The first high altitude finish of the Vuelta. At first sight this looks like one of the toughest stages of the race with the distance and altitude, a finish close to 2,000 metres above sea level. But it’s a ski station finish with moderate gradients and the slope eases before the line. It’s still a summit finish showdown but cleverly it won’t provide the definitive selection.
Stage 8 Wrap: a sprint win for Nacer Bouhanni with a late switch in the closing metres. The commissaires reviewed it and awarded the stage to Bouhanni. Earlier we had scenes to make local literary heroes Don Quixote and Sancho Panza proud as the peloton tilted in the crosswinds of La Mancha. It came to nothing but meant everything to provide drama to an otherwise regular stage especially as Nairo Quintana was among those caught out.
The Route: we could pick over every detail but the important point is the finish. For most of the stage it’s a procession to the final climb. The Puerto de Cabigordo merits its third category status with a moderate gradient below 4%.
The Alto de San Rafael averages just over 4% but don’t mistake it for the same. It’s got a flat intermediate section meaning the mean average is not reflective of the difficulty, it’s typically 6%. Not a lot either but more climbing.
The Finish: the Vuelta has some infernal finishes but this is more like a ski-station finish in France. Uphill yes but at a steady and accessible gradient designed to allow large vehicles to negotiate the road. The road almost flattens out for the finish.
The Scenario: good luck to a breakaway but it’ll need some heavy-hitters to stay away. Otherwise we can expect the main teams to set the pace to the final climb, melting the lead of any break in the same way we say on the road to La Zubia the other day.
The Contenders: a climb where the gradient eases looks perfect for Alejandro Valverde, he’s in shape and can sprint well. Chris Froome showed us he’s got what it takes too with his sprint two days ago. Other riders wanting to win the stage might have to make their move earlier but the problem is that anyone leaping early will only find they get riders sat on on their wheel as the slope eases.
Dan Martin’s been climbing and sprinting well and if he can hang on could do the job on the condition that he backs off right until the last minute.
|Chris Froome, Joaquim Rodriguez
As the chart shows, a real change in weather, the temperature “halves” according to the Celsius scale.
TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time. The Alto de San Rafael is expected to start around 5.00pm so be sure to tune by then.
Daily Díaz: Today’s first intermediate sprint (km 101,5) is located in Teruel, the smallest of Spanish provincial capitals (35,000 inhabitants). This is a mountainous area, with a severe climate (one of the maximum temperature ranges of Spain), and with difficult communications (there is no direct train to Madrid). In the artistic side, Teruel is known for the mudéjar architecture, built by Muslim workers under the command of Christian kings. When the northern Christians conquered the Muslim southern lands, the surviving Moors had two options: keep their religion, and be called mudéjares under the protection of the king (until the 16th century); or convert to Christianism, and be called moriscos, who were expelled in the 17th century.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel