry Warbasse (again).

Amstel Gold Race 2016

You know my thoughts on him by now. A solid all-rounder in search of a contract. He should be able to deal with the climbs and his been trying to get into the breaks daily. A solid rouleur, he could use his strength on the flat to get away.

Tobias Ludvigsson (again).

As you probably know by now, I’m a big fan of big T. Ludvigsson is climbing better than ever this Vuelta, finishing relatively high up on some of the tough summit finishes. As I’ve alluded to in previews earlier in the race, he is a rider in the same ilk as Tom Dumoulin and seems to be transforming in to more of an all-rounder. He seemed disappointed to have had a mechanical today. He could use his TT engine to his advantage and escape from the break and solo to the finish line. Easier said than done!

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 18.16.03
Extract from the Giant website

Mattia Cattaneo.

Cycling: 71st Tour of Spain 2016 / Stage 8

A very promising junior, Cattaneo has failed to take home a win in the pro-ranks. However, he was very active in the break earlier on in the race, finishing 4th on Stage 8. It looks like he’s slowly starting to find his form/feet again, and tomorrow’s stage looks to suit him more than a proper summit finish. The other riders in the break would be wrong to give him too much room in the finale!

Prediction

The break has to win, I mean, doesn’t it?!

I’ll go for the main man himself, Big Tobias Ludvigsson to take home the stage. As I said above, he seems to be in great form at the moment and is climbing better than ever. Tomorrow’s rolling (not proper Alpine mountains) day should suit him well.

Ch8eIVcU4AA_mI7

Apologies for this being more abrupt than normal, I’m away most of tomorrow so having to write both previews this evening. Keeping things short and sweet!

Betting

Small stakes on each of the three mentioned;

0.5pt Ludvigsson @ 100/1 (B365)

0.3pt Warbasse@ 250/1 (B365)

0.2pt Cattaneo @ 300/1 (B365)

Like normal, hunt around when other bookies price up (copy B365 😉 )

No H2Hs as of yet, but if I see anything I like then I’ll post them on my Twitter.

 

Thanks for reading, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

Vuelta Stage 10 Preview: Lugones -> Lagos de Cavadonga

Today’s Recap

In stark comparison to yesterday’s break, the move today was incredibly strong. Movistar were typical Movistar and didn’t bother to chase, even though escapee and eventual stage winner De La Cruz was only 2’36 down.

Cq9Lp4iVYAABmOz

Some will berate them, but it’s a great tactical move in my opinion. It means that their team gets another day of “rest”, yet they’re still very much in control of this Vuelta. Letting other teams have the jersey and making friends is in the interest of Movistar for later on in the race.

Anyway, let’s have a look at tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

After the past couple of stages, you’d think that it couldn’t get much harder…

But alas, we have the most amount of climbing metres so far on stage 10!

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 14.42.33

A whole host of small un-categorised lumps punctuate the first 140km of the stage. However, this is all a pre-amble for before the closing 50km, where we have a first cat climb that whets the appetite before our first Especial Climb.

No Strava profile today, as the road book is good enough!

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 14.51.37

As you can see, the Cat-1 is relatively short (6.2km) but it is tough! The average gradient (7.8%) is deceptive. Taking away the slight lump at the start, a more realistic representation of the climb is 4.7km at 10.1%. Now that’s a test! The climb itself is too far out for any GC damage, unless Contador wants to try one of his traditional long-range attacks. Instead, it will probably see the break split up, with only the strong riders cresting together. They’ll have to go over the top together, there is a long 15km or so flat section before the start of the final climb.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 14.59.18

tumblr_nfcd84GjRL1s2wio8o1_500

What a climb! You have to feel sorry for the riders at times; 12.2km with a 7.2% average gradient and 17.5% max kicker. Again, that average gradient is slightly lowered because there are a couple of false flats and shallow descents, so when they’re climbing it’s closer to an 8.5% gradient. The defining feature of the climb (aside from it being tough), is that it’s gradients are incredibly inconsistent. This makes finding a rhythm difficult and definitely suits some riders more than others. The last time this finish was used was back in 2014, when Niemiec just held on from the days breakaway to take the win.

How will the stage pan out?

Like normal we’re left with the age-old question of: break or no-break?

With the rest day on Tuesday, some of the GC teams may fancy their chances at controlling the break and going for a stage win. I think it’s clear from today’s performance that Movistar aren’t overly concerned with chasing for a stage win, not yet anyway, so that’s them out!

Therefore, it’s over to Tinkoff (Contador) and Sky (Froome). The former doesn’t have a very strong team in the mountains, but they do have strong rouleurs who could ride tempo on the opening part of tomorrow’s stage. Froome looked a bit tired at the end of stage 8 but looked OK today. Then again, there wasn’t much of a pace from the GC teams up the final climb, so he might not be confident of performing when the race is on.

So it’s over to Etixx to control the day and the break. They’re the type of team who will honour the jersey and chase if there is someone dangerous up the road. However, if they don’t get help from other teams then it will be a very long day for them! They’ll be hoping no-one in the top 20 goes on the attack.

Once again, I think we could see the break win. I make it a 70:30 split.

Breakaway Contenders

You know the drill by now, I’ll name 3 riders.

Larry Warbasse. (Again)

Amstel Gold Race 2016

Willing to give the American another chance. Same reasons as yesterday’s preview; fighting for contract and has been climbing well in the GC group the past few stages. He’s also far enough down to be let go.

Rudy Molard. (Again)

Molard likewise gets another chance. He’s close-ish on GC, but at 5’06 down he should be given the all clear by Etixx. He’s been climbing very well with the GC guys as of late and should not be discredited.

Tiago Machado.

tiago-machado

Without a GC rider, Katusha have to be attacking. They missed the break today so I expect them to be in it tomorrow. Machado himself was on the move earlier in the race, but that turned out to be a futile move. A strong climber on his day, he’s been rolling home the past few days. Possibly saving energy for tomorrow?

Apologies this section is slightly shorter than normal, it’s just disheartening having to write about a potential break everyday!

GC Battle Behind

I expect there to be a few fireworks behind in the GC group. Movistar/Sky/Tinkoff will all probably try to come to the front and ride tempo for their respective leaders. With it being a long and demanding climb, only the best will be left again and numbers will be key. Quintana will hope that Valverde can stay with them for as long as possible, the same goes for Froome with Konig. Contador unfortunately will have to fly solo, but he’s been used to that in this race.

I expect Valverde to attack at some point, hoping to draw the others out, meaning that Quintana can get an easier ride. Orica could possibly try something similar with Yates & Chaves.

If all three of the main GC guys are on form, it could be a great stage and this well could be the image we see throughout the Vuelta.

chris-froome-nairo-quintana-alberto-contador_3773833

However, going off what we saw on Saturday and partly because I’m a big Quintana fan, I think the Colombian can put in a stinging attack tomorrow and dishearten his opponents. He looked so comfortable on the final climb on that day,with his jersey zipped all the way to the top, as the other contenders had theirs agape. He could possibly gain another 20-30 seconds on a very good day, and that would give him a very nice buffer going into the rest day!

Prediction

The break stays away and Molard wins.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Behind we get some GC fireworks.

Betting

Even if you think it’s a GC day there’s no point backing them pre-stage, so another selection of raffle tickets for me:

Molard 0.25pt @ 100/1 (B365)

Warbasse 0.125pt @ 100/1 (B365)

Machado 0.125pt @ 100/1 (PP)

KONIG v Moreno; TALANSKY v Scarponi; YATES v Atapuma (H2H treble) 3.5pts at 3.03/1 (b365)

As normal, hunt around for better prices later.

 

Thanks again for reading, how do you think the stage will pan out tomorrow? I hope it’s an exciting stage after today’s relatively damp squib. As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

Vuelta Stage 9 Preview: Cistierna -> Oviedo

Today’s Recap

A disgustingly average break was let away early on and they fought it out for the stage. Not to take anything away from the riders, they still had to dig incredibly deep and it was Sergey Lagutin who took a gruelling win. The Vuelta does love a surprise winner!

La Vuelta Cycling Tour

Behind there were big GC gaps, with Quintana coming off the best, gaining 25 seconds on Contador & 33 on Froome. I’m happy to see the Colombian going well after many were calling for his head after the Tour. Chaves was the biggest disappointment losing 57 seconds to Quintana! One of the blog’s break selections performed excellently in the shape of Sergio Pardilla who came home on the same time as Froome. Whereas, Romain Hardy finished in a solid 28th, a respectable 1’10 behind Quintana. What could have been!

