The longest stage of the 2012 Vuelta but it is only 204.5km, a sign that this has been a race of short and sharp stages. With no categorised climbs this looks like a sprint finish or a long range breakaway… but after yesterday’s tactical coup, who knows?
The Route: the race heads almost directly south and there seems little to comment on. The race comes into the finish town of Valladolid with 37km to go and then heads out for a loop before returning.
The Finish: the race heads back into town and the final 1500 metres have two corners as the race heads slightly downhill to cross the Pisuerga river before turning left and a flat run to the line for 600m.
The Scenario: a breakaway or a sprint? There’s a good chance of a move going away all day but they will battle with the sprint teams. John Degenkolb’s chances of winning back the green jersey seem slim so this tilts things in favour of the breakaway.
Weather: a warm day with temperatures of 30°C (86°F) and a light tailwind to help the riders reach the finish.
TV: 4.00pm to 6.00pm Euro time. Tune in for the last hour to check what is happening.
Contador’s Raid: a tactical masterstroke? Perhaps but often riders and teams try moves but they don’t work and attacking with 40km to go is seen as suicidal. Yet this time Contador put Rodriguez under pressure with an early attack and then used the final climb to ruin Rodriguez’s hopes. The name of Eddy Merckx can evoke deity but it can also suggest a long attack or a move to make rivals panic and yes, Contador’s attack was old school and a bit Merckx-like. The ascension to Fuente Dé sounded easy but that’s why Rodriguez was rumbled. The slope was enough to ensure a team could not chase in full but not steep enough to suit Rodriguez and his accelerations. Instead Rodriguez had to pace himself in a long aerobic effort, pushing a big gear at a steady rate, arguably his weak point.
Au revoir David: whilst the sport spins, one rider has been a constant: David Moncoutié. He joined Cofidis in 1997 and never changed teams during a long career that saw him win Tour de France stages, take the Vuelta mountains prize four times and plenty more. All along he’s kept a reputation as a clean and honest rider, something worth celebrating given the way Cofidis was run in the past and the general state of the sport for so long. Yesterday he announced he’ll retire and that the Vuelta is his last race.
A quiet man, you wonder what he makes of all that the sport has been through, especially since he had to dedicate his talent to picking off stages and mountains jerseys when perhaps he could have landed a lot more if things were different. There has been talk of the 1999 Dauphiné stage race given Jonathan Vaughter’s confessions of doping for this race and because it was Christophe Basson’s last win but Moncoutié also won a stage and told reporters “I want you to know that I have won this stage on water!” and it’s something to think he was winning in back 1999 and now riding the Vuelta in 2012.