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Vuelta Stage 19 Preview

The last stage of the Vuelta? Well it’s the last stage for a large share of the peloton looking to salvage something from this race because tomorrow’s summit finish is fierce and Sunday’s short time trial is reserved for the specialists.

Stage 18 Wrap: one of the best finales of the season with the last climb seeing many attacks. Froome contested an intermediate sprint just before the final climb, a risky move since the oxygen debt incurred just before the final climb could have incurred h a punitive interest rate. But it was Valverde who would default. Uphill the lead kept changing, first Chris Le Mevel then Jérôme Coppel and in time Fabio Aru. The result wasn’t certain until the end. Behind the trio of Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez kept trading attacks, each trying to drop the other but their rivalry saw Chris Froome go up the road with a textbook attack, accelerating out of a lull and from behind to pass them at speed. Froome took enough time to overhaul Alejandro Valverde but what of Alberto Contador? He lost time and it’s still close: imagine if he loses 20 seconds on the Ancares and Froome scoops a 10 second time bonus and suddenly the final time trial gets stressful.

The stage was won by Fabio Aru who was out on his own before Froome came across and the Sardinian put out a powerful sprint to win clear of Froome. Assuming he keeps it together Aru is the real deal and Astana’s locked down certainty for the Giro. It’s only a matter of time until the Giro visits Sardinia.

The Route: 180km with two distinct climbs en route. The Alto do Monte da Groba has steep sections with a soft middle and then the race passes along the coastline with predominantly flat roads.

The Alto Monte Faro is a tough one, a rough road surface on a narrow road that winds its way uphill and more to it than the average 7%. It’s followed by a reciprocal descent: uneven, narrow and winding.

The Finish: flat for the sprint but awkward before.

The Scenario: a fine day for a breakaway? Sure but this is also the last chance for many to win a stage and you can almost smell the desperation. It’s not to be mocked as many riders are worried about a contract and this is one of the last chances to add a line to the CV.

The final climb is hard and awkward but probably not decisive so we can expect a group to have their day. The final climb is important but not the finish line, whoever scales it needs to be able to go solo or sprint from a small group. Likewise if the bunch hits the climb a lot of riders will be ejected and struggle to get back on.

The Contenders: another win for John Degenkolb? This climb could be too much and if he scales it, his leadout train won’t. So it’ll be a good test of pre-Worlds form. The same for Michael Matthews, a touch slower in the sprint but maybe more versatile on the hills? Time is running out for Philippe Gilbert. In recent years he’s had a quiet season only to re-emerge at the Vuelta but this time he’s struggling to impose himself. He tried yesterday and he might try again but can he deliver a result?

But all three riders mentioned so far might not go clear in a break, preferring to play it safe hoping any escape is kept on a tight leash. For a breakaway it’s often a lottery to name riders but come the third week in a grand tour we often see the same names again and again… but perhaps not those on the rampage tomorrow. So no Johan Le Bon, LL Sanchez or Hubert Dupont but instead the likes of Alessandro de Marchi, Bob Jungels, Elia Favilli, Rohan Dennis get the nod. For a random punt, there’s Europcar’s Yannick Martinez, he started his career as a sprinter but is climbing well in this race, if he can get over the climb he could surprise; slim chances but a name to remember.

Michael Matthews, John Degenkolb
Yannick Martinez
Gilbert, de Marchi, Jungels, Lasca

TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time. They start Monte Faro around 5.10pm so be sure to watch before this to see what’s happening.

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: Which other countries border Spain? France and the tiny nation of Andorra to the North, Gibraltar (the United Kingdom, if you prefer) to the South, Morocco around the African cities of Ceuta & Melilla, and Portugal to the West. Actually, and according to Wikipedia, Spain’s border with Portugal is the longest uninterrupted border within the EU. Both countries formed the so-called Iberian Union between 1580 and 1640, when the Hispanic kings Philip II, III and IV ruled the crowns of Portugal, Castile and Aragon (separate countries with the same headofstate). The Spanish and Portuguese territories in Europe, Africa, America and Asia formed el imperio en el que nunca se pone el sol (“the empire on which the sun never sets”).

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

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BC Friday, 12 September 2014, 9:02 am

    Yesterdays stage illustrated once again Froome’s refusal to concede to his rivals. His on the bike riding style may not suit the purists, but he is certainly providing some very exciting and unpredictable racing. His aggressive and explosive attitude to racing probably explains why Wiggins finds him difficult – both as a competitor and team mate.

    • Cilmeri Friday, 12 September 2014, 9:16 am

      Not been a fan of Froome at all before this race, but maybe it’s a feeling of supporting the underdog or that I suddenly appreciate his spirit. The way he hasn’t given up and his attacks are easier to warm to when he’s coming from behind rather than when he’s leading a race.

      • Tovarishch Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:57 pm

        I am totally ambivalent towards Froome but I don’t understand why he is considered an underdog. There are plenty of those in the race who don’t have either the support or budget that Froome has behind him. Cantador is coming back from an equally disabling injury, Valverde and Rodriguez have completed a hard Tour. With Quintana out, I would have thought he was the antitheses of an underdog.

        • Cilmeri Friday, 12 September 2014, 1:18 pm

          Ok, maybe underdog is the wrong word. The fight and desire he’s showing when it looks like he’s in worse form than Contador (or was in the second week), which hasn’t been as evident when he’s winning races “easily”.

    • Sam Friday, 12 September 2014, 11:17 am

      umm…I think there’s rather more to why BW doesn’t like him than that…

      (Froome’s dislike of BW is well-known thanks to his own words in his book and interviews)

      • inconspicuous Friday, 12 September 2014, 1:57 pm

        Totally agree, Cilmeri. Came into the Vuelta harboring some resentment towards Froome (who knows why…) but his performance these past 3 weeks have been a thrill to watch. Unlike, say, Valverde who refuses to participate in chases even when he’s obligated to. On that note, did anyone else think that maybe Contador was helping Froome yesterday by not chasing? Invariably Valverde would have attached himself and possibly retained his 2nd place podium spot, but I wonder if Contador realized that by holding back Valverde would be toast. Afterall, Contador has himself admitted how much he respects Froome and considers him his biggest rival, so recognizing the time gap between him and Froome, and appreciating the attack on the Armada, he let it slide. Maybe I’m in la la land!

        • GB Friday, 12 September 2014, 4:27 pm

          It’s a nice thought! I wonder if team management etc would be happy with Contador dragging his heels? He has star power and it makes for a more exciting fight to the finish with his rival, but he had the red jersey in the bag until then. Sure, he’ll probably win–but it’s ‘probably’ now, not ‘unless he crashes’.

          I guess I assumed sport at this level was too pragmatic and defensive for people to do this kind of thing at such a crucial point. But then again, the Spanish Armada being less a concentrated effort to put three Spaniards on the podium on their home turf and more of a four-legged race already proved that wrong…

          The grizzling from people of the opinion Nibali had it too easy and the TdF was boring could be a motivator, too!

          Whatever conjecture, it did seem like Contador was holding back yesterday, when he’s attacked so often and trounced Froome in stage 16. That confidence might be his undoing, esp if Froome has his own miraculous recovery in the final ITT.

          Honestly, I was so sick of hearing about Contador and Froome that I considered not following the Vuelta after Quintana crashed out, but with the gap closing, only two and a half stages left and the other GC contenders (plus the same persistent faces in breakaways and sprints) still causing trouble, I’m genuinely interested to see what will happen!

        • Dave B Friday, 12 September 2014, 6:08 pm

          It does seem to me that Contador and Valverde really don’t get along – I definitely think Contador was paying him back for the non-cooperation at Covadonga. Risky, but perhaps Contador feels he has enough margin over Froome to be able to make his point.

          I also suspect that the Spanish manager has announced (internally at least) that Valverde is the protected rider for the Worlds RR – hence Contador withdraws before the announcement is made, as he has no intention of helping him, but doesn’t want to make it look like sour grapes by waiting until after a public announcement.

          • STS Saturday, 13 September 2014, 1:32 am

            Good point, Dave. Whereas before the 2013 WC in Florence I had the impression of a healthy sporting rivalry between Contador, Purito and Valverde who would still unite their forces whenever someone else threatened to take the win now it seems that especially Valverde is some sort of red rag to Purito and Contador alike. They would even let Froome get away rather than tow Valverde to the line.
            Valverde made a HUGE mistake in Florence but it was only when he insisted multiple times that he did nothing wrong that everybody could see what kind of person he is.
            I suspect the Armada although bringing the strongest team by far will not win the WC in Ponteferrada unless it consits of only Movistar men. Purito and Moreno especially will do anything to keep Valverde from becoming WC.

  • Alex Friday, 12 September 2014, 9:25 am

    One or two more mountain stages and I think the vuelta could have been froomes. As it is I can’t see him taking 1,20 out of contador on Saturday and Sunday.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 September 2014, 11:29 am

      I think so too…but it means tomorrow’s stage could still provide suspense as the GC places aren’t locked down yet.

      • Jason Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:16 pm

        he needs time on Contador ahead of the TT… all the difference between them in time is come out of timetrialing… That is something nobody would predict before the Vuelta!!!

    • gabriele Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:54 pm

      Yeah, the typical GT with 9 or 10 mountain stages o_O

      All jokes aside, I get your point, but, generally speaking, if the course had been different, the competition would have been different, too. It remembers me the fun we had in Italy with Cunego saying he was a “fourth week rider”: everyone got his point, indeed, but it was comical all the same.

      One of Contador’s strong point is his skill in managing the situation throughout the three weeks, despite the lack of form or possible ups and downs, switching between very aggressive or very defensive styles.
      That’s what really impressed me in the 2008 Giro, where he was far from dominant and nevertheless nearly always in control. And, obviously, that’s what impressed in Vuelta 2012.
      Anyway, I feel that – maybe due to overconfidence or to the silly spats with his two compatriots – Contador made a couple of errors in the last days: if he loses his clear mind, it would be perfect for Froome to metaphorically “surge from behind”, just as he’s really doing while racing, and play a “Carlos Sastre” in Ancares. A couple of minutes and, ¡adios!, it’s too late for Contador to think up any solution. No more stages!

  • Rupert Friday, 12 September 2014, 9:45 am

    I missed you yesterday – it felt like I’d gone cold turkey, I’m sure I was having withdrwal symptoms – glad you’re back

  • Lab Friday, 12 September 2014, 11:27 am

    “Assuming he keeps it together Aru is the real deal and Astana’s locked down certainty for the Giro.”

    No Nibali Giro-Tour double in 2015 then?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 12 September 2014, 11:30 am

      He’s been talking about it… but with Aru’s performances perhaps Astana will be happy to have a leader for each race rather than trying a risky double?

      • Dodge2000 Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:06 pm

        I’d agree. With the prospect of AC, Quintana and Froome all fit for the Tour next year, Nibali would need to be super-confident that an attempt at the Giro wasn’t going to be determental to his defence.

        You can see some really tough Giro stages, with Nibali needing to dig deep in horrible conditions for him to start thinking that he’s overextending himself with the Tour coming up. Let Aru at it.

  • hoh Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:32 pm

    Retrospectively, losing the long ITT serves Froome and Sky quite well, at least in PR terms. Now that Froome’s been seen as the exciting underdog rather than the boring dictator. It also puts less pressure on Froome and more on AC.

    Imagine Froome did beat Contador and gained some 40 seconds on AC, he and Sky would either dominate this Vuelta, which wouldn’t make fans dearer to him (and those who hate him do so exactly for the kind of dominance he showed last TDF) and makes the race boring; Or he would start losing time every MTF, and crack eventually, which is worse in terms of both results/PR (and one can expect Valverde and J-Rod to ride more defensively than they already are).

    Well, Froome’s already made AC nervous tomorrow, hopefully he’d make everybody on the edge of the seat in the final short ITT.

  • MMMMMMMMM Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:37 pm

    Froom is riding strong and he is not giving up. However yesterday’s move was more of a smart one rather than a demonstration of power. Contador isn’t the kind of riders who give up. if he were worried about Froom he would have chased him on the climbs and in the descent. I think that Contador’s form is still considerably higher than Froom’s that’s why he didn’t panic

  • Anonymous Friday, 12 September 2014, 12:53 pm

    To Manuel: it is not accurate to speak of countries in the 17th century. Castile, Leon, Aragon and Portugal (and Burgundy and Flanders and Milan) were at that time “different kingdoms with the same king”.

  • gabriele Friday, 12 September 2014, 2:55 pm

    Something more about Contador’s injury – with photos and dates – by Manuel Leyes, the doctor who take care of him when the wound seemed to go wrong (photos of the infected wound which can be seen in the article may be disturbing):

    http://www.marca.com/2014/09/11/ciclismo/vuelta_espana/1410460966.html?a=d1d6449b83c57528b48c5a78b2bf4421&t=1410525751

    Besides, not only it is confirmed the fracture in the tibial plateau, but we discover that even the rotulian tendon was involved (one expert reader of this blog was wondering about possible damage in tendons or ligaments).

  • Othersteve Friday, 12 September 2014, 4:17 pm

    I have an observation and I would be interested in other opinions.
    Talansky seems not to be in the type of condition one might expect of a Criterium of Dauphine winner?
    Thought that he would mix it up a bit more, any news of lingering injuries from the TDF?

    Contrador, is cunning and measured extending the least energy necessary to win on stages were his
    stage combatants may do the most damage. While saving max effort where he can take the most time to those same combatants.

    • inconspicuous Friday, 12 September 2014, 4:39 pm

      Regarding Talansky I had heard that his sole intention in the Vuelta was to play super domestique to Ryder, and that he wanted to repay his team for their efforts for him in the Dauphine and TDF.

  • BC Friday, 12 September 2014, 8:42 pm

    Copied from a facebook post.

    Dear Sir Brad,
    I have just picked up the sick note you sent me, I am sorry to hear that you are 27 seconds down on GC in the TOB. As you know I am in Spain with Fromey and the boys, he is doing well due to the grit and guts he is showing in fighting for every second in every stage. He is now only 1.19 in second place to Alberto.
    The only advice I can give you at this moment in time is to get your finger out of your backside, attack on every stage grit your teeth and just go for it, win or bust and give the cycling fans and gen public something to shout about. Go down fighting for f**k sake.
    I will see you in the sky head office 9.sharp Monday.
    Dave