A day for the sprinters. The first week’s felt like it’s been reserved for the sprinters and rightly so as there’s no point fixing the overall classification from the start. All this is set to change but for now a flat stage with a high speed finish.
Stage 7 Wrap: if at first you don’t succeed, try again. That could have been Jens Voigt’s motto but it applies to others in the peloton and Alessandro de Marchi is this year’s breakaway specialist. Perhaps others have been up the road for longer or more often but De Marchi’s been visible in the big races this summer, a prime time escape artist. His win was helped after Ryder Hesjedal slipped out on a corner but that’s the cruelty of racing, De Marchi just kept riding while others were delayed.
Another faller was Chris Froome who had to chase hard to get back to the bunch early in the stage but come the finish and he sprinted for the line to distance his GC rivals for a small time gain. Clever… or nervous?
There was also a big crash mid-stage that took out three riders from the race, the first abandons of the race. Other victims included John Degenkolb.
The Route: no climbs, just a long procession across the plains of Spain.
The Finish: flat and fast for the sprinters. The road is narrowed as the race rides into town A right-hander just after the 1km to go sign and then it’s one long straight line to the finish.
The Scenario: a sprint finish and with greater certainty than the previous day.
The Contenders: Nacer Bouhanni is the prime pick but he’s tired and finished Thursday’s stage above La Zubia. John Degenkolb’s lost skin a crash too but these two are still the fastest in the bunch. Moreno Hofland and Andrea Guardini have the speed too but Guardini’s been bandaged up too so Hofland could get the nod. Remember his riding in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne? If the crosswinds get up he could be the one to profit.
Roberto Ferrari’s been close but tends to profit from messy sprints and today’s straight finish could be orderly. If you think unemployment’s a motivator Ag2r aren’t keeping Yahueni Hutarovich, the Belarussian has won in the Vuelta before.
|Andrea Guardini, Roberto Ferrari|
TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time. If you have to ration your viewing this weekend, save the time for tomorrow’s stage although tune in for today’s sprint.
Daily Díaz: Today’s first part of the stage takes place in los cerros de Úbeda (Úbeda’s hills). A Spanish saying (andarse por los cerros de Úbeda, “walk around Úbeda’s hills”) means talking and talking without saying much, avoiding the main question and focusing on useless details. Many a cyclist or DS walks around Úbeda’s hills after a race, am I right? Anyway, this part of Andalusia (province of Jaén) marks the transition to the inner plateau. This is a land where the Mediterranean agriculture has been present for millennia: vineyards, wheat, and olive. Population density is low and some Spanish kings supported colonization projects inside their own country during the 18th century.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel