Vuelta Stage 4 Preview

Almost a flat finish, today’s stage would suit the sprinters were it not for the Mirador de Ézaro, a vicious climb placed 35km from the finish. It will certainly thin the field but can it determine the result?

That’s up to the riders but this is a harder stage than it looks.

Stage 3 Review
Sunshine, beaches and blue seas but there was something Belgian about the day as a crosswind stabbed the peloton. It split the race at times, the bunch stretched out further by the race organisation’s decision to put temporary dividing islands on the long bridge to the Isla de Arousa. Bauke Mollema was one rider caught out and we saw the latest chapter in the Movistar vs Belkin rivalry with the Spanish team driving the pace but the Dutchmen didn’t flounder and got help from Saxo-Tinkoff. As an aside, how far does this rivalry go back? We can trace it to incidents in recent years but each team can trace its sporting DNA back to the 1980s when the Reynolds and Superconfex teams did battle.

The wind was still raging for the finish and seemed to help when Chris Horner got out of the saddle. He caught and passed BMC’s Ivan Santaromita and as the road bent around the final climb into a headwind the bunch seemed reluctant to chase. Not that Horner sneaked away, he rode away solo to take the stage and overall lead. He’s now the oldest stage winner of a grand tour and the oldest rider ever to wear a leader’s jersey in any of the three main tours.

Stage 4 Preview
The Route: harder than it looks. There are two obvious points of reference, the Mirador de Ézaro and the finishing straight but the 189km stage has 2,965m of vertical gain meaning the whole route is going to be a drain on energy.

The Mirador de Ézaro might have a lowly third category label but it’s a real wall, being 1.8km long at an average of 13.1% and with ramps at 22%. From comparison the Flèche Wallonne’s Mur de Huy is “only” 1.2km at a kinder 9.6%. It was used last year and the middle has a concrete section, rougher and slower than normal tarmac. There’s talk of 30% gradients but only if you ride the wrong line through the inside of a hairpin bend when you’ll be so slow there’s time to deploy a theodolite. But it is vicious, there are good sections at 20% and here’s the video from the stage last time. Being a stage finish the scenario is very different but note how even Joaquim Rodriguez is reduced to pedalling squares.

But it’s 35km from the finish. If the race hits the climb hard riders will go over the top one by one and riders can regroup, organise and ride to the finish to distance any dropped rivals. But there’s also the chance for the sprinters to spin up, lose time and then get paced back by their team mates.

The Finish: the race finishes on a cape where the road rises gently to the line.

The Scenario: there are two scenarios. First we could see the big names hit the Mirador de Ézaro at full speed and use this as a way to distance the rest of the field with help from their teams. But riders trying this will need to be accompanied by several team mates to survive the remaining 35km, it’s near-impossible for a handful of riders to try a move. If this happens then Alejandro Valverde is a safe pick and Nicolas Roche could be there too. Remember again the total number of vertical metres means that the sprinters will be tired by the time the final climb starts and there’s a headwind for a while after this climb meaning solo efforts or dropped riders need to regroup fast.

Nevertheless a second scenario is more likely where the bunch splits going over Mirador de Ézaro but with a few sprinters staying near the front who can then hitch a ride to the finish. Gianni Meersman is the obvious pick and both he and Michael Matthews were not far off the pace on yesterday’s climb. Meersman’s team mate Zdeněk Štybar is another contender along with others like Philippe Gilbert, Grega Bole or Diego Ulissi. Simon Gerrans lost time yesterday but this was because of a crash, perhaps he can do better today.

Weather: sunny and mild and with the wind again which will blow as a crosswind for most of the stage and add to the fatigue. The race twists towards the end meaning a neutralising headwind after the Mirador de Ézaro and then a tailwind for the last 20km.

TV: coverage starts at 3.30pm and the Mirador de Ézaro will be climbed around 4.45pm onwards with the finish expected around 5.45pm.

Daily Díaz

  • Lalín is considered the geographical center of Galicia
  • Today’s stage runs in part along the Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago), a medieval pilgrimage route of European size. You can find Avenues de Galice all over France, for example. In Santiago de Compostela (regional capital city, km 76,1) lie the remainings of Saint James, one of Jesus’ companions
  • Galicia is traditionally considered as a conservative region. Francisco Franco was born in Galicia, as well as Manuel Fraga, minister during the dictature and founder of the People’s Party (PP). Mariano Rajoy, current Spanish prime minister, is also Galician (born in Santiago de Compostela) and member of PP. Rajoy is fond of cycling himself and was present for the opening stage
  • Fisterra means “end of the world”, exactly as Finistère in France (both from Latin finis terrae). Nowadays, many of the pilgrims of the Way of Saint James, after arriving to Santiago de Compostela and visiting Obradoiro square, walk on a few more days to arrive here. A recent tradition says you should then burn the boots and clothes you’ve worn during the Way
  • Last July there was a train accident in Santiago de Compostela where almost 80 people died. After some moments of solidarity, political parties have already started to blame each other for the tragedy

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

9 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Just a quick note of thanks to both Inner Ring and Mr Diaz for their efforts on the previews. The Vuelta may not have the profile of the TdF or Giro (or even a number of the Classics), but it’s still compulsive viewing and these insights really add to my enjoyment.

  2. I wouldn’t rule out Mr Rodriguez today. Katusha have a team packed with Spanish climbing machines that could get him up that hill even after the toils of the day.

    Great preview though.

    • if you look at the video from last year I think you’ll see he needs no help getting up that hill!

      Its whether there are faster ‘sprinters’ left with him at the end though, he wouldn’t be able to match them for pace..

  3. Great coverage so far, and chapeau to Chris Horner for a storming ride yesterday. It’s already been pretty fragmented and played into Nibali’s hand, though I’m sure Astana will be happy not having to ride for him as leader at the moment.

    The finish last year on the Mirador was insane. I’ve never seen anything like it.

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