Vuelta a España Stage 6 Preview

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A hilly day and a good chance for a breakaway as the GC riders and teams sit back.

Stage 5 Review: a big breakaway but Team Sky kept it in check for a long time until suddenly they gave up and the gap went out. Alexey Lutsenko and Marco Haller attacked with 30km to go and it seemed folly in the wind but the pair are powerful riders and neither wanted to wait for the final climb to get beaten by the likes of Marc Soler or Julian Alaphilippe. Behind the chasers couldn’t bring them back and a late bid saw Alexis Gougeard and Merhawi Kudus give chase but Lutsenko won the stage, an important result for the Kazakh team to have a home rider deliver a result. Behind Alberto Contador is back or at least again a candidate for a mountain stage after matching Chris Froome, Esteban Chaves and Michael Woods on the final climb. Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet both lost time but with hindsight they would, wouldn’t they given this was a sharp uphill finish and they’re more at ease on longer efforts.

The Route: 204km and plenty of climbing not nothing to steep, the inland climbs are typically 4-5% slopes making them accessible to many in the peloton, ideal breakaway territory as the finish is not a rendez-vous for the likes of Chris Froome nor his rivals to try anything.

The final climb is the Puerto del Garbi, another roadbook ruse? The race lists it as 9.3km at 5.1% and it has a modest second category label but it is much harder than this suggests with a steep middle section with some rampas at 15-17% gradient and a middle section of almost two kilometres at an average of 12%. Still it’s El Garbi is a popular local climb so hardly top secret.

The Finish: it’s all gently downhill into town and then a boulevard finish. There’s a hard left turn at 1km to go and then they finish by the beach. There is a rounabout in the finishing straight but it’s offset to the left meaning the race route stays on a straight line.

The Contenders: Who will win from a breakaway? It’s a lottery pick so get your dart and throw it at the start sheet. Four random picks here are Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) who often picks of a win from stages like this, Anthony Roux (FDJ) who sprints fast and made his breakthrough with a Vuelta stage win and Astana’s Jesper Hansen, a promising and versatile rider and another Dane, Søren Kragh Andersen of Team Sunweb who has a very fast finish but gets over the climbs well.

Trentin, SKA, Roux, Visconti, Hansen

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 31°C.

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. They start the selective climb of El Garbi around 4.30pm and the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.

Daily Díaz: Iberia, 219 BC. Romans and Carthaginians have established their areas of influence in the primitive Western end of the Mediterranean sea. Everything south of the Ebro river was to remain under the control of the African kingdom, but the Italic republic signed an alliance with Saguntum, a small Greek-ish community inside that area. Hannibal Barca, the Carthaginian general, would not tolerate this violation of the agreed terms, and ordered the siege of the rebel Saguntines. Rome sent their legions out of Italy for the first time, but Hannibal had it destroyed before the help arrived. This is how the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) started. Hannibal would take his elephants to Italy across the Alps, but eventually lost the war and Roman supremacy in the Western Mediterranean would be uncontested for centuries. Saguntum, of course, is Sagunt, today’s finish line.

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

jc August 24, 2017 at 7:49 am

Not convinced by some of the post race “the finish didnt suit our boy”statements, I seem to remember Fabio Aru doing very well on short steep finishes a few weeks back. Seconds lost to Chris Froome are going to be difficult to get back, not ideal for Vincenzo Nibali . Alberto Contador rolled back the years, I suspect this bodes more for a stage win rather than a tilt at the podium. Teejay van Garderen looked as if he might have some form but he has flattered to deceive before. It does look as if the main competition is between Chris Froome and Esteban Chaves. CF has the TT to come and a very strong team, EC has the Yates brothers as potential foils, though at some point Orica are going to have to decide to focus on winning for one rather than letting all 3 race for themselves. Gianni Moscon must have been following the same training regime as Michael Kwiatkowski it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up for the 3 weeks.

It seems a pity either today’s or tomorrow’s stage was not for the sprinters. I know they are not always the most interesting but it would be nice to have a stronger sprint contingent and that will only happen if there are more sprint opportunities. Depending on who gets into the break we could have a very sleepy stage, with the peloton content to meander along saving energy for the challenges to come.

Frank Carbo August 24, 2017 at 8:54 am

I assume Moscon is on his best behavior and trying extremely hard to impress after the suspension for his racist comment earlier in the year. Indeed, it was my understanding that Sky was not going to put him in a Grand Tour this year.

Ecky Thump August 24, 2017 at 9:55 am

There are some very…er..imaginative ‘intermediate’ sprints in this race!
Not least today.
I do like the variety though.
Why couldn’t the rules be changed – any intermediate sprints after half-way attract more bonus seconds, on a sliding scale?
Imagine a 20″ intermediate sprint bonus today, there’d be no breakaway for sure.

The Inner Ring August 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

The rules could be changed… but for now the UCI only allows 10-6-4 at the finish line and 3-2-1 for up to three intermediate sprints per stage.

Frank Carbo August 24, 2017 at 10:42 am

I wonder if it would be possible to use the intermediate sprints to encourage more racing and attacking? The problem with Grand Tours that turn out boring isn’t so much the GC contenders, Sky Trains and the dominance of one rider, but the flat stages, where so little racing seems to be done and so few breakaways actually make it (it seems that the peleton just knows when to close them down). The tours try to counter that with trap stages, intermediate mountain stages, stages with wind, stages with sharp climbs for puncheurs at the end, but there still seems to be a great many stages that have an early breakaway, that’s caught somewhere in the last 30km, and then a sprint finish. There’s a place for that, but I wonder if the intermediate sprints couldn’t be used to encourage more racing, somehow? Get creative with them. Or would handing out lots of green jersey points or GC time bonuses just reduce the chances of breakaways staying out there even further?

Nightwol August 24, 2017 at 2:03 pm

I understand and sympathies wit the desire for “more racing” especially as more and more of the stages are cover on TV in their entirety. But I do wonder if this is physically possible for the athletes involved. It seems to me that one of the factors enabling cyclists to cover thousands of kilometres in three solid weeks of riding is that there’s a rhythm to the race. On same days the climbers hang on in the bunch while the sprint teams fight it out at the sharp end and on others the sprinters and their trains take refuge in the grupetto while the climbers do their gladiatorial thing. The stages that don’t work for many fans, and don’t seem to advance the race at all, are those sleepy stages where an early breakaway goes away by a huge margin and everyone else just rolls in saving saving themselves for tomorrow.

Nightwol August 24, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I understand and sympathies with the desire for “more racing” especially as more and more of the stages are cover on TV in their entirety. But I do wonder if this is physically possible for the athletes involved. It seems to me that one of the factors enabling cyclists to cover thousands of kilometres in three solid weeks of riding is that there’s a rhythm to the race. On same days the climbers hang on in the bunch while the sprint teams fight it out at the sharp end and on others the sprinters and their trains take refuge in the grupetto while the climbers do their gladiatorial thing. The stages that don’t work for many fans, and don’t seem to advance the race at all, are those sleepy stages where an early breakaway goes away by a huge margin and everyone else just rolls in saving saving themselves for tomorrow.

jc August 24, 2017 at 10:54 am

A lot of the “intermediate” sprints are hardly that being place very close to the finish. Not sure what the thinking behind this is, perhaps someone could enlighten us?

Larrick August 25, 2017 at 6:00 am

If I were to hazard a guess it’s purely for commercial purposes. The viewing numbers are at their highest in the last kilometres so by having the sprint so close to the finale, maximum exposure is attained.

Big Ringer August 24, 2017 at 9:52 am

In respect to Orica – I think the window of opportunity for ‘using’ the Yates bros is closing – they are both about a minute back on GC now. I’ve not watched enough of the Yates’ riding style to know, but I haven’t seen them as aggressive attacking riders, and I don’t think either of them can out climb Chris Froome. Consequently, it doesn’t seem credible that they’ll feature as an attacking trio to pull CF / Sky apart.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Chaves has got

Was it pride that re-energised Alberto?

Ecky Thump August 24, 2017 at 10:09 am

I think the Yates’ are struggling a little with the heat.

Frank Carbo August 24, 2017 at 11:02 am

They’re close enough and enough of a threat so that they could attack one after the other and force the Sky train to chase them down. Might wear down Poels, Moscon, et al enough so that they cannot set a becalming pace on the front as far up key climbs as Froome would ideally like.


Big Ringer August 24, 2017 at 11:18 am

Yeah, definitely maybe!

