Vuelta Stage 15 Preview

The Vuelta’s status as the third grand tour is explained by several factors and one is the lack of identifiable climbs that have entered into legend and mythology thanks to repetition over the years. Today’s stage is as close as we get and maybe in time people will talk about the Lagos de Covadonga like they do the Stelvio or Alpe d’Huez? But never mind the future or the past it’s the present day that offers the most interest.

Stage 14 Wrap: Ryder Hesjedal won overhauling Oliver Zaugg in the final metres of a climb that was part bike-race, part leg-press contest. I’ve consistently thought Hesjedal’s been too big to thrive on the steep climbs – but he surprises and won the Giro because he coped fine with each stage that looked too steep.

Behind the GC contenders hit the final climb… too hard. Early attacks saw Chris Froome “dropped” only for him to reel in his rivals like tired fish and he ended up taking time on them on this climb. It’s still to early to say Froome is looking stronger but he was wiser… with hindsight  because climbing at your own pace also see rivals collaborate to ride off up the road. Today will tell us plenty, tomorrow even more.

We saw several riders who only appear in the late season. Zaugg and Alexandr Kolobnev for example. It was also another advert for power meters. Swashbuckling attacks? Searing accelerations? It might look good on TV and the sport might need it for the sake of keeping an audience but those who accelerated on the final climb found themselves decelerating later on too. Both Chris Froome and Ryder Hesjedal played it steady and their more linear efforts paid off.

The Route: for a mountain stage it’s flat. A start in Oviedo then through that most sporting of cities Gijón and along the coast. The Puerto del Torno looks small but don’t ignore it, it’s an irregular climb with steep sections.

The Finish: then comes the climb to the Lagos de Covadonga. Saying it’s the Spanish Alpe d’Huez is a travesty because it’s nothing like it. Yes both are relative recent new additions and both are uphill but the similarities end. The Alpe is a regular road and engineered while the road to Covadonga is irregular.

The Scenario: another breakaway? Yes but the kind of riders who can take time during the flat part of the stage are those who’ll lose it during the final climb. However the final climb is short so a solid breakaway can survive or at least some elements.

The Contenders: each of the GC contenders has their story and scenario:

  • Alberto Contador is getting better day by day. A touch prone to attacking and accelerating he’s still in the commanding position
  • Alejandro Valverde might be expected to fade given he’s been on the boil since the Tour de France and the Clasica San Sebastian plus the longer the climb the worse he fares
  • Chris Froome is pacing himself well and could poach time towards the end
  • Joaquim Rodriguez might find the irregular slopes are ideal for him but he’s yet to look imperious in this race
  • Rigoberto Uran is almost a better time triallist than a climber these days and could find this climb too awkward
  • Fabio Aru is a big talent for the future but prone to inconsistency for the moment

The safest picks are Contador and Froome

Alberto Contador, Chris Froome
Joaquim Rodriguez, Fabio Aru, Daniel Navarro
Alejandro Valverde
Arredondo, Anacona

TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time. Tune in for the final hour with the last climb expected from 5.20 onwards if they’re on the forecast schedule.

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: If the Vuelta lacks the mythology of the Tour, it can partly be explained by one fact: during the Tour, one stage will always be raced on July 14th, the French national day, while the Spanish national day, October 12th, has never been a racing day. The lakes of Covadonga, however, is the most similar there is to a national day during the Vuelta. It appeared for the first time in 1983, and has been a nearly constant presence ever since. Why is Covadonga such an important place? According to Spanish nationalist mythology, this is where the Reconquista began. And what does Reconquista mean? It is the historical period during which the Northern Christians “reconquered” the ancient Roman Hispania from the Southern muslims, from 718/722 to 1492 AD.

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

19 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 15 Preview”

  1. “Swashbuckling attacks? Searing accelerations? It might look good on TV and the sport might need it for the sake of keeping an audience.” For me, it’s the difference between those riders who like to attack up the climbs and those who produce “linear efforts” which keep me interested. If all riders were like Purito, Contador etc the sport would be worse for it.

    • I agree – The latins attacks with the heart, the anglosaxons with their brains (over-simplified, i know)

      But impressive by Froome and even more so Heysadal –

      one thing that have been annyong me during this vuelta – is the Guardia civils “crowd control” thier black-clad and physical intimidating style towards animating cycling fans – is a thorn in my eye…

      • Opposite is true. I’m no fan of the post-fascist Guardia, but I wished there were such security measurements at Giro and the Tour and that someone stop that effin siderunners and costumed pricks from bringing real danger to riders for their own satisfaction. If people lost their senese what is good and what is bad behaviour, they have to be curbed

        • @vitus,
          We disagree on this one, – siderunners make my toes curl aswell…
          but from my sofa – seems unnesesary use of force when many fans just steps forward to cheer –
          in my point of view the bigger crowds at the Giro & the Tour – versus the ammount of accidents I dont think it justifies their behavior/style – would be interesting to hear rider comments on the issue though…

  2. A real cincerted effort from the Skybteam put a relatively fresh Froome at the bottom of the climb yesterday, and then he rode brilliantly, appearing again and again… hare and tortoise! Probably Sky’s best day in a GT this season.
    More of the same over the next two days and the top step on the podium may yet be contested. Froome is adept at managing expectations downwards but in his heart…

  3. An excruciating looking climb to finish the day yesterday, felt breathless watching the guys winch themselves up the slopes.

    Great win for Hesjedal but even more exciting for me was the 5th place for Louis Meintjes a South African youngster with huge potential.

    Hopefully with this performance team MTN Qhubeka will crack the nod for more GT wild cards.

  4. “It’s live on Eurosport”

    Not if you subscribe to British Eurosport. Instead you can watch 2 hours of 8 laps around Liverpool.

    It’s good to see British Eurosport’s support for illegal feeds.

  5. Seems it’s down to the “4 amigos” we saw contest the 2012 edition. We only miss Nibali (and of course Quintana). Too bad Wiggo is living an era when GT routes penalise him so bad.

  6. Per my usual late comments post-stage, living across the pond has its disadvantages when it comes to races in Europe (for me). I get up early to read the live text updates of each stage, which in itself is pure frustration without the visual race in front of me, but such is life right now.

    Surprised that Valverde has really hung in there, didn’t think he would on the steep climbs, but he seems to be riding into better form. Now down only 31 secs from AC, what will he do tomorrow? Froome still surprising to me how he yo-yos back and forth…just when you think he might drop off the back he gets a burst of energy and comes roaring back. And Purito is right there with the man in red when it counts.

    As if intended to kill off riders, tomorrow’s 16.5 kilometer finish might just do that. Three tough days in a row, these guys are more than impressive. Tomorrow and Stage 20 are the final big climbs to take time from Contador. Don’t think AC will give up his red jersey, but if he and Valverde, Froome and Purito are even closer on time after Stage 20, next Sunday’s short TT might be very decisive. No doubt Chris Froome hasn’t forgotten that. Typically, Froome would leave his GC mates in the dust on a TT, and if his form is now indeed better, then the final day could be a real nail-biter! But first, he’s still 1:20 down at this point, so won’t jump the gun.

    Fantastic Vuelta this has been!

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