The Route: the mid-race hilly time trial is a modern classic for the Vuelta. But looks can be deceptive with the profile above as the climbing to the Alto del Moncayo is a gradual drag rather than a climb proper for the most part. It has its hard moments particularly towards the top where it’s steep and exposed – passing through terrain suitable to film a western – but remains a place where riders will climb in an aero tuck on their time trial bikes for a lot of the time.
The descent isn’t particularly technical on a normal ride but this isn’t ordinary. For a time trial the snaking bends invite the skilled and the reckless to stay with their arms on the tri bars and rests. On Google Earth the road looks like it’s got mucho loose gravel but hopefully by the time the race comes through it’s tidier. The road widens and flattens on the run into Borja and there’ll be a tailwind, ideal for Tony Martin’s 58T chainring. In summary it’s got its moments but this is a course to advantage the power riders but hardly something out of the Eneco Tour.
The Contenders: Tony Martin vs the rest? We thought this last year and Fabian Cancellara won the day. So the contest or at least the hope of one will be good for the stage win. Neither has given us much of a clue as to their form.
Chris Froome has won time trials before but he’s not in form and Sky’s approach to the Vuelta is different than their planning for the Tour. Time trial courses aren’t visited months in advance, climbs aren’t climbed before the race. When Froome rode the Vuelta in 2012 we saw his bid fall apart on the time trial, his cornering visibly hesitant compared to those who were at home on the roads. Still the red jersey is within reach.
The last time Froome and Alberto Contador clashed in a hilly time trial like this was the 2013 Tour de France above the Lac de Serre-Ponçon in the Alps for the 2013 Tour. Froome just got the better but Contador could shade him this time.
Rigoberto Uran is increasingly good at time trials as his Giro stage win showed. Since his return to racing he’s seemed a touch off the pace uphill in the Vuelta but was strong in the Tour de l’Ain prologue. Hard to extrapolate too much but he should be at ease here.
Nairo Quintana will be good to watch. For a long time he’s been seen as A Colombian Climber, in other words how could he possibly do a good time trial. But now people have seem the results and he’s excellent in this area. But is his advantage from a good position and power or has he got what it takes to corner fast and use the gears? Seeing how he copes with the technical aspects will be interesting.
|Fabian Cancellara, Chris Froome|
|Rigoberto Uran, Alberto Contador, Wilco Kelderman|
|Sergent, Dennis, Malori, Ludvigsson, Lutsensko, Jungels, Coppel, Kiriyienka|
TV: Riders go in reverse GC order and with Tony Martin at 77th overall he could experience different conditions on the course to the GC contenders. As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time.
Daily Díaz: Borja, today’s stage finish, is a town of just 5,000 people but remarkable for two different facts. First, it gives name to the house of Borgia (Spanish Borja [ˈborxa] is read [ˈbɔɾdʒa] in Catalan, then Italian, where the spelling becomes Borgia), a powerful family during the Italian Renaissance. This house produced two popes, many enemies and a handful of infamous legends. If you have heard or read stories about popes having wives and children and taking part in orgies, the Borja/Borgia family is probably behind them. Second, in 2012 a local old lady tried to restore the Ecce Homo, a religious painting, with a disastrous result which gave notoriety to an otherwise irrelevant fresco.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel