Neither sprint nor summit finish today’s stage offers a good chance of a breakaway sticking to the end… where a tough finish awaits.
Stage 12 Wrap: Alberto Contador defended his jersey after Cannondale’s Matthias Krizek launched an audacious bid to overcome his 1h32 minute deficit on the red jersey. Ok, nothing else happened but well done to Krizek for doing something. As predicted the action was saved for end and as well as a sprint finish there was a crash that split the field and took out several riders. John Degenkolb won to get three wins and to repeat an identical win in 2012.
The Route: north and almost to the coast. 188km and a route for a breakaway although with no obvious climb or other selective features getting up the road early will require strength and good luck. Later on the three categorised climbs have their moments but there’s nothing fierce. The Alto Estacas de Trueba is gradual and gentle at 3-4% most of the way while the Puerto de la Braguía is steeper but still not much to suit the climbers. The Alto del Caracol – more of which below – is a touch harder but it’s still far from the finish to provide a launchpad to the finish line.
The Finish: more irregular than the lumpy profile above already suggests, the final kilometres rise and fall at with some steep gradients at times. It’s all in a park… but the Parque de Cabárceno is a former iron mine and now hosts wild animals.
The Scenario: a breakaway seems most likely if not certain. It’s a course that’s neither sprint not summit finish and the main GC teams will be happy to let a non-threatening group go up the road.
Even if a break is clear watch to see if any of the GC contenders take a flyer in the final moments to gain time. Maybe Chris Froome spots a hippo and feels at home?
The Contenders: Philippe Gilbert is the default pick because he’s coming into form and could win from the breakaway or a “bunch sprint” from a reduced group. A similar story for John Degenkolb, I think he’s chances are more reduced as he’s less likely to break clear but he could clean up in a sprint. But trying to pick a rider today is a lottery, enjoy the unpredictability of it all.
|Alessandro de Marchi, Ryder Hesjedal
|Haas, L-L Sanchez, Sicard, Degenkolb, Domont, Matthews
TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time.
Daily Díaz: Today’s last categorised climb is Alto del Caracol (km 151,5) which has featured several times in the Vuelta. About 10 kilometers long at an average 5,5%, it is far from being the hardest of the race, but it has a funny name for a mountain pass. Why funny? Caracol means “snail”. Hopefully riders will not resemble caracoles on their way to the top, but one thing you may not know is that snails are often eaten in Spain. In Valencia, where I come from, you can have them on their own (with tomato sauce), or mixed with rice (what many people know as paella). By the way, if you feel like eating a “paella”, I hope you have strong teeth: paella is the pan where you cook the rice, not the dish itself. Anyway, if you order a “paella” for lunch, no one will misunderstand you.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel