The first road stage and the first uphill finish and this is a climb that’s 11km long with Alpine-style gradients. However the steep sections are short and so this should be a stage for the punchy riders who, to borrow Kipling, can keep your head and position when all about are losing theirs.
It promises an early selection by elimination and if the process of discovering the eventual race winner will need much more time, today’s stage is a high pressure moment.
Stage 1 Review
The marine start was novel and teams were struggling on the course but it wasn’t great TV. Still Astana won and put Janez Brajkovič in the red jersey. It was a strong performance by the team, OPQS might have had Tony Martin and Radioshack had Fabian Cancellara but individual motors are only part of the team effort. The course was very windy and many teams came in with just five riders. Ag2r La Mondiale saw Carlos Betancur dropped, an extra time loss for him and Katusha were down to five men when Dani Moreno was dropped and hard to ease up. There were some big time gaps, see Cannondale at 1.26 and already a real handicap for Ivan Basso.
What can Brajkovič do? Well he can enjoy his time in red and with strong performances like the 2010 Dauphiné and ninth place in the 2012 Tour he can have high ambitions for the race. It suits Vincenzo Nibali to have a team mate in red so long as the team does not have to work too hard right from the start.
Stage 2 Preview
The route is flat for most of the day and if the early climb over the Alto de San Cosme is a temptation for a breakaway to grab some early mountain prize points (3-2-1 points), the uphill finish later offers far more points and with them, the polka dot jersey too. In other words some TV exposure and tired legs are the only things on offer to the early break. Expect some to to try but then the bunch will set to work with a high speed chase which will continue all the way to the climb regardless of whether anyone is still up the road as teams fight to place their riders near the front.
The Finish: some steep moments await on the climb but it’s not hard all the way up. So a rider needs to be on the right wheel given the strong wind and near the front to get a lift to the final kilometre where the road rises all the way to the line at 7%. The road is wide and reasonable surfaced. Given this we can good size group of riders to contest the win.
The Scenario: On the right day you’d expect the likes of Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) to be in the mix alongside Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). But the Norwegian has been ill which might explain why he was dropped by his team yesterday and Gilbert just can’t buy a win this year and he smashed his knee in the Eneco Tour.
Astana have several options with Maxim Iglinskiy alongside Nibali, Fuglsang and Tiralongo; the same for Katusha with Vicioso, Moreno and maybe Paolini in support of Rodriguez. Dan Martin is a fast finisher, like Simon Gerrans too. Sky’s Henao is a punchy rider and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Roche had had a fast finish in the past. More recently Bauke Mollema showed what he can do with his stage win in Switzerland but what form is he in?
If you want some outsiders then FDJ’s Anthony Roux was sprinting well uphill in the Vuelta a Burgos and Wout Poels was very strong in the recent Tour de l’Ain. Also a tip for Lampre-Merida’s Diego Ulissi as he’s a good finisher if he’s in form… and he won in the Tour of Poland when the race was in the mountains. But he’s not a prolific winner.
Will any sprinters make it? I doubt it, the middle section has two kilometres with 7% and then 9% and a ramp at 10%. There’s a chance Gianni Meersman (OPQS) could be there but the steep sections look too steep for too long. Instead we can expect three quarters of the field to lose mucho time.
Weather: sunny but not hot and a stiff northerly breeze which will make the final 40km run to the foot of the climb hard work and add to the pressure with teams fighting for position and hoping not to be caught out in a crosswind.
TV: the race is competing with the Vattenfall Classics race in Germany but it’s ok as the last hour should be where the action is as the pace picks up. The finish is expected for 5.45pm Euro time.
- The opening stages are in the Galicia area, once home to Xacobeo-Galicia cycling team, which disappeared after the 2010 season when the regional government ended its sponsorhip
- Pontevedra is the capital city of the province of the same name, but not the biggest city in it, something rather unusual in Spain. Vigo (see stage 3) is actually much bigger than Pontevedra
- The Galician coast has for a long time been one of the gateways for South American drugs to enter Europe. Some of the most prominent Spanish druglords have managed their activities in Galicia
- A long part of the stage runs along Miño river, which marks the frontier between Spain and Portugal. Many people from both countries cross the line quite often: some products are cheaper in Spain (oil, for example), while people from Galicia travel to Porto, in northern Portugal, to visit an Ikea store. Transborder marriages are quite usual, too
- On March 1, 1493 one of the ships of Columbus’ first voyage to America arrived to Baiona/Bayona, making it the first place in the Old World to receive news from the New World
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as manuelsociales