A day for the sprinters but the first second category climb and it’s 14% gradients await. The finish is similar to 2011 when Peter Sagan won but the Slow-vak finished 129th yesterday. Time to make amends or will someone else win in Córdoba?
Stage 3 Wrap
A fine win for Michael Matthews who sat tight before sprinting past Dan Martin. The Irishman looked a touch undergeared as the road dipped to the line but it was Matthew’s sprint that derailed Martin. It made for an intriguing finish where the overall contenders were as much in the mix as the sprinters, a top-10 that had Joaquim Rodriguez, Cadel Evans, Wilco Kelderman and Chris Froome as well as Matthews, Nacer Bouhanni and Lloyd Mondory. Mondory? A rider you probably don’t know well but with long collection of top-10 placings during a long career.
Alberto Contador’s physio rehab continues and he was seen doing some leg-stretching on the final climb. It’s too soon to extrapolate this into a 20-30 minute effort but it’s comforting for him and his team. Peter Sagan finished well down. Some have said he needs to learn to lose in order to win but not this way? Nobody seems to know what’s up but it was left to Oscar Gatto to show the Cannondale jersey.
Unremarkable until the scenic climb of San Jerónimo. Then comes the Alto Catorce Por Ciento or the “14% Climb”. Original in name but not in use. The Vuelta climbed this in 2011 and on the descent Peter Sagan and Liquigas team mates including Vincenzo Nibali got away. Sagan won the stage, his first grand tour stage win. Back to today and it’s 9km at just over 5% but that’s the mean gradient and the reality is meaner with a short section that’s got steep ramps including a 14% section. It’s selective but short and there’s time to get back. If the climb gets the attention, don’t forget the descent, if a few riders or even team push it then they can get away just as we saw in 2011.
Flat and fast, an urban finish to suit the sprinters. There’s one wide chicane in the final kilometre to contend.
Nacer Bouhanni was fine on the relatively short climb yesterday but he could find the longer climb today too much, the same for John Degenkolb. It all depends how the race tackles the climb, it it goes loco then the sprinters’ chances are reduced even if their teams try to pace them back. But it’s still probable most make it back. Michael Matthews is the default pick because of his finishing speed and climbing abilities.
|Sbaragli, Martinez, Mondory, Sagan|
Weather: 39°C. Hot and sunny. It’s toward the upper level possible for racing but still feasible, especially in a pro race where staff and the race organisation are on hand to ensure additional supplies of water.
TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time.
Daily Díaz: In the Middle Ages, the Iberian Peninsula was one of the borders between the Christian and the Muslim world. In 711 the Arabs crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and ruled most of the country until 1212, when they were defeated in the crucial battle of Las Navas de Tolosa and started losing ground until 1492, when the last Muslim king was expelled from Granada. During the time of their maximum power, the capital of the kingdom was Córdoba (also known as Cordova in English), today’s stage finish. What the Greeks called Iberia and the Romans Hispania, the Arabs called Ándalus, which is the origin of the name of Andalusia, where a third of this year’s Vuelta is taking place.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel