Vuelta Stage 3 Preview

Another day, another summit finish? Yes but today is much shorter than yesterday’s climb which was enough to eject Janez Brajkovič out of the overall lead and exposed a few riders, notably Sergio Henao and Samuel Sanchez. Today’s finish should offer excitement but probably less relevance to the overall outcome.

Stage 2 Review
177km of which the last ten provided the real action but before then the wind was blowing and the pressure was building as the bunch sped to the final climb. The day’s early break was swept up and the race flew up the climb of Monte Groba. NetApp-Endura’s Leopold König launched a big move with 2km to go – in the junior and U-23 ranks he and Peter Sagan duelled for many races – but it was Nicolas Roche who timed his move just right to win the stage. It’s a welcome win for Roche, perhaps at home in this Celtic region of Spain. I tipped him yesterday with a reminder that he has shown a fast finish in the past and now his confidence must be very high and it’s welcome for Saxo-Tinkoff who get just their sixth win of the year.

It’s a cliché to say you can’t win a grand tour on one stage alone but you can lose it and it’s red faces for Segio Henao, Carlos Betancur and Samuel Sanchez rather than red jerseys.

Stage 3 Preview
The Route: A scenic route along the Galician coast awaits. It’s 184km that snakes along the seashore and takes in places already visited like Pontevedra, Sanxenxo and Vilanova de Arosa. The wind will be an issue again, especially with the ever-changing direction of the race and when the race crosses the causeway to Illa de Arousa.

The old road… but it’s been resurfaced and widened since

The Finish: many races would be content to finish by the seaside in Vilagarcía de Arousa to show off the beach but this is the Vuelta and gravity must be challenged. The final climb has two parts. First the main road out of town which rises at 5-6% most of the way but crucially on a wide road, the kind where two cars approaching in opposite directions need not slow. But with 1500m to the race switches to the Camino Novo, a rough track that is just the width of just one car…

…but thanks to Twitter it might be better than it looks. A report says this small road has been upgraded in order to host the Vuelta, it’s been widened from four metres to six and resurfaced.

The Scenario: Mirador, Mirador, up the wall, who is the fittest of them all?
With no mountain points available there’s even less incentive for a breakaway to go away. But this is the Vuelta and surely some will try but a contest between the big names seems inevitable with Astana, Lampre-Merida, Katusha and Movistar likely to chase hard to set up their leaders.

On the final climb it should be possible to set a high tempo to deliver rights to the sharp right hand bend onto the Camino Novo from where riders will start fighting it out. Given yesterday’s stage a repeat by Roche is possible, he can now afford to track the others and with a time bonus the maillot rojo is within reach and whoever has the jersey this evening can hope to wear it all week.

Whoever was strong yesterday is likely to be present today but this shorter climb allows a few more to make it to the finish. In turn this means more fighting for position so riders who sometimes struggle with this skill could pay a price, for example Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) or Thibaut Pinot ( don’t like it when every square centimetre of the road matters. Yesterday saw Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) lead the bunch in and I think the Italian has a good sprint for today. If not then Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is the safe pick but the slope might not be steep enough for him.

Weather: sunny and the forecast says a stiff north-easterly breeze. This means a headwind for much of the time but crosswinds at others and another nervous day.

TV: coverage starts at 3.30pm and you could tune in to watch the peloton get blown around by the wind. But there’s still time to see this from 5.00pm onwards with the finish expected around 5.45pm.

Daily Díaz

  • Vigo is the biggest city in Pontevedra province, something unusual in Spain (see stage 2). Moreover, it’s the biggest city of Galicia but has no institutional status
  • The second intermediate sprint takes place on Illa de Arousa, an island connected to the mainland by a narrow road exposed to the wind which is run twice. In the final 40 km of the stage, this passage could prove crucial
  • Vigo is the birthplace of musician Carlos Núñez, who plays the promotional song of this year’s Vuelta. He is well known for playing the gaita, a Spanish bagpipe
  • Vigo is also home to Celta de Vigo, one of the most important soccer teams of Galicia
  • The name Celta refers to the Celtic heritage commonly associated with NorthWest Spain. That heritage is also very present in places like Brittany or Ireland
  • Vilagarcía de Arousa is the birthplace of Galician cyclist Gustavo César Veloso, a Vuelta stage winner. Every August the Festa da auga (“water festival”) takes place, and thousands of people walk around the streets asking for water, which the neighbours throw from their windows. The goal is to get everybody wet.

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

12 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 3 Preview”

  1. In 2011 PhilGil would have eaten this for breakfast. But the ‘curse’ seems to have struck him. Like you said yesterday, cant even buy a win.

    Would like to see him get at least one victory in rainbow though….

  2. Wow, chaotic seaside stage (why didn’t Movistar go on?? I’ll never understand this team tactics), and surprise victory of my favourite American rider. Great!

  3. I love the unpredictability and randomness of the Vuelta. If the Giro is a Broadway play, and the Tour a grand symphony, the Vuelta is an improv club on an inspired night.

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