It’s time to head inland for the first summit finish. The road to Cumbres Verdes is short but steep enough to be selective and enough to start filtering the contenders from the pretenders.
Stage 5 Wrap
An early break saw Tony Martin up the road but it wasn’t going to be an all day escape for him and he left Lotto-Belisol’s Pim Ligthart to carry on by himself. Tinkoff-Saxo brought millions out of their siesta thanks to an acceleration with 40km to go. The team spotted crosswinds and stretched the race out in a scene more usually associated with the spring classics. Abanico is Spanish for fan and the word used when the riders are spread across the road in a crosswind. They did split the bunch but their efforts weren’t reciprocated by Movistar, Katusha and Sky, seemingly the other strong teams in this race. Still the move condemned a few sprinters as well as GC outsiders like Andrew Talansky, Ryder Hesjedal and Kenny Elissonde.
The French government collapsed over the weekend and part of the background to the politics is debt, Germany and Euros. It wasn’t a replay but certainly Nacer Bouhanni was in oxygen debt and demanding something must be done about Degenkolb’s competitive abilities. In this instance Bouhanni’s complaints looked theatrical because Degenkolb kept his line. The complaints were formal too as the commissaires were instructed to review the finish but within minutes Degenkolb was spraying the cava on the podium. See the sprint for yourself.
The Route: a roll out along the coast and its resorts, passing through Malaga which will host the 2015 Vuelta start. All change at Torre del Mar and the race heads inland. The Alto de Zafaraya is a nice start to the climbing, 11km at 6% so nothing too hard. The same for the Alto de los Bermejales, 5km at 5%.
The Finish: the best is saved for last. Officially 4.6km at 7.8%, the first part of the climb is a soft 5% before a mid-section of 3km that averages over 10% before a final kilometre of 9%. Those two or three percentage points make all the difference: it’s short and steep but long enough to provide the first test of climbing legs.
As climbs go this is unusual, there are no bends in the road, it is almost straight from one end to the other as it climbs up past the pines to
The Scenario: good luck to an early break because it’s likely we see the main teams drive the pace as they approach the final climb and then the GC contenders and pretenders give it their best up the final climb. Don’t expect fireworks but there can be time gaps, the opening mountain stage is often a test and nobody wants to gamble and lose. I think the GC riders might mark each other and a second tier rider takes the stage.
The Contenders: the biggest test is for Alberto Contador. He’s looked fine so far and his time tried to split the race yesterday, a sign of ambition? We’ll see what he can do today. The same for Chris Froome who sneaked an intermediate time bonus yesterday, his form is unknown and apart from yesterday’s “sprint” we’ve yet to see him in action. He’s often willing to attack early, it’s worked well for him in some races but earlier this year his move in the Volta a Catalunya allowed others to follow and then pass him for the win.
Dan Martin is in great shape and this climb could suit him, he finishes fast if he can sit on the right wheels and dispatch his rivals in the final moments. Don’t forget Cadel Evans, he was winning stages in the Tour of Utah and yes this is a higher level but he’s fast from a group and the climb is short enough for him to stay punchy.
|Dani Moreno, Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome|
|Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Dan Martin|
Weather: hot and sunny again with the thermometer reaching 35°C. There’s no forecast for a breeze.
TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time.
Daily Díaz: The Spanish word sierra has two principal meanings: a saw and a mountain range. That’s why so many mountainous systems in Spanish-speaking countries are called Sierra something: think of Sierra Nevada, in Spain (and in the US), Serra da Estrela, in Portugal, and the three Sierra Madre (Occidental, Oriental and del Sur) of Mexico.
Which meaning comes first? Well, take a look at some stage profiles (Giro stage 16, Tour stage 17, Vuelta stage 16) and they do look like a saw, right? So the tool gave the name to the mountain range. By the way, La Zubia is the birthplace of Francisco Cabello, a former professional cyclist who won a stage in 1994 Tour de France.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel