Yesterday Tarazona, today Tarragona. It should be a sprint stage but this is conditional for reasons to be explained below.
Stage 11 Review
A rare time trial win for Fabian Cancellara who beat Tony Martin. It’s about time the Swiss rider got the better of his German rival (who actually lives in Switzerland too). Vincenzo Nibali took back the red jersey as even Chris Horner’s elixir of youth can’t alter time. Bizarre result of the day is Domenico Pozzovivo, the Ag2r rider took third place. As the photo shows he didn’t even use a time trial frame. It was a surprise but he’s not a pure mountain goat, for example he’s been top-20 in the recent Tour of Poland and the Giro’s Saltara coast time trial.
The Route: the race heads east to the coast. The Alto del Collet is a third category climb and climbs for 7.5 km at a gentle 3.6%.
The Finish: another urban finish with some twists and turns. It’s slightly uphill to the line on the Rambla Vella… but only just.
The Scenario: a sprint stage? The flat route says yes but the teams have had trouble getting organised with the chase. Without a big sprinter and the locomotive force of an accompanying sprint train, each team seems reluctant to commit to the effort. Orica-Greenedge have been keen but they don’t want to give a free ride to the others. Also note the points competition is the preserve of the climbers with Dani Moreno leading Alejandro Valverde. In other words Michael Matthews and Maxi Richeze are out of the running and another incentive to set up a sprint is lost.
So there’s a good chance of Matthews, Richeze and other sprinters like Farrar and Meersman trying but what about a break going away? Picks here get very difficult, it’s a lottery.
Weather: sunny and mild but not hot. There will be a few clouds in the sky and a gentle breeze means fine conditions for racing.
TV: the finish is expected for 5.45pm Euro time. Tune in for the final half hour to see if a break can get the jump on the bunch.
- Spanish region comprises four provinces (Barcelona, of course, but also Girona, Lleida and Tarragona) and borders Andorra and France.
- Catalan language, however, is also spoken out of Catalonia (other Spanish regions, Andorra, some French departments and even an Italian city). A controversial issue, we’ll find bilingual road signs, as we did in Galicia. Catalan Girona is Spanish Gerona, and Catalan Lleida is Spanish Lérida (Barcelona and Tarragona are spelled the same way in both languages).
- In km 149,2 (15 to the finish line) there is an intermediate sprint at Port Aventura, a theme park that opened in 1995. The whole Costa Daurada (Mediterranean coast along Tarragona province) is a major destination for both Spanish and European tourists.
- Tarragona today is a small city, especially in comparison with Barcelona. 2,000 years ago, however, it was the capital city of Tarraconense, the Roman province that comprised most of the Iberian peninsula. Pay attention to the amphitheatre by the sea.
- Catalonia’s national day is on September 11. Catalan nationalists are preparing a human chain to support the pro-independence movement. The race will already be elsewhere, but it would be no surprise to see some “Catalonia is not Spain” signs during Catalan stages.
Many thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel