Vuelta Stage 4 Preview

A day for the sprinters but the first second category climb and it’s 14% gradients await. The finish is similar to 2011 when Peter Sagan won but the Slow-vak finished 129th yesterday. Time to make amends or will someone else win in Córdoba?

Stage 3 Wrap
A fine win for Michael Matthews who sat tight before sprinting past Dan Martin. The Irishman looked a touch undergeared as the road dipped to the line but it was Matthew’s sprint that derailed Martin. It made for an intriguing finish where the overall contenders were as much in the mix as the sprinters, a top-10 that had Joaquim Rodriguez, Cadel Evans, Wilco Kelderman and Chris Froome as well as Matthews, Nacer Bouhanni and Lloyd Mondory. Mondory? A rider you probably don’t know well but with long collection of top-10 placings during a long career.

Alberto Contador’s physio rehab continues and he was seen doing some leg-stretching on the final climb. It’s too soon to extrapolate this into a 20-30 minute effort but it’s comforting for him and his team. Peter Sagan finished well down. Some have said he needs to learn to lose in order to win but not this way? Nobody seems to know what’s up but it was left to Oscar Gatto to show the Cannondale jersey.

The Route
Unremarkable until the scenic climb of San Jerónimo. Then comes the Alto Catorce Por Ciento or the “14% Climb”. Original in name but not in use. The Vuelta climbed this in 2011 and on the descent Peter Sagan and Liquigas team mates including Vincenzo Nibali got away. Sagan won the stage, his first grand tour stage win. Back to today and it’s 9km at just over 5% but that’s the mean gradient and the reality is meaner with a short section that’s got steep ramps including a 14% section. It’s selective but short and there’s time to get back. If the climb gets the attention, don’t forget the descent, if a few riders or even team push it then they can get away just as we saw in 2011.

The Finish
Flat and fast, an urban finish to suit the sprinters. There’s one wide chicane in the final kilometre to contend.

The Scenario
Nacer Bouhanni was fine on the relatively short climb yesterday but he could find the longer climb today too much, the same for John Degenkolb.  It all depends how the race tackles the climb, it it goes loco then the sprinters’ chances are reduced even if their teams try to pace them back. But it’s still probable most make it back. Michael Matthews is the default pick because of his finishing speed and climbing abilities.

The Contenders

Michael Matthews
Nacer Bouhanni
John Degenkolb
Sbaragli, Martinez, Mondory, Sagan

Weather: 39°C. Hot and sunny. It’s toward the upper level possible for racing but still feasible, especially in a pro race where staff and the race organisation are on hand to ensure additional supplies of water.

TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time.

It’s live on Eurosport, Universal Sports and more. If not cyclingfans and both have links to pirate feeds with the latter also listing where you can view the race properly too.

Daily Díaz: In the Middle Ages, the Iberian Peninsula was one of the borders between the Christian and the Muslim world. In 711 the Arabs crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and ruled most of the country until 1212, when they were defeated in the crucial battle of Las Navas de Tolosa and started losing ground until 1492, when the last Muslim king was expelled from Granada. During the time of their maximum power, the capital of the kingdom was Córdoba (also known as Cordova in English), today’s stage finish. What the Greeks called Iberia and the Romans Hispania, the Arabs called Ándalus, which is the origin of the name of Andalusia, where a third of this year’s Vuelta is taking place.

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

31 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Regarding stage 3:
    Okay, I need clarification on how the peleton are assigned time gaps on a group finish.
    Contador is given the benefit of the doubt and gets the same time as the winner (home field advantage?) while those next 30 finishers after him all get a seven second time gap.
    How arbitrary is this?

    • It is somewhat arbitrary, the race jury will decide when a gap between two riders is big enough to warrant a time gap as well. Yesterday Contador just manages to sneak into the first group, even though there was a minor gap between him and David Arroyo, maybe it’s homefield advantage, maybe it just wasn’t significant enough for the jury. But there was definitely a significant enough gap between Contador and Chaves to warrant giving them a different time.

    • It’s not necessarily arbitrary. First the riders have timing chips on the forks of their bikes and second, more accurately, a finish line camera records their arrival to the nearest 100th/1000th of a second.

  2. The brief daily history lesson is most welcome. Most will know of the Muslim conquest of most of Iberia, but dates and detail are hazy. For most, only the short lived Spanish conquests in south America , the civil war and Franco’s eventual downfall feature in of our knowledge base.

    Yet another reason, if one was required, why this blog is the best.

    PS. stage 3 wrap up. First line. with should be win – fast typing ?

    • Yes I’m really enjoying the blog and daily Diaz thank you.
      Amin Maalouf’s novel “Leo the African” is a good introduction to the last days of the Moors in Spain, and Tariq Ali wrote a novel set at this time too Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree

  3. Cycling sites don’t link to original interview sources enough for my tastes, but I’ve read several times now that Peter Sagan said he’s aiming for the World Championship, and /this/ is the main factor in how he’ll ride the Vuelta. Also, on Cannondale’s -official- site, they’ve said Sagan isn’t sure of his form. Right now, he’s riding FOR Gatto!

    I know Cannondale cited Sagan as a leader for the Vuelta. It’s possible (likely even) they backpedaled on this after it turned out he wouldn’t be up to it. But that’s besides the point! By now, Sagan has pretty much flat-out said that he’s riding for the team and for training.

    So why are people still asking ‘what’s going on’? I could understand cynics saying ‘well OBVIOUSLY he’s only saying he’s going for the rainbow jersey because he’s peeved he didn’t get to wear the yellow one in France and doesn’t want to try for the red one’ but it seems more like people have no idea of the backstory, they’re just bewildered that he’s not at the front?

    The average casual fan probably doesn’t pay attention to interviews or to races other than Grand Tours, but I’m not only talking about the average casual fan here. Commentators, in particular! They keep gasping WILL SAGAN DO IT THIS TIME? and then act disappointed when he doesn’t, when he has no reason to push himself and risk the World Championship amongst a pile of sprinters who arguably have more to lose than he does. Why??

    I’m guessing his early fame has made him so popular that people would ask questions if no one talked about him, and TV producers (among others) know it. But to me, it’s beginning to sound like gossip-mongering running the risk of overhyping a very good rider. I don’t want to make excuses for Sagan, but I’m beginning to find this speculation outrageously annoying because I can almost guarantee that if he doesn’t win any stages this Vuelta for whatever reason, people will start saying ‘Sagan is burned out already! He’s over! Oleg bought a dud!’ because they’re so starry-eyed over how fantastic he is that they’re not actually LISTENING to him. Bah!

    Mind you if he wins today’s stage I wouldn’t complain either.

      • I don’t know many commentators, so I was being deliberately vague. But yeah you’re right to heck with it I’M CALLING YOU OUT KIRBY

        I’m also bemused by his characterisation of Valverde the Scheming Prima Donna (though for all I know this could be closer to reality ????)

    • although it’s known he’s building for worlds, Sagan has an insatiable appetite for wins and tends to hold great form year round, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned it around in the coming weeks.

      • To be fair Rowe and Kiryienka had been dom’ing for Froome all day, whereas Beta has been lolling around at the back of the race from the beginning, giving a very fair impression of an overweight rider sulking with his team…(not to mention the rather obvious motopacing from the AG2R yesterday that still saw him finish 20 mins back)

        He quite plainly doesn’t want to be at the race. It must be fun on the AG2R bus at the moment.

  4. Why did AG2R select Betancur anyway? Maybe he said he would use the first couple of weeks to lose 10kg and ‘who knows, go for a stage win in the 3rd week’. Seems a very odd guy.

    Sagan has dropped clear hints that he’s not racing all out here, dunno what the fuss is about.

    I reckon Evans will go well all 3 weeks, don’t see many of the repetition long climbs that he tends to struggle with these days, the parcours should suit him. Kelderman looking strong too.

    • I suspect they’re making him do the Vuelta as punishment.

      They’ve already scored a massive result with the Tour – they have that in the bag. The Vuelta is hardly make-or-break for them.

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