As much as I would like to see it unfold; they are 5 stages in and going backwards in respect to the GC lead. I just don’t think they’ve got the minerals to do it – at least not based on current evidence – and they are loosing the time proximity to remain a major threat.

Hopefully Chaves is not going to be the Uran of the Vuelta. Perhaps he/Orica would be better served if the Yates loose a sack of time and can get up the road in a breakaway for him. Either the Yates need to be closer to the lead, or be further away from the lead so they can help Chaves properly.

It suggests that (if they haven’t) Orica need to sort out what they are doing with the three of them as current approach seems unlikely to bear fruit to me.

Nick August 24, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Orica have also got Jack Haig, who finished with the De La Cruz, Barguil, S Yates group, and is only 2 mins down on GC, as another potential foil.

RonDe August 24, 2017 at 11:24 am

Orica seem the only team who will challenge Froome. The rest are following and allowing Sky to make the first move. But we’ve seen before that Orica will be bold and send a man off with 40 or 50kms to go and deeper into the race I’m sure one or both of the Yates brothers will get that call in their ear.

anon August 24, 2017 at 8:05 am

Still not the correct stage profile? {postus selfus destructus}

The Inner Ring August 24, 2017 at 8:06 am

That’s probably your browser, hit refresh and it’ll go through.

anon August 24, 2017 at 8:15 am

interesting. Reopen browser, different browser altogether show the st7 profile. Went for a different device – ah yes, that looks better

Tomski August 24, 2017 at 9:10 am

Thanks INRNG and also for the Daily Diaz!

irungo txuletak August 24, 2017 at 11:48 am

Great daily diaz today on Sagunt.
This little town today was the origin of a war that decisively shaped our civilisation.

Nightwol August 24, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Seconded! That was a fascinating ancient history snippet of direct relevance to today’s racing. But then I’m a sucker for anything that includes a helpful map! 😉

Paul August 24, 2017 at 9:51 am

Really enjoyed the attack and pursuit of the Eritrean rider Merhawi Kudus the rise of the Africans continues

Rupert August 24, 2017 at 10:21 am

Indeed, Kudos to Kudus

Getagrip August 24, 2017 at 10:11 am

Inrng… Something I’ve been wondering (sorry if you’ve covered this before)…
Your previews of the climbs and the routes are by far the most informative around. Do you know things like the actual gradient (as opposed to the race book), the little obstacles, the road surfaces etc by a) riding the entire route in advance, or b) spending much of your day on streetview…?

Either way, keep it up please :o)

Getagrip August 24, 2017 at 10:16 am

left out an option…
c) not telling… that’s my secret

The Inner Ring August 24, 2017 at 10:34 am

It’s a bit like the pros, the Vuelta gets more day by day coverage and analysis from maps, online references etc while the Giro and Tour stages are ridden ahead of the race in case of new climbs or just remembered from experience of the climb/roads in question etc

Big Ringer August 24, 2017 at 11:20 am

If this is shaping up to be a sleepy stage, what are the chances of another Alberto Contador surprise?

Zomba August 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

Hopefully zero.

ZigaK August 25, 2017 at 9:01 am

Good call.

RonDe August 24, 2017 at 11:36 am

Just one quick word Mr Inrng: if you are so quick to excuse Bardet and Nibali’s failings on a steep incline because they’re “more at ease on longer efforts” is this not also true of Froome if not Chaves as well? It seems clear that the latter two are currently the best climbers in the race and both seem to be going for the jersey (as at least Nibali is in theory too). What’s more, Nibali has won one Vuelta and contested the win in another. He has no excuses due to “sharp inclines”. Indeed, I recall him winning Tirreno-Adriatico in 2013 (interestingly against Froome) due to a wall in one of the latter stages which Froome struggled to get over. A gap was made that Froome never made up.

We’ve had two stages with sharp inclines so far and only Chaves and Froome of the GC contenders were equal to them, the rest dropping off. There are 2 or 3 more to come before we get a proper mountain finish on stage 11. As it stands it might be Froome vs Chaves when the road goes up.

CA August 24, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Look, Michael Woods is the man to beat at this year’s Vuelta. Will it be Canada’s first Vuelta overall title?

leonn August 24, 2017 at 6:39 pm


Since I found this blog I learned a lot about road cycling. For example, there’s climbs for different types of climbers. However I don’t get it this:

“Vincenzo Nibali and *Romain Bardet* both lost time but with hindsight they would, wouldn’t they given this was a sharp uphill finish and they’re more at ease on longer efforts.”

