A decisive stage of the 2012 Vuelta, today’s time trial is vital moment for all with ambitions for the overall. There are many mountains to come and today’s stage will reshuffle the overall standings rather than define the order as we saw in the Besançon time trial during the Tour de France.
The Route: just 13km of flat riding before the climbing starts. When we think of time trials we can think of riders turning 58T chainrings and rolling at over 50km/h for an hour but today’s course is quite different. The Alto Monte Castrove is 10km long at 4.4% but beware of averages as it climbs steeply at the start with gradients reaching 8%, then a flat section in the middle before rising up through the pine forests.
The descent is steep in places and has several hairpin bends as they come into the village of Escusa – yes, as in excuse, hopefully nobody crashes here. It’s technical in places with a narrow road, the kind where if two cars meet both have to slow and drive on the verge to pass. This continues for some time until the race reaches the wider roads into Pontevedra and then twists in town before crossing the Lérez river twice, once at 2.5km to go and again 500 metres before the finish.
There are no time bonuses for the first three today. Riders go in reverse GC order.
The Contenders: the course climbs but the logical pick is still Tony Martin. The German world champion can cope with some climbs and he’ll like the technical parts of the course plus he’s been able to rest during the first week.
We have a the quartet of Joaquim Rodriguez, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde. Froome and Contador should gain here, Contador has apparently visited this course eight times, by contrast Froome wasn’t planning on riding the Vuelta so he’s less familiar therefore it’s hard to pick between these two. How much time will Rodriguez and Valverde lose is the question, answers later today. If they make the top-20 and concede 90 seconds to Contador and Froome then I think they’ll be happy.
As for the others, watch out for Robert Gesink. His stick-insect on a bike look makes us think he is a pure climber but this year he’s made big gains in the time trials and today’s course suits him. Fellow Dutch-speaker Thomas de Gendt should be there too. And watch Andrew Talansky who almost beat Wiggins in the uphill time trial stage of the Tour de Romandie last May.
Weather: cool temperatures of 19°C (65°F) and cloudy skies await. There’s a chance of rain too which could be decisive if it gets heavy.
TV: once again, 4.00-6.00pm Euro time with Joaquim Rodriguez expected to finish just before 5.45pm. Tony Martin is off at 2.49pm meaning viewers will see whether he’s set the fastest time when the video starts, the same for De Gendt at 3.07pm.
Local food: Pontevedra is the capital city of the Albariño wine. Alba- as in white and -riño as in from the Rhine valley. Apparently monks brought the grapes a millenium ago and this Spanish wine is similar to some French and German wines from the Rhine valley and it is know grown all around the world in California and Australia.