Anyway, moving on to tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

After today’s monster finish, the riders might be glad to see a stage with more descending than ascending. Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t mean it will be any easier!

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 10.21.12

This will be another very fest start to the day as the riders look to get into the break. The uphill start will aid the climbers, going off the road book, it looks to be 7km at 3.4% (from km 3-10). Although, I doubt the break will be gone by then. It will probably be made on the long false flat afterwards! The first Cat-2 will be another sting in the legs, and the riders will be looking forward to the long, gradual descent from 60-105km.

As usual, I’ve made a Strava profile for the final 60km that can be viewed here.

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 10.53.12

It’s a very demanding end to the race. The first climb, Alto de Santo Emilliano is 7km long, averaging 4.3%. Not overly tough, but the second half of the climb is much steeper. Follows is a reasonably long descent and bit of flat before the real action starts!

The Alto de San Tirso starts the fireworks off. 5.3km long at 3.9% average gradient, this is the easiest of the final climbs. The next uncategorised ascent comes it at 3km long at 5.6%. It’s much steeper at the start of the climb, but it should be manageable and I’d expect any break to still be together here.

Where a move may be made is on the Alto de la Manzaneda (4km at 5.6%). However, those figures include the false flat/plateau at the summit. The main bulk of the climb is 3km at 7.1%. Those who don’t want to wait until the final climb will have to attack here!

The final climb itself out of Oviedo is a classic climb in this area, 5km at 6.8%. However, it is very irregular! There are a couple of 500m sections where the gradient goes above 10%. With all of the climbing that’s came beforehand, I would expect the winner here to be a good climber. Then again, it is the Vuelta and riders often surprise. Lindeman’s win last year comes to mind!

How will the stage pan out?

Break. 100%.

break1

Movistar are now in control of the red jersey and will be able to ride more defensively. After what still was a big GC effort today, the riders will probably be saving themselves for Monday, where bigger time gaps can be made. Movistar won’t want to put any extra effort in, chasing for the stage win as there are bigger tests to come!

Therefore, anyone that’s not a threat on GC will be able to go. This probably stands for anyone who’s over 4 minutes down on Quintana, so those just outside the top 20 could sneak into the move.

Like normal, I’ll nominate three riders who could give it a pop!

Tobias Ludvigsson.

Tobias_Ludvigsson_profiel-600x594

A bit of a left-field pick this one but I’m a big fan of Big T. Looking through the results today and I was pleasantly surprised to see that he finished 47th, a mere 6 seconds behind red jersey wearing Atapuma. A rider very much in the mould of his team-mate Dumoulin, his strength is his time trialling ability. With the climbs tomorrow not being that severe in gradient, he could use his big engine to solo away before the final climb, a la Dumoulin at the Tour, and hold on for the stage win.

Larry Warbasse.

The rangy American performed very well on today’s stage, finishing in 27th. Clearly he enjoyed the conditions and is showing some good form. A solid all-round domestique, it would be good form him to get in the break and put on a good display. Especially considering that he’s still out of contract for next season as far as I’m aware. Finishing 7th on GC at the Tour de Pologne earlier the year, he certainly has the potential, it’s just a case of him showing it!

Rudy Molard.

05-06-2016 Criterium Du Dauphine Libere; Tappa Prologo Les Gets; 2016, Cofidis Solutions Credits; Molard, Rudy; Les Gets;

Another Cofidis rider who is quietly going about their business and is performing well. He’s someone who always rides solidly but never seems to be in the position to win something. Sitting in 27th on GC, if he makes the break tomorrow he would be a rider to worry about, especially on his current form.

Prediction

Break wins, obviously.

I’ll go with the American Larry Warbasse to take the stage. I really like the attacking spirit of IAM and it would be nice to see him get his first pro win and with it manage to secure a contract next year!

Amstel Gold Race 2016

Betting

Same staking plan as today;

Warbasse 0.25pt EW 125/1 Bet365

Ludvigsson 0.125pt EW ?

Molard 0.125pt EW 80/1 Bet365

As usual shop around for better price later. I’m away out this evening so getting the preview out early. If you spot any price for Big T later then please let me know (on twitter preferably @JamieHaughey). I’m not sure he’ll be priced up anywhere Paddies/Betfair best hope. Or a better price for any of these guys!

Thanks for reading again! Who do you think will win the break lottery? I hope we’re in for an exciting, attacking stage. As usual, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.