The Spin: Vuelta Stage 6

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The race heads to the Pyrenees but there are no high mountains. Instead the stage finishes outside the Fuerte del Rapitán, the Rapitan Fort that sits high on a hill above the town of Jaca. The climb to the fort has not been used before but it has an irregular gradient and steep sections and 13 hairpin bends in the final 3km.

The Route: all the action is concentrated in the end. The opening 145km offer relative ease and then comes the Puerto del Oroel, a gentle mountain pass that tops 1000m above sea level but with a soft 2.8% slope.

The Finish: the climb to the fort sounds easy with 3.8km at a modest 5.4%. But if the race starts climbing through the town of Jaca but it is with 3km to go that things kick up and a series of 13 hairpin bends begins with ramps at 8%,10%, 14%, 12%, 13% and 8% before the line.

The Scenario: there’s a high chance of a breakaway staying away today but once again the big names will want to be well-placed for the final climb and the pace could pick up later in the stage with the bunch chasing.

The finish today is ideal for someone like red jersey wearer Joaquim Rodriguez but if a breakaway is away it will suit any range of puncheurs, from Philippe Gilbert to Colombian José Sarmiento, Frederik Kessiakoff or even Simon Clarke again. The main thing for TV viewers is that a group arrives together for as triumphant as a solo attack would be, the ramps to the fort are ideal terrain for a battle. Indeed the top riders for the overall can take time if they exploit the hairpins and slopes.

Weather: warm temperatures of 29°C with a 20-30km/h tailwind for the last third of the stage which means they could arrive ahead of schedule.

TV: as usual the last two hours are live from 4.00pm onwards and the finish is planned for 5.30-5.45pm (it could be earlier, note the tailwind). Tune in ahead of the final climb to watch the action.

Local history: the Tour de France visited Jaca in 1991 when Charly Mottet won. The Frenchman had won the previous stage in a breakaway, the race transferred to the Pyrenees on a rest day and then Mottet won again. But the real story was when the race left Jaca to Val Louron as this was the day Miguel Indurain took the yellow jersey, beginning a five-year series on consecutive Tour de France wins.

InTheGC August 23, 2012 at 9:19 am

Usually I wouldn’t pay much attention to a 3.8km climb as far as the GC is concerned but today is different. I have had a good look at the climb and there are some serious gradients (especially on some of the Corners) and if some of the GC guys are feeling good today then they can certainly gain some time here – especially if a break doesn’t stay away and there are still bonus seconds up for grabs. I would expect to see Valverde (still angry?) and J-Rod up here as it’s their kind of short punchy finish, but I think Contador and his excess energy might try something here aswell…

Ankush August 23, 2012 at 10:15 am

It could be a duel between Purito and Contador, with Froome-dog and Valverde thrown into the mix too

Rooie August 23, 2012 at 10:29 am

Mollema as a dark horse?

jason August 23, 2012 at 10:37 am

This will be shake up in GC only if there is no breakaway for the win…

Bundle August 23, 2012 at 11:53 am

Purito will try to win, that’s for sure. Let’s see if Contador can sit on his wheel, and if he can do more than that. And then let’s see if Froome is there. Movistar, whether revengeful or depressed, will be the unknown factor.

Sam August 23, 2012 at 11:59 am

Agree – think Purito’s going for it. Also wants to try to put some time into Contador and Froome where he can between now and the TT next Wed

Jasen August 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Definitly Purito’s teritory with a punchy finish. Intetested to see if Contador and others can keep pace. Best of the tours so far this year.

Larry T. August 23, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hmmm, here in Iowa it’s a) tune in the race or b) go for a ride BEFORE it gets too damn hot and windy. I think B is the correct answer because if the action is good Eurosport’s likely to show it again tomorrow ahead of their live coverage. Great reports here too of course!!!!

Doubter August 23, 2012 at 6:18 pm

Wow, so now Froome is able to drop Alberto Contador. And the Sky team has three riders in the final tiny group of climbers on the last climb of the day.

I gotta get me a swim coach…..

Requiem August 23, 2012 at 6:57 pm

+1

Gowers August 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Spat my coffee out laughing at the hypocrisy of a statement that uses a ‘clean’ AC as a reference point to start doubting a performance. At least use someone clean as your ‘line in the sand’.

Zinoviev Letter August 23, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Who would you regard it as fair to compare Froome’s performances with?

Perhaps we should compare his performances with Benoit Vaugrenard, the man who finished 83rd to Froome’s 84th in his first Tour de France, and a man who continued to quietly amass a better palmeres than Froome up until this time last year? Benoit finished 155th today.

