Vuelta Stage 16 Preview

After two summit finishes a third one with a difference because today’s stage is a full mountain stage with four mountain passes to clear before the final climb of La Farrapona.

Stage 15 Wrap: the last survivor of the breakaway Przemysław Niemiec took the stage win with a few seconds to spare over the chasing GC contenders. The broad-shouldered Pole had been an outsider for the top-10 but taking one of the most prestigious stages of the race will be an enormous satisfaction for him and the team who’ve managed to make amends for the embarrassment of Chris Horner’s non-start.

Lower down the mountain events looked confusing with Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde distancing all their rivals, Chris Froome included. Warren Barguil was a catalyst, his repeated attacks stirring others in moving and he’s now in the top-10 overall while Dan Martin is climbing up the GC too.

It was like watching a martial arts film with attack after attack and Alberto Contador was the most aggressive. His rehab now has him doing hill intervals but he did one too many and in the sprint for the line lost time twice over, first he was distanced and second he missed a time bonus. It’s good to see him trying but as race leader you half-expected him to force the others into errors. He has the attacking instinct just as the scorpion stings the frog in the parable, it can’t help itself. If it was mistake, it only cost a handful of seconds to Valverde. On a similar scale Chris Froome was dropped but lost seven seconds. His pacing on the steep sections of the climb was steady but it was hard to take time on a trio during the flatter sections.

The Route: the saw-tooth profile shows this is a royal mountain stage with several climbs to tackle before the final summit finish. As much as you see the y-axis, note the x-axis or the distance. It’s just 160km and in the Giro or Tour this would be a sharp, zinging stage. Unlike the Tour the mid-stage climbs are awkward with frequent double-digit gradients, the averages in the table above don’t do them justice. The penultimate climb of the Puerto de San Lorenzo has a final five kilometres at well over 10% with sections at 13%. Then it’s onto La Farrapona, last climbed in 2011.

The Finish: the profile should speak for itself. A rolling start before a steep section after 5km, enough to start ejecting riders from a group but the descent and flat section allows the leaders to hide their game in the slipstream of others. But it’s the final five kilometres that are the most selective, it’s a large and well-surfaced road. The slope eases to the line and the gradient is well below 8% for the final moments.

The Scenario: another stage with two stories, one for the stage win and another for the overall contenders? Possibly but anyone going clear early needs to be climbing well from the start so they’re likely sitting high on GC already. The final climb today is hard but only its upper slopes are to be feared but the San Lorenzo is tough and enough to break up any breakaway.

John Degenkolb went away yesterday to bag points, today we could see Luis-Leon Sanchez do the same for the mountains competition as Valverde is on 28 points and Sanchez close on 26.

The Contenders: Alejandro Valverde coped well with yesterday’s stage, even clawing back some time on Alberto Contador. But can he cope with multiple climbs? If so then the way the slope eases before the line makes him a strong candidate for the win.

Alberto Contador has an attacking instinct and could get his chance but he’ll have to go clear on the steep sections and so far his attacks have provided great TV but few gains.

Joaquim Rodriguez is looking solid and well-supported… but no more. He’s still in the front group, the very best but it’s just relative to the others he’s to finding it hard to gain time. Can he get a podium place before Sunday?

Alejandro Valverde, Alberto Contador
Joaquim Rodriguez, Chris Froome
Fabio Aru
L-L Sanchez, Hesjedal, Anacona

TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time. Tune on from 4.20pm for the Puerto San Lorenzo and 5.10 for the final climb.

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 Spanish word of the day is carbón , “coal”). In the regions of Asturias and León large deposits were found in the 19th century. During the Industrial Revolution this usually meant you would have factories near the energy sources, but Spanish industrialisation had its specifics: coal would be shipped to England, then used to make steel, then back to Spain to build railroads (Spain was somehow a British or French economic colony back then). If Spain has a “rust belt”, it can be found in the North-West: coal mining and related activities used to employ much more people than they do nowadays, which translates into social unrest as jobs disappear. How to fix this? The environment provides some answers: cattle breeding is a traditional quality alternative, and the natural landscapes attract some tourism.

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

21 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 16 Preview”

  1. I think Froome may have to try something different today. You made the point yesterday, that if the other top GC contenders collaborate, they could put Froome out of contention. The “steady state” effort has been working up to now but I don’t think Contador or Valverde will make the same mistake twice.

    Then again, Valverde or Purito have no interest in dragging Contador to the line.

    • In the end, the time gaps are still too close for people to start cooperating with each other for a supposed “greater goal,” which is good for us as viewers of course!

  2. Cheng Ji: lantern rouge, often seen in front of the pack, reeling in breakaways so that his sprinter can have a go at the line

    Carlos Betancur: last in the race, often seen in the back of the room, reeling in pasta and donuts so that there is less food wasted

    They both serve a purpose in the peloton.

      • I personally think it is completely unfair on the rest of AG2R to have Betancur meandering at the back of the race for three weeks – even if he does need a grand tour in the legs for next season, or if the team are keeping him in the race as some sort of punishment.

        If I was a young rider on the team I would be livid that an out of shape (to say the least) Betancur got a ride instead of me. If the team is looking at the bigger picture with Betancur couldn’t they rather look at the bigger picture with a young rider who would actually like to be at races?

  3. OK, bonkers idea coming up…

    Could Froome be sandbagging? Sky experimenting with a different tactic as they don’t have much to loose. Instead of making the running, Froome does his ITT up the mountains routine, expending less energy than he would normally. Then today, on the Queen stage, he rips the race up and puts in a minute to them all?

    I can’t believe he is sandbagging, but I’m struggling to understand what else Sky are up to. Even Bobby Jullich on the ITV (UK) summary programme couldn’t explain it.

    • He’d also have to have practiced having a red face and looking dog-tired during and after stages too. The Sky tactic seems fairly clear— firstly accepting that he’s not in shape, and therefore managing the climbs by doing them at a constant power instead of wasting energy on attacks which he won’t win. Whether anything comes of it depends on how much energy the others end up wasting and how close they fall to his performance level, but honestly he has nothing to lose anyway due to his poor form in a normal mode of combat so they might as well try.

    • I admire innovation, so give Sky credit for that. I hope, however, riding to the power meter doesn’t catch on. The Contador-Valverde battle is so much more entertaining!

      • I can’t see it myself, but it would be remarkable if Froome went off up the road on today’s stage after his tactics in the last two weeks of racing only against his power meter. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it.

        Interesting too to see Barguil criticise Froome this morning for not racing his rivals, instead watching his SRM.

  4. Looking at the weather forecast as shown above and it indicates the possibility of lightning on the final climb. What would happen in this event? Presumably the race would be stopped, for rider safety. Are there any precedents for this?

  5. The top 3 don’t have a need to drop froome but I don’t understand why puerto isn’t pushing the pace every time he falls off the pace to cement his podium position

  6. I’m increasingly convinced the main commentator for SBS (or someone passing him notes) is a fan of the Inner Ring; they’ve quoted the facts presented in the Daily Díaz pretty much verbatim the past three stages running. How about a shout-out? 😀

  7. Contadorrrrrrrrr!! Like a bullet shot from a gun, he flew up the steeps like a man possessed! Froome gave his all but it was no match for El Pistolero! All of ACs rivals are distanced now to the point that this may be a one-man race. Thank God a rest day mañana!

    Puerto de Ancares is the final “let’s try to kill anyone who is left” stage. Tough, tough race.

    Valverde and Froome just 3 seconds apart, but perhaps too much time this late in the game to make a difference, even with the TT on Sunday. Contador is too fired up to lose this race now. And Purito has lost too much time and likely won’t podium now. Not a Froome fan, but he rode into form that I didn’t expect to see, so that’s a notch on his buckle for him.

    Still wondering how Quintana would have fit in this GC. I think he would have given AC another tough challenge besides Froome and maybe the podium could have turned out: Contador, Quintana, Froome.

    • Not just another challenge, but a wholly different challenge, since Quintana’s tactics are generally way different from what we saw till now, that is, way different both from the weird Froome experiment and the carbon copy suck & attack style of the Spanish pair.

  8. Agree with all of the previous few posts, got to give Froome credit for riding on to the podium.

    would of should of could of, Quintana is an unknown variable but we can only guess that he would of been in the mix.

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