Vuelta Stage 3 Preview

Monday, 25 August 2014

Two flat stages means the Vuelta has to visit a mountain range and today’s stage includes four categorised climbs on the way to a tricky uphill finish.

Stage 2 Wrap: Nacer Bouhanni’s name is sometimes associated with the word “but”. For instance “he won in the Giro but Marcel Kittel had left the race“. So the Vuelta’s been all about confirming his status and the €1.2m contract he’s signed with Cofidis and we got the confirmation he can deliver. Or rather he was perfectly delivered by his team with FDJ’s Geoffrey Soupe dropping him off with 200m to go and Bouhanni’s power did the rest.

Bouhanni’s a consummate professional. Yes he’s got a connection to boxing but this doesn’t mean he’s some streetfighter, in fact fighting in the ring demands dedication rather than aggression. His victory salutes are demonstrative but he’s courteous in interviews and often quotable. When he signed to Cofidis he took several riders with him, including the currently unemployed Canadian Dom Rollin, plus FDJ’s trainer Jacques Decrion.

The Route: the stage begins on the deck of an aircraft carrier – more of which below – and if it’s unusual it won’t change much about the race. But just as races are used to promote towns and other attractions, Spain is trying to sell warships and the same model’s already been sold to Australia.

As long as nobody is sea sick the peloton will head for the Sierra del Pinar and a series of climbs. There’s nothing hard here, the gradients are typically 5-6%. Confusingly the road from Ubrique to Benaocaz is perhaps the longest climb with 5km at 6%… but it’s topped by the first intermediate sprint of the day. The Puerto del Boyar is a hard climb if approached from the other side but this time it’s the easy side followed by a long downhill. There’s 50km to regroup on the way to the finish.

The Finish: uphill at 6% for most of the final 1,500m before dipping to the line for the final 200m. Arcos de la Frontera is a small that sits at the top of a ridge and the Vuelta came through here last year on the stage above Estepona won by Leopold König so it might be familiar to some. As a finish it’s a fast climb, short and not so steep as to let the climbers play. The field will split but on grounds of motivation.

The Scenario: the mid-stage mountains mean the climber’s jersey is in play so expect a breakaway to go. Watch Luis Angel Maté of Cofidis, the “Lynx of Andalucia” to see if he can play to the home crowd but otherwise the break’s a lottery.

The Contenders: a perfect day for Peter Sagan but the Slovak’s form is uncertain. He didn’t sprint yesterday, instead Cannondale’s Oscar Gatto made the top-10 and today could suit. If Sagan’s not sprinting Michael Matthews will profit. Maybe John Degenkolb can hang on, the climb’s at his upper limit. Philippe Gilbert could take a flyer on the climb too. Dark Horse picks would be FDJ’s Anthony Roux, a talented rider but he just doesn’t win often enough, and Adam Yates who has been winning big this year. Or what about Alejandro Valverde? We’ll see just how much he wants to defend the jersey if he’s trying for the stage win and the accompanying time bonus.

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Michael Matthews, Peter Sagan
Philippe Gilbert
Oscar Gatto, John Degenkolb, Alejandro Valverde
Yates, Roux

Weather: hot and sunny and the thermometer could reach 36°C om places.

TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time.

It’s live on Eurosport, Universal Sports, ITV4 and more. If not cyclingfans and steephill.tv both have links to pirate feeds with the latter also listing where you can view the race properly too.

Daily Díaz: Today’s stage will depart from Juan Carlos I, a warship of the Spanish Navy named in honour of the recently retired king. Before British and Dutch ships took command in the 17th century, the Spanish and Portuguese fleets ruled the oceans (they were the first Europeans to arrive to the New World, after all, and controlled the transatlantic commerce for a while despite the piracy). One remarkable Spanish sailor and explorer was Juan Sebastián Elcano, who completed the first circumnavigation in the 16th century. The Spanish Navy named its training ship (built in 1927) after him, and it was a symbol of the glorious past of the national sails. However, just some weeks ago over 100 kg of cocaine were found onboard, which led to a lot of online mocking and one uncomfortable question: how long has this been going on?

Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel

Larrick August 25, 2014 at 6:29 am

Is it possible today might, because of the nature of the finish and concern about splits occurring, end up with the GC contenders playing a major role? Similar to Nibalis’ win on Stage 2 at the TdF.

RocksRootsRoad August 25, 2014 at 5:29 pm

Jenkin road was much more selective on TDF Stage 2 with an average gradient of 11.2% and sections up to 20%. A strong sprinter could hang on today maybe or more likely Gilbert if he has the legs…

Tovarishch August 25, 2014 at 6:48 am

I’ve heard of coal-fired ships but never coke-fired.

Fatso Rosa August 25, 2014 at 9:29 am

Carlos Betancur finished 1:15 behind on today’s stage.

He could takeback some time on the Downhill MTB stages.

Mo Rothar Beag Dubh August 25, 2014 at 10:13 am

Fat chance

Ian August 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

I think Degenkolb and Matthews will fight it out today, Matthews takes the red jersey if he wins. It was OGEs plan to try to take the jersey in these opening stages, it’s why he wasn’t allowed drop off in the TTT.. but I think Degenkolb will be too fast for him, he finished like a train yesterday.

http://www.cyclingbetting.co.uk

hahostolze August 25, 2014 at 11:01 am

What I take away from this is that Nacer Bouhanni is set to earn 1.2m at a ProContinental team? Wow.

The Inner Ring August 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

Don’t forget Cofidis’s budget is bigger than some World Tour teams.

Arun August 25, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Could Cofidis apply for a WorldTour License next year??

Larry T. August 25, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Why bother with “Heinie’s Folly” when (as a French team) you are almost certain to be invited to Le Beeg Shew in July? One of the huge flaws in the Pro/World Tour scheme, especially when 17 teams are fighting over 18 places in the so-called top tier of the sport. Rather sad La Vuelta’s being used to showcase weapons of war, but it’s probably not the first (or last) time bike racing’s been used this way?

Kevin Smith August 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm

A very minor point but the race is not live on ITV4, just evening highlights.

The Inner Ring August 25, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Noted. Races often over-promise on live coverage around the world. I’ll update future previews with this.

VeloDeMontagne August 25, 2014 at 6:59 pm

The stage is over, but I enjoy hindsight talk and analyzation, and being over the pond, I’m sleeping when INRNG posts for the next stage. Bummer.

Anyway, Matthews is so strong and when I saw that it was Dan Martin trying to pull it off, it was no match. And Matthews is now in RED.

Purito is really fired up for this Vuelta and will fight hard throughout. I expect to see him in red soon, at least for a time, short or long.

Contador is the big question because he’s still not fully healed from his injury. I question whether he has his normal acceleration and punch even on these short uphills. I think he may struggle a bit, but time will tell.

And though Evans is riding in support of Samuel Sanchez, he finished 6th today and Sanchez not in the top 10 today. Evans rode extremely well in high altitude Tour of Utah, winning two back-to-back tough stages, surely giving him confidence going into the Vuelta. He will ride his heart out in Spain as he knows that a poor showing will bring on retirement.

My last thought is of Rigoberto Uran, not talked about too much for this GT, and I’m sure he likes it that way. His history as a climber is stellar. I see him as a strong GC contender. He’s just 15 seconds down on GC now.

Stage 10 TT is mostly descending with one category 3 climb. The riders who aren’t strong in TTs have little to worry about. Climbers paradise.

If anyone cares to discuss the after-race possibilities, I’m all ears to hear other opinions.

KB August 25, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Really impressed with Orica-Greenedge, great TTT (without the usual big engines Tuft, Durbridge, Hepburn), controlled the race today and ‘Bling’ Matthews looked almost casual taking the win and the red jersey. It’s working out just like the Giro for them; young Chaves is in great position. Curious to see what he and A. Yates can do later.