Or perhaps we should compare him with the man who pipped him to the prestigious 2006 Anatomic Jock Race, Jay Thomson? Unfortunately Bissell Pro Cycling aren’t at this year’s Tour.

These were the sort of riders who would have been considered reasonable points of comparison for Froome right up until the 2011 Vuelta.

Zinoviev Letter August 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

“palmares” not palmeres.

Gowers August 23, 2012 at 9:00 pm

84th in your first Tour is a good effort. Benoit’s a good rider and previous French TT champ – bad day, illness, injured perhaps? I’m not sure a comparison with Bissell from 6 years ago is a fair either. Anyway, I’m sure you understood where I was coming from even if you didn’t agree with it?

Zinoviev Letter August 23, 2012 at 9:35 pm

84th in your first Tour is a good effort for a not particularly distinguished domestique, as Froome was for his entire career until one year ago. It would even be a reasonable result for a rather more accomplished domestique than Froome was, like Vaugrenard.

It is not a good effort for someone who is apparently the most talented climber, most talented stage racer and one of the most talented TT riders in the professional game. And this is just the point. Nothing at all in Froome’s career, not his climbing, not his stage racing, not his TTing, nothing he had ever done up until this time last year pointed towards him being notably accomplished at anything by the high standards of top level pro cyclists.

This makes it extraordinarily difficult to find anyone to compare his performances to. He is incomparably better than all of the riders who were his apparent peers up until 12 months ago.

Larry T. August 23, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Wasn’t Froome supposedly ill with some parasite for a few years, blunting much of his ability after Claudio Corti made those statements about how good he was? This year finally free of the nasty bugs and fulfilling that potential? While I agree with Paul Kimmage’s concerns about SKY’s recent lack of transparency, I’m not (yet) ready to question whether he’s playing by the rules or not.

Drew August 23, 2012 at 11:04 pm

I am a biased Brit but if sky is operating a doping programme, Dave Brailsford has run the most awesome long con in history, establishing his clean credentials for years and years before making his move.

Froome’s situation does require a sceptical eye. But the parasite is bilharzia and a quick google search will turn up his online diary entries and articles on cycling news covering this. Convenient nonetheless? As Larry says, his Barloworld boss is on record from 2008 lauding his tdf debut and referencing his climbing and tt prowess, as well as a good showing at alpe d’huez. As I recall it was on cycling news as well.

And no I’m not his dad – just another cynic who felt the need to look around at the guy’s background. Fingers crossed the dots I joined are real… But given the data on speeds etc these days compared to those days, I feel hopeful it’s all real – for instance, back in the day a doper wouldn’t have been overtaken like froome was today.

Drew August 23, 2012 at 11:06 pm

I am a biased Brit but if sky is operating a doping programme, Dave Brailsford has run the most awesome long con in history, establishing his clean credentials for years and years before making his move.

Froome’s situation does require a sceptical eye. But the parasite is bilharzia and a quick google search will turn up his online diary entries and articles on cycling news covering this. Convenient nonetheless? As Larry says, his Barloworld boss is on record from 2008 lauding his tdf debut and referencing his climbing and tt prowess, as well as a good showing at alpe d’huez. As I recall it was on cycling news as well.

And no I’m not his dad – just another cynic who felt the need to look around at the guy’s background.

Drew August 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I am a biased Brit but if sky is operating a doping programme, Dave Brailsford has run an awesome long con.

Froome’s situation does require a sceptical eye. But google froome and bilharzia. Convenient nonetheless? As Larry says, his Barloworld boss is on record from 2008 lauding his tdf debut and referencing his climbing and tt prowess, as well as a good showing at alpe d’huez. As I recall it was on cycling news.

And no I’m not his dad – just another cynic who felt the need to look around online at the guy’s background.

Drew August 23, 2012 at 11:11 pm

Balls. Sorry for multiple post – kept telling me it was rejected so i edited. You get the point.

Anonymous August 23, 2012 at 11:25 pm

An accurate longitudinal comparison would really be interesting. To be perfectly frank, I am unconvinced whether froome has got quicker or if everyone else is just going slower, comparatively speaking of course.

Heiko August 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I am not a biased Brit but Froome had no idea what he was doing and which raw talent he had until he joined SKY. The coaches around Rod Ellingworth showed him the ropes… and the numbers required to maximise his potential. I first met him at the warm up session for the U23 TT Worlds in Austria with his big Balloon like rainjacket, cause it was so bloody cold in Europe… Next day, he fell from the starting ramp at the start of the U23 TT…

Bundle August 24, 2012 at 8:35 am

It’s being said that Froome might have, due to bilharzia, a special medical certificate, that might allow him to get otherwise illegal treatments. I wonder if this is true, and where I can get an answer.

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