The Spin: Vuelta Stage 3

Monday, 20 August 2012

After a team time trial and a sprint finish now it’s time for a summit finish. Yes, it’s only Stage 3 but the finish of today’s stage will be explosive and exciting and forces riders to show their cards very early in the race.

The route: the start is in Faustino V, not the name of a town but of a bodega, or winery. The early part of the stage looks suited to a breakaway going clear with the Alto La Aldea offering early mountains points. But the finish today dominates and we can expect several teams to work and control the race, setting a high tempo on the approach to the final climb.

This will be dangerous at times, everyone will need to be at the front for the climb today because if you’re not near the front when the climb starts then you’ll use up all your energy to overtake others on the climb whilst the main riders prepare to attack.

The finish: followers of the spring stage race the Tour of the Basque Country will know the Alto de Arrate climb above Eibar as the place where Samuel Sanchez has twice struck to win the stage. The climb is 5.5km at an average of 7.8% and as the diagram shows the middle section is vital. The top of the climb is 2km from the finish, the road levels off and then descends to the line. This matters because if a group is away then the descent and flatter finish means the best climber might get outsprinted for the win and the time bonus.

The scenario: Alberto Contador seems in top form right now and yesterday he was even going for an intermediate sprint to win two seconds because “grand tours are sometimes won and lost by seconds“. I don’t think he’s worried about losing the race by one second in Madrid, he’s just highly motivated. We’re likely to see him take off today. The immediate question will be whether anyone can follow him, if they try they risk cracking but if they don’t then they could lose the race after three days, if not for real then at least in their minds.

We’ll also see whether Team Sky try the same tactic as the Tour de France, riding the climb as if it was a team time trial to pace Froome to the top or whether Henao and Uran get jumpy. Above we can scan the results to see who is there and who isn’t. Perhaps in Samuel Sanchez’s absence Igor Anton will strike but if it comes to a sprint amongst the main names, Joaquim Rodriguez has a fast finish.

Weather: another hot day but with less wind that yesterday. Temperatures will reach 30°C which, whilst hot, is more manageable than the temperatures of the weekend.

TV: it’s live on TV from 4.00pm to 6.00pm Euro time, with the finish expected between 5.30-5.50pm. The best action will come in the end, aim to catch the race from 5.00pm onwards.

Local Ride: not a rider this time but a ride, as in Orbea, the Spanish bicycle manufacturer. It is from Mallabia, a short spin outside Eibar. The Basque region has long been an industrial powerhouse of Spain with steel, shipbuilding and other heavy industries. Orbea is a subsidiary of Mondragon Corporation and if this sounds like a faceless corporate machine, think again. It’s a workers’ co-operative, owned by the staff and they each get a vote in the way the business is run.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick August 20, 2012 at 9:46 am

It’s got to be Purito today surely?

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Ankush August 20, 2012 at 10:06 am

Contador’s presence alone in the peloton can create that element of doubt in Team Sky. It will be interesting to see if they deploy team-climbing-time-trial, but there will be too many attacks much to their disliking. In absence of Samu, my money is on Purito, Bertie will be just happy to make up some lost time. Outside bet is Dani Moreno.

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Gus August 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

I think Quintana has a good chance today.

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Iron horse equestrian August 20, 2012 at 11:21 am

While ASO might not be amazing at their online stuff, I do find myself prefering their stage profiles to the Vuelta ones. More detail and nicer presentation.

Of course, they’re all better for INRNG’s insightfull comment.

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InTheGC August 20, 2012 at 11:27 am

I think Contador may try to use this stage to stamp his authority early on, the actual climb looks more suited to J-Rod or Valverde even, though as today is the only Basque stage I expect the Euskies to be near the front fighting it out for the stage win also. The interesting part will be like as said above, whether Sky try the same tactics as the Tour. I hope not.

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Sim August 20, 2012 at 11:36 am

I know that Froome has said that Sky would approach the Vuelta in the same way as the Tour but I have my doubts. Leaving aside whether these tactics would work here, the Tour team had been well drilled, trained together and adopted the strategy again and again on the climbs through P-N, Tour of Romadie and the Dauphine. No Eddy Boss, Rogers or Wiggo here, just Froome and Porte, this is a totally different team for the mountains, and as INRNG indicates, Uran and Henao are very different propostions as team mates in the mountains.

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Jerome August 20, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Also their opposition is different, the tours ttkm ment all the punchy attackers stayed home and sky were only faced with the diesel engine climbers where as at the vuelta they will hopefully have to deal with more attacks and changes of pace

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HOH August 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Froome himself is different from Wiggins. He’s more a climber who’s fairly good at TT rather than Wigg’s TT man not losing too much time in mountains.

Given all the differences, Sky trying the same trick would only mean one thing: they are way too rigid tactically.

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Bundle August 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Good preview. It should perhaps be added that the “Subida a Arrate” was, for many years, a classic race in its own right, until it was merged with the “Bicicleta Vasca” in 1987, which in its turn was merged with the Tour of the Basque Country in 2009. This explains why the Arrate climb is a staple in the Basque stage-race.´
Eibar, by the way, is also the hometown of the other big Spanish bicycle manufacturer: BH.

As for the race today, I hope we a succession of accelerations by all those punchers that we missed so sorely in the Tour. But I expect that they will all accelerate at the same time, and that the guy who can hold the acceleration for longer will probably win, that is, I guess, Contador.

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