The Spin: Vuelta Stage 15

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Today’s stage is all about the finish to the Lagos de Covadonga. The Vuelta has used this climb 17 times before making this finish the equivalent of the Tour de France’s Alpe d’Huez only it’s a far more irregular climb where the constant variations in gradient will help to prise apart the overall contenders.

The Route: the race speeds over the Puerto de Pajares and then a long descent awaits – riders will climb back up this on Monday – and the race rumbles across the Asturias region, heading north to the coast and then passing over the Mirador del Fito, the Fito lookout. It’s 6.8km long at 8.3% but in fact most of the road is over 10%. It’s hard but not the place to attack as a descent and then 15km on the flat await, tricky terrain to stay away.

The Finish: the final climb of the stage. It’s 13.5km at 7% which sounds ok but as the profile shows the slope keeps changing, especially near the top. Riders who get away near the top can turn the power on for the descents whilst everyone else is floundering, gasping for air and struggling with the change in pace. As they French say, il va falloir jouer du dérailleur, roughly “you need to work the gears today”. Note it tops out at less than 1200m above sea level so altitude is not a problem, big attacks are possible.

The Scenario: it’s hard to see a breakaway staying away as several teams will want to set up their riders. Yesterday’s stage saw the bunch control the escapes and it could be repeated, especially as the wide flat (well, relatively flat) roads suit the bunch better than any fugitives.

Joaquim Rodriguez seems to be in control. His position as race leader means the others must attack but he seems happy to monitor any moves from Valverde or Contador and then stuff them in the final 500 metres where he wins a few seconds and takes the time bonus. In some ways it’s out of Team Sky’s racing-by-numbers handbook yet it is visually more exciting because it relies on letting others attack and explode rather than pacing.

By contrast the Froome-dog looks to be frothing at the mouth, he was dropped yesterday, came back and immediately attacked. Only he ended up with his tail between his legs after he was soon caught, dropped and lost time to Rodriguez, Contador and Valverde whilst Andrew “Pitbull” Talansky was impressive. Several riders still have the fight but it looks like we’re seeing riders scrap for the podium.

Weather: a cool 20°C (68°F) with a light breeze from the north-east.

TV: a change as coverage is from 3.00-6.00pm Euro time, an hour earlier although some channels will start at 4.00pm as usual. Tune in for the 90 minutes if you want to watch the Mirador del Fito climb or from about 5.00pm for the final climb to the lakes.

Covadonga: the Wikipedia entry for Covadonga says the name comes from the Latin Cova Dominica, “Cavern of the Lady” but the Arabic is more appropriate, ‎ صخرة بلاي‎ Ṣakhrat Bilāy or “the rock of the affliction or of the putting to the test” because of the test awaiting the riders today.

In 722 AD, Iberian Christians won a namesake battle over the Moors in Covadonga. This was the first significant Christian victory over the occupying Moors and is often considered to be the start of the 770-year effort to expel the Moors from Iberia, the Reconquista. Our Lady of Covadonga is a significant Marian shrine. The Spanish Army has, over the years, named several of its units “Covadonga”.

In short this isn’t just a climb famous because a bike race goes up it.

Repeat edition: don’t forget that if today’s stage is big, tomorrow is even bigger.

Local Rider: embarrassingly it’s Carlos Barredo. The Rabobank rider is currently inactive after the UCI started asking questions about his blood values. He won the stage last year when the race visited but he’s out for now. A timely reminder that suspicion doesn’t just belong to the past.

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{ 9 comments }

Ankush September 2, 2012 at 8:33 am

I guess Katusha will be setting the pace today and Bertie will get caught in the hurt locker. If everything goes well for Katusha, Purito could let Dani Moreno go for the win. But I’m hoping for Quintana to go on the attack and take the victory.

JimW September 2, 2012 at 1:54 pm

It’s looking like Froome should have dethroned the chosen one when he had the chance. Sky may have dumped him but he wouldn’t be wanting for a contract that’s for sure. Grab that GT when it’s in reach!
Next year may be too late.

Larry T. September 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm

This also shows how formulaic LeTour has become these days. Both Il Giro and La Vuelta (so far anyway) have been MUCH more interesting this year and in many recent editions. Froome killed himself in July for Wiggo so is likely paying the price, while the other podium contenders had an easier July. Most Grand Tours where the “stomp ‘em in the chrono and hang on in the mountains” strategy is effective = BORING – whether the winner was BigMig, BigTex, Wiggo, and even LeMond in 1990.

Tom September 2, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Are you joking? My sarcasm sensor is a little off today.

There is not a single chance Sky would have let Froome win the Tour over Wiggins. Not a chance.

JimW September 2, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I’m not so sure. With wiggo on the rivet and Froome with gas in the tank on a few occasions he could have taken the time out of him and turned the tables. I don’t think they would’ve thrown away a victory because it was the wrong rider. Or maybe they would have. They effectively threw away a world champion. Fun to speculate.

Andrewalpen September 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm

i like froomes post race interviews. Open. Accepting of his fate. Still, I wonder how much he is regretting wasting energy showing off in the tour as he “dropped” wiggins. I also wonder how happy he is that his teammates aren’t doing the same to him. All a learning experience I guess. (written after the stage).

Hugo-Martijn September 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Have to agree with you here, think for him this Vuelta is to see what the effect of two grand tours in a year is. He just tries to make the best out of it every day, and hopes to end up as high as possible.
Alltho I think he would of performed better if he didn’t ride the tour the france this year.

(After Stage)

bikecellar September 2, 2012 at 11:34 pm

It is of course dissapointing to see him falling away from the podium, but on the positive side it is good to see natural fatigue taking it’s toll.

Hugo-Martijn September 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm

True that! Atleast we ”know” that we can see good things from him next year! And that he is human after all! Hope to see him next year in another team tho, where he can show what he is really made of!

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