Vuelta Stage 9 Preview

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The first high altitude finish of the Vuelta. At first sight this looks like one of the toughest stages of the race with the distance and altitude, a finish close to 2,000 metres above sea level. But it’s a ski station finish with moderate gradients and the slope eases before the line. It’s still a summit finish showdown but cleverly it won’t provide the definitive selection.

Stage 8 Wrap: a sprint win for Nacer Bouhanni with a late switch in the closing metres. The commissaires reviewed it and awarded the stage to Bouhanni. Earlier we had scenes to make local literary heroes Don Quixote and Sancho Panza proud as the peloton tilted in the crosswinds of La Mancha. It came to nothing but meant everything to provide drama to an otherwise regular stage especially as Nairo Quintana was among those caught out.

The Route: we could pick over every detail but the important point is the finish. For most of the stage it’s a procession to the final climb. The Puerto de Cabigordo merits its third category status with a moderate gradient below 4%.

The Alto de San Rafael averages just over 4% but don’t mistake it for the same. It’s got a flat intermediate section meaning the mean average is not reflective of the difficulty, it’s typically 6%. Not a lot either but more climbing.

The Finish: the Vuelta has some infernal finishes but this is more like a ski-station finish in France. Uphill yes but at a steady and accessible gradient designed to allow large vehicles to negotiate the road. The road almost flattens out for the finish.

The Scenario: good luck to a breakaway but it’ll need some heavy-hitters to stay away. Otherwise we can expect the main teams to set the pace to the final climb, melting the lead of any break in the same way we say on the road to La Zubia the other day.

The Contenders: a climb where the gradient eases looks perfect for Alejandro Valverde, he’s in shape and can sprint well. Chris Froome showed us he’s got what it takes too with his sprint two days ago. Other riders wanting to win the stage might have to make their move earlier but the problem is that anyone leaping early will only find they get riders sat on on their wheel as the slope eases.

Dan Martin’s been climbing and sprinting well and if he can hang on could do the job on the condition that he backs off right until the last minute.

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Alejandro Valverde
Chris Froome, Joaquim Rodriguez
Dan Martin
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As the chart shows, a real change in weather, the temperature “halves” according to the Celsius scale.

TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time. The Alto de San Rafael is expected to start around 5.00pm so be sure to tune by then.

It’s live on Eurosport, Universal Sports 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 first intermediate sprint (km 101,5) is located in Teruel, the smallest of Spanish provincial capitals (35,000 inhabitants). This is a mountainous area, with a severe climate (one of the maximum temperature ranges of Spain), and with difficult communications (there is no direct train to Madrid). In the artistic side, Teruel is known for the mudéjar architecture, built by Muslim workers under the command of Christian kings. When the northern Christians conquered the Muslim southern lands, the surviving Moors had two options: keep their religion, and be called mudéjares under the protection of the king (until the 16th century); or convert to Christianism, and be called moriscos, who were expelled in the 17th century.

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

SArover August 31, 2014 at 6:58 am

Not even a mention of Contador? Why? He doesn’t merit it? Why?

GB August 31, 2014 at 7:38 am

Probably because inrng a blog written by one person, reflecting an individual opinions based on a lifetime of personal experiences and observation, and listing every possible winner is not its intent (and would be nigh-impossible). Or it’s a conspiracy. One or the other. :)

(Less snarky: I imagine the summit leveling out means all-rounders could push past riders more inclined to climbing, and this won’t be the case in future mountain stages, especially Ol’ 24% Incline in stage 16)

The Inner Ring August 31, 2014 at 8:30 am

Trying to keep the Vuelta previews sharper and not listing too many names each day and it goes without saying he’ll be in the mix. Sure he’s a contender but doesn’t have a big sprint and the hill might not be hard enough for him to go solo. Obviously if he wins hopefully nobody is surprised either.

Heitor August 31, 2014 at 8:59 am

Well, that is good. I’m now sorry that I asked a similar question about Sagan in one stage of the TdF. I like that you are picking fewer names. Good work, as always.

Jason August 31, 2014 at 9:04 am

If it is going to rain and the temperatures are so low, some riders will suffer! The change from a week in the heat will be difficult…

Tricky Dicky August 31, 2014 at 9:44 am

Thanks as ever for the hard work.

No criticism of you but Plouay does seem to be the forgotten classic to a certain extent. Terrific line-up and an awesome race. It is a shame that it doesn’t get more publicity.

The Inner Ring August 31, 2014 at 10:16 am

A good race with large crowds and events for women and others. All right but a clash with the Vuelta. Also the circuit formula doesn’t allow it to explore as much of the Breton terrain as it could. A copycat route of the Tour of Flanders might be better?

Augie March August 31, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I was just re-reading this http://inrng.com/2014/08/whats-the-point-of-the-vuelta/ and the thought occurs that the UCI doesn’t seem to rate the Vuelta highly either considering there are 4 World Tour one day races in Germany, France and Canada that overlap it.

Would clear air around it (at least at WT level) like the Giro and the Tour help, if not boost its profile, at least ensure that more of the top names sign up to ride it? While many ride the Vuelta in preparation for Worlds, there’s now a whole mini North American season of Utah/Colorado/Alberta/Quebec/Montreal that seems just as good a substitute for the ever-increasing number of US-based or funded teams that take part.

Mats August 31, 2014 at 11:01 am

I’m sure riders from northern countries will take +18C and rain as a gift from heaven.

The Inner Ring August 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

It can come as a shock to all. Those used to cold weather will have got used, in varying amounts, to the heat.

Netserk August 31, 2014 at 1:26 pm

How exposed is the MTF? With wind coming from SE it looks like there’ll be head and side wind on most of the climb and tailwind for the flat final part.

Nina August 31, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Eurosport Germany is really lucky to have J.-C. Leclercq as “the expert”!

SArover September 1, 2014 at 7:20 am

Guess in hindsight I was right to ask why no mention of Contador..

The Inner Ring September 1, 2014 at 8:34 am

True… although he didn’t win either ;-)

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