Vuelta Stage 7 Preview

The race heads north and heads for new regions. A “transition stage” yes but a subtle finish awaits. As the profile shows today offers an uphill finish, no summit finish but a test between the sprinters and the puncheurs.

Stage 6 Wrap: the first summit finish and the first test. A winning trio with Alejandro Valverde, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Just behind Joaquim Rodriguez and Nairo Quintana. Are these two a level below? Hard to say, Rodriguez launched the first attack and might have paid for his early acceleration while Nairo Quintana could force the others to respond to Valverde. Still, the Colombian didn’t look incisive and he surrendered time to his rivals and it complicates the leadership issue for Movistar.

Valverde’s win was impressive for the manner it was achieved. Earlier on the climb he appeared to be subordinate to Quintana, setting tempo on the front as riders were going out of the back door like a building was on fire. Despite the effort all the way up Valverde still had the sprint to win.

Do we extrapolate the results over a long climb? Partly yes but other riders will prefer a longer effort and might not have had the punch needed for yesterday’s finish and the heat was a big factor too, things will be cooler as the race heads north.

The prime losers were Wilco Kelderman, Rigoberto Uran, Dani Moreno, Cadel Evans and if you took him for a GC contender, Dan Martin. Otherwise Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Esteban Chaves (Orica) and Fabio Arun (Astana) were close and should feature in the mountains.

The Route: North. The race heads inland and it makes for a hilly stage. The race reaches the finish after just 113km but heads out for a longer loop via the Alto Ahillo, a second category climb which takes the riders close to 1,000m but at a moderate 4%.

The Finish: uphill and if the sprinters are there they might find it hard to cope with the rise. It’s the kind of climb and in-form Peter Sagan would like with 5% for 1.5km until the final 500m where the gradient eases.

The Scenario: the uphill finish isn’t the sprint certainty and some teams with house sprinters won’t be working today. It’s likely FDJ and Giant-Shimano believe in the chances of Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb respectively and even more so for Michael Matthews. But we could well see a stronger breakaway form. As ever a breakaway’s chances can seem dependent on the mood of the bunch but pack an escape with heavy-hitters and the bunch has its work cut out. So look to see if a break gets some big names or if it’s just a wildcard wish.

The Contenders: Michael Matthews is the default choice. He was on team duty yesterday but only late in the stage so he won’t be too tired. The uphill finish is perfect for him. Less so for Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb but they’re both punchy and tenacious riders who can do it; less so for pure sprinters like Andrea Guardini or Moreno Hofland. Otherwise Philippe Gilbert could be in the top-10 and the same for Ag2r’s Lloyd Mondory.

Michael Matthews
John Degenkolb
Philippe Gilbert, Nacer Bouhanni, Oscar Gatto, Alejandro Valverde

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: The race passes Montefrío (“cold mountain”) in km 51 of the stage. It is a small rural Andalusian town, but in possession of an architectural oddity. Its Iglesia de la Encarnación has the biggest stone dome in the world. The author, in the 18th century, travelled to Rome and was so impressed by the Pantheon that decided to build a sort of replica in Montefrío. That means there is a much bigger church than the population needed back then. That is not strange to Spain at all. During the construction bubble of the early 2000s, every city and town wanted to build something bigger than their neighbours (even airports where there was no need).

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

40 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 7 Preview”

  1. Inrng,

    Maybe a story for another day about how World Tour teams shuffle as JV’s Garmin squad is doing? How does the UCI coordinate the loss of teams? Where do the people and equipment from the mostly Italian (???) Cannondale squad go?

    You are very good at bringing these details to life.

  2. Let’s hope for some cross-winds on that final climb. I understand it is pretty exposed – diminutive climbers not paying attention could get themselves into trouble on a stage like today.

    Valverde was impressive last night. Froome looked to be struggling the whole way up and so he should be pleased not to lose time. Conversely, Rodriguez will be disappointed. Martin even more so.

  3. The pic says it all.. Focus on Froome, Q and Valverde while the hero of the day and man returning from a fractured tibia is hidden from view and rarely spoken of…

    • Contador’s being hidden from view is only because of the vantage point of the photographer who took the photo. Contador finished 3rd, an outstanding achievement considering his original injury and surgery. The fact that his form is this good is a testament to how hard he worked and how serious he really is about winning the Vuelta. Agreed, Alberto was the hero of the day, but disagree that he’s rarely spoken about. He’s a top GC contender!

      A note about Quintana: he himself has said that he hopes to ride into better form, so I think it’s early to say that Movistar has confusion about their GC man with Quintana in 2nd only 15 secs back. Then again, having won Vuelta a Burgos just six days prior to the final GT…did he leave enough fuel in the tank for the big race? Too early to judge Rodriguez as well, IMO.

      • I don’t think he was anywhere near peaked for Burgos – he finished only seconds ahead of Daniel Moreno…and Moreno got smoked on yesterday’s stage. I definitely think he’s riding into better form for the high mountains to come.

    • Look, if Froome didnt ride like a demented spider with limbs everywhere, we wouldnt see him either in the pic…

      As for Bert’s ‘fractured tibia’…hmm…between the Tour and the Vuelta he must have popped over to Lourdes for a bit of help from St Bernadette with the healing process

  4. @dick: that’s how Froome looks like all the time. He pedals like he’s wearing kitten mittens.

    Yeah, Contador seems to be fully recovered. Let’s see how he does in the longer climbs.

  5. My recollection is that it was Contador who let the gap go when Valverde accelerated in the final 150 meters, and Froome who had to close it.

    I never take comfort from seeing Valverde performing at such an extraordinary level, it leaves questions and a sour taste !

    • Yeah, that’s the harsh life of the cycling fan…
      I never take comfort from seeing, say, Froome performing at such an extraordinary level, it leaves questions and a sour taste !

      • Because, Froome is an unreprentant doper and Valverde has never been suspected of anything? Oh, wait, that’s the wrong way round …

        • As it could be guessed by the way I wrote my answer, my objective was not as much to expose any specific cyclist but to show how silly and annoying the whole thing is.

          I deliberately chose Froome, because it shows very well how “questions” and “a sour taste” may not depend on the sanctions a rider has received – or not – for whatever reason… as the history of cycling has shown quite well.

          What is more, there’s another angle that should be considered (not involving Froome, this time): if we just consider what we officially know, Valverde’s blood was taken by Fuentes during his first years as a pro in a team where, through the team doctors, organised doping was imposed to riders.
          And the compulsory nature of Kelme practices is something that was proven in the courts, against what back then was the common belief in public opinion (Manzano had to endure any kind of criticism from colleagues as well as journalists and policemen)… it wasn’t some sort of USPS choirboys melody.
          Valverde didn’t ever receive any other sanction, nor has he ever been suspected of everything aside from what was related to his Kelme/Fuentes story (even if he was sanctioned when he was already working with his actual team, more then five years later).
          That said, I can’t understand why should he be more of a doper than, say (the first that comes to my mind, but the list is long), Hesjedal, who – we now know – was *actively looking* for EPO and the way to use it (and… look… Hesjedal hadn’t ever been suspected of anything, before the late disclosures).
          Nevertheless, whenever Valverde is around some pious soul always appears telling us how uneasy it feels to see Valverde performing well, while the Hesjedal file has been archived and no one (luckily!) feels the need to remember us his doping-yearning (unsanctioned) past whenever the Canadian is named.
          And, technically, Hesjedal was a “doper”, just like Lance and the such, whereas Valverde was “doped” 😛
          Even more curious: anyone following cycling could agree that, like it or not, Valverde “has got it”, he’s kind of a champion; doper, or doped, or whatever, it’s not just about the drugs… while the same cannot be said for so many riders brought to the limelight just by doping, but more easily forgiven.

          Let me add, to avoid looking naif, that my personal opinion about what Valverde and so many other cyclists went on (go on?) doing year after year, voluntarily, even after the “EPO era” 😉 is way different from any concept like “cleanliness”.
          But if people claim that their attitude depends on “the facts”, well, facts should be analysed a little more, and you should stick to them.
          On the contrary, my impression is that so much of what is written around about Valverde (and not only) is just a bunch of commonplace, stereotypical narratives…

          • Gabriele. Unrepentant dopers get no sympathy or support from me for one. I will be happy when old father time takes them out of the sport. The act of denial speaks volumes about the individual. You can write as long an essay as you like, historical facts do not change. I am not going to give you an opportunity to prolong your narrative. You are welcome to it, but please be good enough to give those of us who have an opposing view about the subject the respect of a different perspective. The signs are there to be seen by all, you just have to understand the sport. The obvious does not always require a fact written on a piece of paper.

          • I know nothing of anything.
            But watching Valverde I think he shows some kind if steely resolution he lacked the last years. Whatever it is- the competition in his team, his pride, getting a good contract or all of that together- it gives him an edge which suits him well.

          • BC. History is history when it’s written as such, till then it’s just daily columns. You only have to compare newspapers’ articles from ten or twenty years ago (even more so the further back you go) with the history that’s just starting being written about those times to observe a *slight* difference.

            What you call “to repent” (or not) doesn’t say anything at all about the individual. Sometimes it may be way more immoral *to confess* than to keep silence.
            In fact, I feel that you’re confusing repentance (or regret, or the likes) with *a public confession*: since you like “historical facts”, maybe you could find good examples of the big difference between the two things along human History. There’s quite a lot of them.

            All the above, assuming that you’re not Valverde’s shrink or mum or priest: in that case, I must apologise and admit that, at least, you may know if he’s unrepentant or not. Though, to have a full picture, you should hold the same position towards the supposedly *repentant* dopers, too, so that you can really know if they deserve your sympathy.

            I’m respecting your view, that’s why I’m answering – and arguing. If not, I’d just put the very common label “internet c**p” on it, and spare my time. Opinions deserve to be proven as well founded, or not.

            PS “The signs are there to be seen by all, you just have to understand the sport”. This is a sentence I totally agree with, at least when private and personal ideas about cyclists are concerned, but:
            1) I don’t think that publicly shared opinions should be based on “signs”, since anyone may read there whatever he or she likes best. “Interpreting signs” can become a self-referential and cheap way through which people reinforce their prejudices.
            2) This attitude can be applied to many other cyclists (who “have never been suspected of anything”) much more than to Valverde; who, if you “understand the sport”, undoubtedly would be the same kind of a winner (and the same kid of a loser) in a clean world as he is today. His results have shown great consistence in any kind of (anti)doping context, which is quite impressive if you consider the amount of change the sport has lived in the last fifteen years in this regard.
            3) I wouldn’t be especially amazed if Valverde tested positive in a week or in two month or in three years, but this wouldn’t change a comma in my discourse. I won’t prolong my narrative to explain why, I hope it’s clear enough 😉

  6. Again, the site to which I keep returning . . .

    A word about Trek: My first mountain bike was an 8000 SLR; to this day the most fun bike I have ever owned. Although a thief eventually removed it from my world, I opted not to replace it with another Trek even though my roots are in Wisconsin. The reason for this was the LA legacy.

    Why sponsoring INRNG makes sense: A lot of purchasing in the upper-end bike market comes from peer opinions. I assume the readership of this site consists of well informed, respected people in the biking world who add a lot to conversations about bikes and biking over a beer and on group rides. We are product ambassadors if we are on board.

    Have I bought a bike from Trek yet? No. But I have had a conversation about how great my 8000 was recently and haven’t rehashed the LA legacy with Trek in quite a while.

    • INRNG,

      How about a readership demographic survey? That would be fun for us and could benefit yourself as you approach future sponsors.

    • Gabriele: Sorry there is no ‘reply option after your post. Please try not to be so condescending, this is not a philosophy blog. No one is trying to insist that their view must be correct. I am more than happy for you to stick with your views and interpretation concerning the problems which have beset our sport for so long, but in turn you must allow others to do the same.

      I have had the rather eye opening experience of living and completing with riders, on many occasions, in several countries, whom I have openly observed doping and listened with interest too their attitudes. Maybe my view is too subjective for you, but our sport has a dark underside which must be taken into account, whilst at the same time enjoying the glamorous ideals projected.

      I suggest we leave this subject as there is little room for compromise, and it will just bore other posters.

  7. is it known how the relationship between valverde and quintana is? the giro-tour arrangement the team made suggests both want to be leader somehow. and valverde maybe not wanting to be domestique again in the final years of his career? is this vuelta for valverde and after that quintana is finally taking over. or is valverde getting stages and quintana the gc? or are they battling it out?

    • Last year it was all fine and dandy, they shared hotel rooms at races and training camps, all happy days. Then Quintana went and showed he was the stronger at the Tour last year. And now he’s a bona fide GT winner. I think Valverde’s raging against the dying light, when it comes to being supplanted as the Movistar GT leader. And now word is that negotiations with Movistar to renew his contract aren’t going swimmingly as it seems that Movistar want Quintana as their undisputed GT leader, and for Valverde to concentrate on the hilly classics – problem being that Valverde still thinks he’s got it.

      • well judging by yday, he still seems to have it – early days I know… maybe those negotiations are providing a little bit of extra motivation.
        Do you think that, if it all gets a bit close, we could see the Spanish riders close ranks and do a ‘robert millar’ on Quintana – or is it all a bit professional these days?…

  8. Nairo’s waiting for Valverde’s usual one big crap day on 3 weeker and it usually happens in the mountains. See Garmin now chasing stage wins and week one not over yet! A bit disappointing is it not?

  9. Sombrero to the 198! They’ve nearly survived the cauldron of Andalusia and they’re all still there. (Hope this isn’t the kiss of death.)

      • Not comparing Valvpiti to Hinault so much as the relationship in this race to the relationship in the ’86 Tour, with Hinault ostensibly riding for Lemond with the truth and his actions being very different.

        Watching Valv attacking off the front, then in the post-race interview “I’m riding for Quintana but maybe I’ll get the odd stage win”… Yeah, sure.

        • Yeah, I’d agree that Valverde’s public proclamations have been pretty disingenuous, but at the minute I’d give him the benefit of the doubt with regards to how he’s riding. I think ‘riding for Quintana’ is a bit of a stretch but I wouldn’t say he was actively riding against him… so far…

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