A circuit race for today’s stage, iit has the air of a Belgian kermesse as the race does eight laps around Logroño. We can expect a sprint finish. Today’s the day for a siesta and if you need to wash you hair, do it today.
Given this, I’ll add a quick take on yesterday’s polemic over Valverde’s crash yesterday.
The Route: the circuit is 21km and has a small amount of elevation per lap but no marked climb.
The Finish: an urban finish the route twists and turns in town but the final kilometre is a 1km long straight road. Crashes are always possible but the riders will be familiar with the route given the circuit so there won’t be any surprises.
The Scenario: a sprint finish is probable. The circuit means it’s easy to control the breakaway. But there are three elements to allow a breakaway to go away:
- Many riders are well down on the overall classification so they can go up the road and teams like Katusha, Sky and Movistar won’t chase to defend their overall positions
- There are fewer sprinters in the race and so if a rider from a nominal sprint team gets in the breakaway then this team might not chase. For example if Argos Oil-Shimano put a man up the road then they might not chase, leaving few to do this.
- Any breakaway knows its chances are slim but it can play games, easing up the pace so the bunch thinks its closing in to catch them, only for the breakaways to hit the gas and try to stay away. Once again the circuit finish makes measuring the effort easier, there’s no surprise on the road.
Still, despite all of this I think there’s a high chance of a sprint finish. Seasoned Spaniards will set their siesta alarm clock to ring at 5.00pm.
Weather: temperatures will reach a warm 34°C (93°F) with a breeze from the southwest of 20km/h.
TV: as usual, 4.00-6.00pm Euro time with the finish expected between 5.30-5.50pm.
Local food: patatas a la riojana or spicy potatoes in Rioja wine sauce. This combines the local Rioja wine with potato, spicy chorizo sausage and more.
Polémica: with crosswinds rising Team Sky tried to split the field and as they attacked, several riders went down hard including red jersey leader Alejandro Valverde. Many saw this as unsporting, to keep riding with the race leader on the ground. There are no rules here, just an unwritten code. It’s here we need generalities and specifics alike.
On the specifics it all depends on the precise chain of events. Attacking hard and putting your rivals in the gutter is part of the game. If some panic, touch wheels and hit the deck, that’s their misfortune and technical blunder. But if you’re move involves switching hard and provokes the crash then that’s not good.
The whole issue is complicated a touch by Valverde and Movistar’s position. He was calling out unfair practices yesterday which even his fans must find amusing given he was banking his blood in a Madrid clinic. But he’s served his time for this. Instead several teams have been frustrated by Movistar at different points this year. Go back to Paris-Nice and when Levi Leipheimer crashed on a decent, Movistar hit the front to drive the pace and make sure he didn’t get back on. Similarly in the Tour de France, Team Sky were not happy with Movistar as this road.cc report from Stage 3 suggests:
Likely to get the vote as least popular rider today was Jose Ivan Gutierrez of the latter’s own Movistar team, who after both those crashes was at the front of the peloton forcing the pace, Team Sky riders remonstrating with him after the first one that brought an end to Siustou’s race.
All this means that when the crash happened, some teams didn’t feel much pity for Valverde and Movistar. Is this unfair? Yes but cycling is the cruellest of sports sometimes.
In short: if a Sky rider caused the crash then it’s not on but if others panicked when they saw what was happening and went down then that’s racing, however cruel it can be.
What next? Sometimes these debates can go on and on via the internet but don’t forget the real battle continues in the Vuelta. If Chris Froome punctures on a windy day or even wants to move the up bunch via a small gap… then don’t be surprised to see Movistar make their life hard. Other teams like BMC and Omega Pharma-Quickstep might also find Movistar just that bit keener to make life difficult.