A flat stage that twists and turns along the coast, this looks like a day for the sprinters but it could be hard to control. As well as the preview for toda, I’ll add some ideas about the race so far and what we can expect for the overall classification below too.
The Route: the stage hugs the Galician coastline, twisting and turning as if the stage is a tribute to mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot, the father of fractals. But if the peloton could fracture, the only maths needed is arithmetic based on distance, speed and time to see if the sprint teams can haul back the day’s breakaway in time for the finish.
The Finish: a fast finish into the town of Sanxenxo. It’s slighly downhill into town and then a clear run along the coast until the final kilometre where there’s a roundabout with 900 metres to go. But fear not, the road is still wide and large. Here the road begins to drag up but only at the lightest of gradients.
The Scenario: a breakaway goes on the early climb but it will be brought back by the sprint teams. However the twisting nature of the coastal roads makes this a bit harder as a chasing bunch likes a long straight road. If it comes down to a sprint we could see John Degenkolb win again. He’s impressed a lot yet each time he’s just managed to hold off the others so don’t be surprised to see someone else strike.
Could the race split in the crosswinds? It’s possible but the wind doesn’t look too strong in this morning’s forecast and above all many will be thinking of the time trial tomorrow.
Weather: cool conditions for a change. The peloton has raced through a heatwave but today’s temperatures will be below 20°C (68°F) and there will be a 25km/h breeze from the south which means a crosswind, tailwind and headwind at some point in the day.
TV: as ever 4.00-6.00pm with the finish expected from 5.25pm onwards. Tune in for the finish if you want action but sit down earlier for great shots of the Galician coastline… and maybe the race being split in the crosswinds but this sounds like wishful thinking.
Galicia: where to start with this region? First it has some Celtic ancestry. Many might think Celts are from Scotland and Wales but head south and in France’s Brittany you can hear the bagpipes play and in Galicia it’s the same too with the gaita. The region has its local language in Galician, a sort of cross between Spanish and Portuguese but that’s still a crude amalgam. If you want to know how to pronounce today’s stage finish town here it is:
The Week Ahead
Four riders have literally risen above the others. On each of the uphill finishes we have seen a quartet emerge, with Joaquim Rodriguez, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde as the prime contenders. Whilst Nicolas Roche, Daniel Moreno, Igor Anton and Robert Gesink have been close at times but not consistently so.
Rodriguez is expected to lose time in the time trial on Wednesday but he’s also got a good cushion of time with 53 seconds over Chris Froome. This won’t be enough to keep Froome at bay but the Catalan has taken time out of Froome and everyone else during the first week and there’s every reason he will strike again during the next two weeks. As the Giro showed, he can cope with the high mountains and even thrive in the final week of a grand tour. But once he is behind Froome and Contador overhauling them will prove very difficult.
Froome might look forward to the time trial as he should take time on his rivals. But the course is hilly, going from sea level to 500m and back down during less than 40km. Froome showed he can turn a big gear in the Tour de France but the hilly course in the Vuelta means his rivals won’t flounder as much if the route was flat and they’re forced to turn a 56T chainring. Should Froome take the overall lead then he’ll face the pressures of leadership, from dealing with the media each day to the weight of the red jersey. It’s a good problem to have but some cope and some don’t. Froome can see how it feels. But as the race goes on we’ll see how he copes with the fatigue and the long climbs.
One week in and Alberto Contador is a more unknown quantity than this time last week. Everyone was expecting him to stomp all over the race but instead he’s attacked a lot but got no where. In my pre-Vuelta preview I highlight how exciting he can be but said those attacks often don’t take much time. This time it’s cost him for his uphill attacks have been countered on the finish line, surrendering time bonuses to others. He should do well in the time trial and then we’ll know more about him in the high mountains soon enough.
Alejandro Valverde is expected to lose time in the time trial but he’s in such good form that it’s hard to count him out, certainly of the four I think he might be the weakest of the quartet, but this is only by a tiny margin.
It’s been a great race but is this because of the course or the riders? Or both? The use of several uphill finishes in the race is unique for a grand tour and wisely Unipublic have deployed short and sharp climbs instead of full mountain stages. This way the suspense is building in the race rather than seeing large gaps appear in the general classification. But much of this is down to the riders, we have the quartet and others all within striking distance of each other. We’ll know more this week as we get some big climbs later this week.