Contador and Froome finished safely in the front group, but no sign of Degenkolb, Gilbert nor Sagan on a finish which suited them. Cannondale went for Gatto (recall that Sagan tried to gift him a stage in the Driedaagse de Panne, but accidentally won himself), BMC probably just played for the best man on the day, which turned out to be Evans (personally I expect nothing from S. Sanchez, I think he’s done).

Uran was included among the favorites at the rider presentation, and he’s been on the podium of the Giro twice so it would be criminal if his name wasn’t in the conversation. But his team isn’t really built for GC (now or historically) whereas the competition (Froome, Quintana, Contador) have stood on the top step and have experienced teams.

Personally, I’m especially curious to see how Wilco Kelderman does; also coming off Tour of Utah, he finished an impressive 4th today, demonstrating form and awareness. He also had a great Giro, matched Froome and Contador in the Dauphine, and can TT.

It’s a long way to Santiago de Compostela though!

VeloDeMontagne August 25, 2014 at 9:40 pm

I don’t have TV or online streaming access due to landlord who controls our measly bandwidth. It gets capped with any normal use at all, so I have only live text updates, no visual at all. Reading how Giant was in front, I also thought Degenkolb would have contested with the final few riders.

I’m sure that Sanchez and Gilbert were working for Evans, best man of the day, and Evans may turn out to be their GC man, I hope.

No Sagan in the final mix! Yes, the finish definitely suited him.

Thanks for setting me straight on Uran, but agreed that OPQS isn’t the team to be riding for a GC contender, too bad. Maybe he’ll end up like Contador in past races — often riding without teammates but on the wheel of another contender before he attacks! I have high hopes for Uran.

Kelderman looked great in Utah, finishing 5th overall, so it appears that he’s carrying that great form into Spain. Three weeks IS a long road, so we’ll see whose legs have reserve in the fuel tank by the end.

Kinnibari August 26, 2014 at 9:22 am

I’m also looking forward to seeing how Chaves will go; I’m not expecting much given the field and Chaves/OGE’s lack of previous experience going for a GC result but I’d like to see them get some good experience. Also it’s great to see Chaves riding at all after his injuries, let alone riding quite well.

KB August 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm

After rescanning the results, I see I was perhaps a bit rushed in assessment of S. Sanchez and Gilbert – perhaps they worked for Evans and/or were not ideally positioned in the finale. I had no TV commentary on Sporza nor Eurosport for the last 5km or so (did anyone?), so rider ID was difficult.

Also very impressed by Bouhanni today, 8th on that finish!

Anonymous August 25, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Today’s stage seems to indicate everybody means business on this Vuelta.

Brian W August 26, 2014 at 12:41 am

“One remarkable Spanish sailor and explorer was Juan Sebastián Elcano, who completed the first circumnavigation in the 16th century.”

This is my history lesson for today. I’d only known of Magellan previously, but I see he expired in the Phillipines and Elcano took command from there on. Thanks Inrng and Diaz.

garuda August 26, 2014 at 6:07 am

Unless Scandinavians do not count as Europeans, they might object to this line

“..they were the first Europeans to arrive to the New World, after all..”

Manuel Pérez August 26, 2014 at 9:00 am

You’re right: they arrived to North America much before the Iberians did. But, and this is a controversial issue among historians, they were never aware of where they had arrived, and their trips didn’t have much impact on History.

garuda August 27, 2014 at 4:14 am

Is it really controversial? How so? I don’t see what the controversy is. The Vikings came to Greenland, then pushed on to atleast Newfoundland, maybe even further South, but all is irrelevant as they died out without any impact on the continent. Are historians debating how far South they reached or why they did not have an impact?

Manuel Pérez August 27, 2014 at 9:01 am

The controversy is about whether or not they were aware they had arrived to a new continent (or a New World), as there isn’t much written evidence.

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