I understand Bardet is explosive enough for high gradients type. I recall his stage victory on TdF this year over Froome, Aru, Landa and Uran.

Inrng, could you elaborate more about Bardet on quote above? I don’t know why yet, but the results of today indicates illness or he can cope well with double+heat.

Thank you in advance!

Another question I’m watching carefully on this Vuelta is who is doing a double (Tdf+LVE) with some GC aspiration against who didn’t race TdF.

Froome, Bardet¹, Aru¹,Chaves¹, Simon Yates¹, Contador, Barguil, Roche, Meintjes and Betancur¹.

Fresh legs: Nibali, Van Garderen, Kelderman, Adam Yates, Zakarin, Pozzovivo, Woods² and Kruijswijk.

On third week we will see what hopeful GC (who did’nt win a GT yet) can do.

¹=first time on his career.
²=I’m interested to see how far he can go.

Chris August 24, 2017 at 8:14 pm

Most of the folks in our 2nd list of riders are not that fresh though, having already peaked once in May and raced hard for the Giro GC.

De La Cruz on the other hand… 😉

Flare August 24, 2017 at 12:14 pm

What happened to Alaphilippe yesterday? The highlights had him chasing down the front 2 and looking the strongest in the group and then when it returned from an ad break it was just Alexis Gougeard and Merhawi Kudus trying to pull back the leaders and no mention of how they went from 4 to 2.

Valverde's Knee August 24, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Gougeard and Kudus attacked after they caught him and the other guys with Ala refused to help him. Ala couldn’t catch back on his own.

Corporate Accounts Nena August 24, 2017 at 6:04 pm

A bardet for Bardet. I think he lost several mins today.

CA August 24, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Feel bad for TVG.

On the day he announces extension for 2018 he has a brutal race… You wonder if he’d do better to take the type of role that Poels, Nieve, Roche, etc. have. They’re clearly super strong GT riders but prefer not to be in the spot-light.

TVG should be Porte’s lieutenant, along with Roche.

RonDe August 24, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Bit difficult when you’ve been built up into the next All-American hero for 5 years and delivered basically nothing. Now basically no expects him to stick around and, stubborn to the end (like a certain other American), he refuses to become more realistic.

CA August 24, 2017 at 6:32 pm

haha, i wonder if the other american you’re talking about is somebody who actually won* races.

* I put the * to identify that we don’t need to discuss this “issue” haha… he was across the line first, let’s just put it that way.

TVG, unfortunately (and there’s nothing wrong with it), is incredibly talented but just doesn’t have the killer’s instinct to do what it takes, therefore he should recognise this and move to support role. Holy smokes, I just looked it up and he’s 29 years-old! Way too old not to recognise what type of rider he really is.

DAVE August 24, 2017 at 9:21 pm

Hmmm. Just to say hasn’t he been top ten at TDF twice?
Porte was written off similarly a few years ago and came back very strong this year, being 31…

I’m not disagreeing, but take into account some other factors maybe…

Firstly, he’s got a family to provide for, accepting being a domestique and regressing back to their wage rather than just pressing on with being a GC leader whether or not he’ll win isn’t fair to expect of anyone, especially when they’ll retire in ten years max…

Plus we don’t know everything, he might have genuinely been unlucky/ill the last few years and be giving BMC the numbers to believe in him, similar to Porte the last few years…

I agree I doubt he’ll ever come good, but it’s not fair to judge from afar when he’s still extremely talented.

CA August 24, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I definitely never said he isn’t talented! And, the men I stated who are top GC lieutenants are definitely uber-talented.

But, at 29 year’s old, TVG has peaked and never won a GT, he should take a role as a lieutenant… still make a lot of money, and maybe win a secondary stage race, but accept his role.

He made two really dumb mistakes today, lack of focus caused them.

RQS August 24, 2017 at 10:40 pm

TJ had a bit of a school boy error in his first fall. Cycling one handed (or at least brought his left hand up) and hits a bump with his front wheel.

Can’t say too much about the second fall either. If he wins the Vuelta he will have done well.

Wakey August 25, 2017 at 12:42 am

Sanchez’s error was even worse. He must be gutted tonight.

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