Vuelta a España Stage 1 Preview

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Vuelta starts in France, in Nimes which is one of those cities where in the untranslatable lyrics of Claude Nougarol’Espagne pousse un peu sa corne“. As for the racing this is a challenging technical course that passes all the cities postcard monuments.

The Route: 13.7km and 20 corners meaning it’s hard for teams to hit top speed for long, this is course that reward cohesion and cornering rather than straight speed. There is a climb. It’s not much and this only makes it harder, a long steady mountain pass would be much easier to distribute the effort on. Here the irregular climb is chased by a faster descent with some tight corners before the course opens up for the fastest sections. See the video by GCN if you want more.

The Contenders: BMC Racing seem to be everyone’s pick. You can see why, they’re experienced at this and Rohan Dennis is worth two riders. But “they” collectively include some riders with a lot less experience like late call-up Loic Vliegen.

Quick Step have a very strong team, what they lack in the pure power they make up for in acceleration and skills but we’ll see how homogenous they are.

Team Sky bring a very strong squad where their domestiques like Gianni Moscon and Ian Stannard are powerhouses.

Beyond this trio it’s hard to see a winner. Team Sunweb look good, Astana are strong collectively and Katusha could do well and FDJ are handy in the TTT these days but lack some of their bigger engines… but can they beat the three named above? Unlikely. Orica-Scott used to excel in this event but bring a collection of climbers.

BMC Racing, Team Sky
Quick Step
Team Sunweb, Astana

Weather: hot, sunny and a top temperature of 34°C with a stiff breeze coming in from the north which could gust to 50mkm/h.

TV: It’s on La1 in Spain and Eurosport around much of the world and often on the same broadcaster you watch the Tour de France on. There’s live coverage of all teams with the first squad off at 5.30pm CEST with the final team set to arrive at 7.10pm CEST.

Daily Díaz: Mesdames et messieurs, soyez les bienvenues et bienvenus! For the third time ever, la Vuelta will depart from outside Spain. Nîmes is about 240 km away from the Spanish border (that’s shorter than Milano-Sanremo or Amstel Gold Race), so no air transfers will be needed. What to say about the city? Choose the usual clichés (bullfighting in the Roman amphitheatre, Denim fabric of blue jeans, the amazing Maison Carrée, the spectacular Pont du Gard), or take a look at the local coat of arms: a crocodile chained to a palm tree, as a symbol of the African kingdom’s conquest by the Roman legions (veterans from those wars were given lands in the Nîmes area).

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

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Anonymous August 19, 2017 at 8:40 am

50kph winds should be a laugh for the 55kg climbers on disc wheels.

J Evans August 19, 2017 at 11:29 am

Just what I was thinking – could be the only thing worth watching in an otherwise tedious (and, oddly, traditional these days) way to start the Vuelta.
TTT’s favour the big teams too much and these usually produce too big a loss for GC contenders on smaller teams. This one might do this less so because of the course, but I still can’t see how an extra advantage for the big teams is a good thing.

RonDe August 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm

I’ve observed, J Evans, that you find very little in pro road racing that you regard as “a good thing”. I guess I can add team time trials to the list.

When, I wonder, will we ever see equal races participated in by equal riders on equal teams with equal resources? Oh, that’s right, never.

Just enjoy the show (but obviously not from the comfy confines of Sky’s new Formula 1 style race hub).

Ap August 19, 2017 at 12:50 pm

It’s a pretty reasonable criticism that in a sport already skewed by uncontrolled team spending, adding a further feature to entrench those differences doesn’t make for a more competitive GC..

Kit August 19, 2017 at 12:53 pm

+1, most of what is complained about as tedious is the inequality that leads to predictable races and stifling of attacks. Unless you like seeing Sky trains it’s reasonable to complain of this, or to prefer races like the BinckBank or the classics.

RonDe August 19, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Sky are often complained about but unless I’m receiving all the race results from another dimension they don’t win all the races, monopolise all the big race wins or even win all the grand tours. Cycling is not a sport like F1 where the biggest budget wins. If it was there would be much more cause for complaint. Sky, in their 8th year of existence, have only ever won one of the grand tours and two monuments. Hardly a megabucks steamroller of a team the others can’t compete against.

I also fail to see how a TTT is unfair not least when on a windy day with a twisty course it becomes a lottery to some extent. And money cannot yet change that.

J Evans August 19, 2017 at 2:40 pm

The – very – short answer is that I’m in favour of anything that makes racing more exciting, more equal and more about the rider and not the technology.
People often mistake that for being against ‘progress’ – in my view, it’s only progress if it improves the sport.
And making riding more efficient or faster or more controlled, etc. are not things that necessarily lead to more exciting racing.

Corporate Accounts Nena August 19, 2017 at 8:10 pm

But if the sport becomes a lottery the teams will lose the incentive to train professionally. I prefer amateur sports for entertainment, but I like to see talent/hard work victorious in professional sports.
I’d like to see wage caps, but not equality between teams… if TSky didn’t get results their budget will be slashed accordingly, and I imagine Sunweb’s popularity/positive image will benefit their merchandise sales so their budget may improve etc.

JT August 19, 2017 at 1:11 pm

To a certain extent you are correct but a few years ago Orica-greenedge were always top contenders without massive ressources.
It is also a question of practice something many teams neglect(a bit like Bardet and ITT).

Valverde's Knee August 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm

Can’t see past BMC, the acknowledged masters at this discipline. Tejay or Dennis to wear red? Will Nibali and a rather lackluster Bahrain-Merida squad lose a few seconds to Froome and Sky today? Or will Sky’s wheels explode again? Watch those potholes!

Billybob Thornton August 19, 2017 at 1:26 pm

Keep seeing tweets that riders are crashing on their warm-up runs. Could be a tricky day for some.

Richard S August 19, 2017 at 2:30 pm

See my above point about town centre time trials. I forgot that add they also seem to encourage crashes, especially in the rain.

J Evans August 19, 2017 at 2:36 pm

If that’s because of the bike they’re using – whether it’s because it’s an unstable design or has wheels that make them difficult to use in crosswinds – then there’s a very easy answer. Use a bike that is fit for purpose.

Billybob Thornton August 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm

All teams are free to use road bikes. But we both know none of them will.

bobby August 19, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Complaints about Sky’s bubbly jersey in 3,2,1…..

Corporate Accounts Nena August 19, 2017 at 8:18 pm

Of all the possible accusations thrown at Sky, “your vests aren’t smooth enough” was one that few people saw coming.

AndyRaff August 20, 2017 at 1:03 am

That’s not my cyclist, his jersey is too bobbly…

Elliot August 21, 2017 at 10:15 am

Te he. Do I suspect someone has young children?

That’s not my cyclist, he just tested positive.
That’s not my cyclist, he rides too boringly.
That’s not my cyclist, he attacked when the race leader was having a poo.
THAT’S my cyclist, he won the race that he loves more than any other at the 15th attempt and seems like a really nice guy.
(yep, I just re-watched the Backstage Pass for Hayman’s Roubaix win)

Richard S August 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm

I just find TTT’s boring, yet enjoy ITT’s. Can’t explain it. What I also don’t like is the sort of modern trend to have any kind of TT twisting around town centres. Eventually they’re going to get to the point where it’s quicker on a road bike. After all, you wouldn’t turn up to a town centre crit with your TT bike in the boot.

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