The Vuelta has had a series of uphill finishes and tricky climbs, now comes the first of the real mountain stages with long ascents.
Stage 10 Review: once upon a time Greg Van Avermaet and José-Joaquin Rojas were famous for being runners-up, those who had the knack of losing races or at least the statistical curiosity of missing out more often than not. The Belgian has amended this but since this blog crunched the numbers on Rojas and his extraordinary run of fourth places in “Señor Cuarto” two years ago Rojas hasn’t found winning ways, with age he’s become more of a dependable team mate so when he and Matteo Trentin came to the finish together the Italian’s victory seemed inevitable.
If Trentin’s sprint win was a certainty his stage win a major surprise, he and Rojas stuck it to the climbers including Jaime Roson – who got the better of Vincenzo Nibali ahead of the Giro this year – in part because Rojas had Movistar team mates behind who were hanging back but it was still a strong ride by the pair. Whether Movistar played their cards right is another question, they could have told Rojas to sit up and used nearby Marc Soler but easier said than done with other riders around to make the finish more chaotic and they’ll be pleased as ever to boost their standings in the team classification. Vincenzo Nibali had a go on the climb but was reeled in. On the damp descent Nicolas Roche sneaked away to take 30 seconds and move up to second place overall.
The Route: 187km. First along the coast and then they turn inland. The first climb is the Alto de Velefique, 13.2km long at 8.6% which is enough to rival, say, Alpe d’Huez and this has plenty of hairpins on the way up too. It also climbs well before they reach Velefique too with some 5% segments to deal with.
The Finish: the climb to the Calar Alto observatory (astronomical) is 15.5km at 5.9% but as the profile shows this is a climb in two parts, the steep first seven kilometres followed by another seven kilometres across the Sierra de Los Filabres before riding up to finish above 2,000 metres above sea level.
The Contenders: Chris Froome has shown he is climbing well and now he can show us what his team can do too. He even has a variety of ways to win the stage, including an attack on the early steep slopes to Calar Alto to go solo followed by some time trial pacing on the gentler slopes before maintaining his lead to the finish. It sounds like something out of the Pro Cycling Manager video game but he’s been looking that easy. Wout Poels could be close too.
Alberto Contador faces a big test here, there’s a stage win but also the chance to take back time on others and work his way into the top-10 on GC with a view to climbing higher in the coming days.
Esteban Chaves has been close and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares on these longer climbs and with some altitude too. It should suit him more.
Among the others in the top-10 it’s hard to see a stage win because they’re all close so for example Fabio Aru can’t clip away because Tejay van Garderen needs to mark him and so on. Still among the outsiders Romain Bardet has space, Ilnur Zakarin can be hard to bring back once away and Rafał Majka seems to be over his stomach problems.
|Esteban Chaves, Rafał Majka, Alberto Contador|
|Bardet, Poels, Zakarin, A Yates, Mas, Atapuma|
Weather: Rain! Cooler conditions and a temperature of just 18°C inland and cooler at altitude.
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. The finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.
Daily Díaz: The race visits Andalusia, the southern Spanish region that includes 17% of the territory (roughly the size of Serbia), 18% of the population (as many inhabitants as Switzerland), and 26 % of the unemployment (one million people, similar to Greece or Poland). It may not sound as a great place to live in, but it is definitely an awesome tourist destination. You could spend one week in every one of the eight Andalusian provinces (Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga, Seville) and ask for more. Almería is an example: you have some of the best beaches (Cabo de Gata), plus mountains, natural parks, and a rich cultural heritage. It is the location of Mar de plástico, a two-season long crime drama TV series. The title (“sea plastic”) is a reference to the miles and miles of land covered by greenhouses, where a girl is found dead. A police officer just back from Afghanistan has to find out who did it, and why.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel