One difference between Vuelta and its cousins in Italy and France is that it lacks a rich catalogue of famous climbs. But slowly names are emerging and today’s climb Xorret de Catí is one of them.
Stage 7 Review: a breakaway and a stage win for Matej Mohorič. He’s famous for that downhill tuck and pedalling action and it did help but he built the win thanks to his climbing through the ramparts of Cuenca when he forced the pace and thinned the group. He established a slender gap over the top that the otherscould not or would not close. J-J Rojas looked frisky but the sprinter was also playing poker in hoping others would help. Once the descent came Mohorič deployed the tuck and was helped by the twisting road which allowed him to quickly get out of sight.
The Route: “un final clásico” says the Vuelta website only the Xorret de Catí climb has been used in the Vuelta since 1998, albeit the name is famous in cycling because it has featured in local races for much longer. In the Vuelta the first of the five winners was José María Jiménez who thrived in the Vuelta but struggled in life and would die in a psychiatric hospital in 2003. There’s a memorial to him by the road. The climb is 5km at 9% but it’s the irregularity that’s the story, a 2% gradient to start with and then ramps at 18%, some say 22% even. It’s a sharp and selective climb and from the top it’s just three kilometres to the finish, two of which are downhill, one of which is steep and if there are no hairpins there are some awkward bends without a clear line of sight to the exit.
The Finish: the final kilometre is back uphill, not a climb but a drag up to the line.
The Contenders: hopefully we will get two races for the price of one, a breakaway to contest the stage win and then a secondary contest among the GC contenders once they tackle the Xorret de Catí but as ever if the teams drive the pace the breakaway’s chances are over.
As for the breakaway, the likes of Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step), Davide Villela (Cannondale-Drapac) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) are likely picks because they can cope with a punchy climb even if Alaphilippe is still searching for top form. More leftfield picks are Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) who climbs well and Darwin Atampuma (UAE Emirates).
Among the main names Chris Froome (Team Sky), Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) are the obvious trio and if forced to pick one – for a sprint between the three? – then Esteban Chaves showed his finishing skills in Lombardia late last season but perhaps Froome will go all out to finally get that first victory celebration of the year?
|Esteban Chaves, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador|
|Poels, Woods, Atapuma, Mamykin, Alaphilippe, Pozzovivo|
Weather: warm and sunny, a top temperature of 31°C and a light SE breeze of 10-15km/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. They reach the foot of the final climb around 5.20pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST but beware the race could travel much faster.
Daily Díaz: The race visits Ibi in km 146 and Tibi in km 158 of today’s stage. It’s not a spelling mistake, these are two distinct towns in the Alcoià comarca , not far away from Alicante. Ibi is known for two things: toys and ice creams. Several toy companies produce their goods in Ibi (or nearby), and for every boy and girl in the area a trip to one of those factories is a key moment during the school years (Playmobil when I was a kid). About the ice creams, the altitude traditionally allowed to have ice reservoirs during most of the year, which explains the number of ibense ice cream shops all around Spain. Tibi is a much smaller place; its main feature is the 16th century dam, one of the oldest in Europe.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel