The Spin: Vuelta Stage 14

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The Vuelta has already visited the Pyrenees but today sees the start of the real mountain stages in the Vuelta with plenty of climbing and descending too.

The Route: up and down all day but note the distance, it is just 149km. This means a high speed race and the early climbs should be covered fast as a breakaway tries to go early, it will need to get away fast and build up a big lead for later. However the first three climbs of the day are not too hard:

  • Alto de Castro: 5.9% for 4.7km
  • Alto de Vilaesteva: 4.5% for 9.5km
  • Alto de O Lago: 4.1% for 8.4km

However the Alto Folgueiras de Aigas is hard with 6.7% for 9.7km but steeper sections along the way. The descent follow, it is fast and with a few tricky corners.

The Finish: the Puerto de Ancares is hard with 8.1% for 9.5km but as the profile shows, this includes a downhill section after 5km. The road kicks up to 12% with 2km to go and we can imagine riders have this point in mind for attacks. It climbs onwards via several hairpins before a final straight of 320m that rises all the way to the line.

The Scenario: we should get another showdown between the quartet of contenders. The finish is explosive enough to suit Joaquim Rodriguez again and the question is whether we’re beginning to see a clear order taking place with Contador as the next challenger and then Valverde and Froome fighting for the third step of the podium.

But with the big mountains coming we should look beyond the top four. Igor Anton seems to be coming good and Nicolas Roche can climb better than he time trials so he’ll move up. Rabobank have a trio of riders with Gesink, Ten Dam and Mollema who can all climb very well and Andrew Talansky is still in the top-10.

Weather: a mild 23°C but cooler at altitude. Given the wet weather over much of Europe the peloton is lucky.

TV: a change as coverage will start from 3.00-6.00pm Euro time, an hour earlier although some channels will start at 4.00pm as usual. Watch as early as you can to see the bunch form into a lead group and then a small bunch of contenders.

Secret mountains spotted from space

The Cantabrian Mountains: As the image above shows the Cantabrian mountains extend for a long way, about 300km across the north of Spain, compared to 500km for the Pyrenees. We might think of the Alps and Pyrenees for cycling but the Cantabrian mountains in Spain offer plenty of challenges (as to the Apennines in Italy). I’m fascinated by the effect of the Tour de France on the geography or psychogeography of Europe, that two roads of identical length and gradient could exist but one has legendary status in cycling but the other is unknown, how we know plenty about the Alps but little about Cantabria. This is true for some of the climbs in the Vuelta, and if the Angliru and the Lagos de Covadonga are part of the pantheon of ascensions, many other climbs in Spain don’t have the same fame.

Bundle September 1, 2012 at 9:24 am

Nice preview. The Puerto de Ancares has been the secret “Spanish Mortirolo” for cyclotourists for quite some time before the Vuelta employed it. And when the race finally goes there, it is on the easiest side (last year), or it doesn’t go to the top (this year, God knows why). Here’s what the end of this stage should have been: http://www.altimetrias.net/aspbk/verPuerto.asp?id=297 ; and this is actually the steepest side of the Ancares (still race-virgin): http://www.altimetrias.net/aspbk/verPuerto.asp?id=482

moses chach September 1, 2012 at 9:27 am

let the game begin, showtime.

The Ladder September 1, 2012 at 10:14 am

It’s interesting that the 2nd intermediate sprint point is a couple of kms before the start of the final climb – could the main contenders look to sweep up the break by that point to nick a few extra bonus seconds? It’s on an uphill dig, so could really suit the intentions of Rodríguez (perhaps with Moreno mopping up the 2nd place bonifications).

Finish looks to suit Purito as well, although I’m sure Contador will want to have some say in that with some more attacks. Today’s a big day for Froome, his legs seem to have been going over the last few stages, I think we will know after today whether he has any hope of getting back into the fight for red. For me, his goose looks cooked.

casualpedlar September 1, 2012 at 11:54 am

Could see today and tomorrow being quite quiet days in terms of the overall standings, not shifting too much until Stage 16. Though I’m hoping for some long range attacks, maybe from Contador (saw him try it in the Tour last year) because it’s at the point where he needs to get rid of Rodriguez before the finale of a stage.

Ankush September 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I think once again Contador will bide his time and let Purito takes this win. He will have his eyes set on Stage 16 on Monday, where I’m guessing he’ll take over the leader jersey. But on the other hand, he risks bleeding too many bonus seconds to Rodriguez. I like bonus seconds being offered on stage wins, it makes the tactical battle more intriguing and the race more rewarding.

This Vuelta has trumped both the Giro and le Tour in terms of excitement. While Giro was a paradise for stage hunters, Tour was purely a demonstration of the strength of Team Sky. I would have loved to see Froome race on another team in 2013 but sadly it won’t happen :(

Larry T. September 2, 2012 at 3:06 am

I would say it’s a bit early to say this Vuelta trumps this year’s Giro but a) Vuelta’s not finished b) I’m an unabashed Italophile.

Guadzilla September 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm

My guess – Contador brings the pain at 4km or so to go, and gaps Rodrigues for the win.

Rooto September 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Great climax today. All four contenders brought something to the stage:
Valverde – the front, the show.
Froome – the heart.
Contador – the confidence (but not quite the legs, strange that).
Rodriguez – the brains.

Jasen September 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Is it me .. But Contador always seems very low geared compared to the rest.
Stonking Tour so far !

Tom September 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

Better to be under than over

Ad September 1, 2012 at 8:57 pm

What odds for Rodriguez to win all four jerseys?

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