Vuelta Stage 21 Preview

The End. A final time trial but that’s so short it should be labelled an epilogue. The overall classification is unlikely to change and instead the suspense is reserved for the stage winner. For once this is a time trial held in the absence of Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara.

Stage 20 Wrap: the first five overall finished the stage in the same order. The Puerto de Ancares delivered a confirmation rather than a selection but it was satisfying to see. Joaquim Rodriguez took a risk with an early move on the climb and later Chris Froome tried repeated attacks and in different forms, whether his seated spin-up or the more traditional out of the saddle jumps. This was far removed from the disappointing Tourmalet showdown between Contador and Andy Schleck.

The Route: an urban course around Santiago de Compostella. Apologies if you know it already because the TV will remind you again but town is famous a place of pilgrimage and this time the cyclists come. It’s near flat but just enough to make riders think about their gears and with seven roundabouts on the course they need to pick their lines too. After yesterday saw the Puerto de Ancares prise apart the time gaps it’s hard to see any upsets today, barring accidents.

The Contenders: a time trial without Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara. The big specialist remaining is Adriano Malori of Movistar. Still he’s an unknown quantity after the best part of a month spent riding in service of others. Team mate Jonathan Castroviejo is a short distance specialist but again how will he fare after three weeks? It could be the perfect ending to the Vuelta where he took the red jersey on the opening day.

There are some good specialists going off early and they could benefit from better conditions if it starts raining. The course isn’t all that technical but every second counts over such a short distance. Think David Millar, Jimmy Engoulvent, Gert Jõeäär, Maciej Bodnar. However the early starters are there for a reason, namely they’re shot from three weeks of racing. If they weren’t then they’d turn their engines towards breakaways, as we’ve seen with Rohan Dennis and Bob Jungels, two picks for today. Neither has won big but they’re full of promise and have to land a big win soon.

Otherwise Alberto Contador and Chris Froome could each thrive, both are fast and more importantly fresh.

Adriano Malori, Rohan Dennis
Alberto Contador, Chris Froome
Jesse Sergent, Kristof Vandewalle
Castroviejo, Ludvigsson, Bodnar, Millar

TV: the stage finishes around 8.30pm Euro time or roughly three hours later than usual. As ever it’s in reverse GC order.

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 Vuelta organisers have chosen a symbolic place to finish: the Plaza del Obradoiro (Praza do Obradoiro in Galician, the local language) is the last stop in the Camino de Santiago (“Way of Saint James”), one of the most important pilgrimage routes in the world. In a holy year, when July 25th is on Sunday, over 2,500,000 pilgrims can make it to Santiago de Compostela. Not all of them walk (or ride a bike, or a horse) the same distance, though: the French Way starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port (769 km to Santiago) in South-Western France; crosses the Pyrenees and arrives to Roncesvalles (744 km) in Navarre; is joined by the Aragonese Way in Puente La Reina (677 km); Logroño (605 km), Burgos (480 km) and León (301,5 km) come before Ponferrada (197 km), where the World Championships will be held; Pedrafita do Cebreiro (144 km) is the first Galician village, and a popular starting point.
A final big thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local knowledge, some of which has gone around the world and featured on TV at times too. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel

The End, Part II: an epilogue for David Millar’s career. He started his pro career as a stagiaire with Cofidis in 1997, a longevity that’s seen him see everything pro cycling’s done in the past two decades. There’s been scandal and redemption along the way but much more too, all of which might be worth a mention in a separate post in due course.

21 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 21 Preview”

  1. I’m looking forward to your David Millar retrospective.He’s had a Hell of a ride. There are many interesting tales of miles and styles there.Plus,shoes.

  2. Andrew Talansky, Wilco Kelderman and Kiryienka are all Top 10 finishers in the short 10.4k course in the Criterium du Dauphine this year. Kelderman may be the freshest since Gesink dropped out whereas Kiryienka and Talansky have been working hard for Froome and Dan Martin, respectively. Froome was the winner that day, and he will likely be flying on today’s course just to shave more time off Contador.

    The man in red really has no pressure than to just stay upright on his bike, as Froome is too far back to be a threat. Contador rode a spectacular race, as did his closest rivals. This is a Vuelta to remember!

  3. Do you think that Nieve bonking on Ancares took the sting out of Sky’s plan for attack?? It seemed that Froome had to take control too early…

    I hope that TdF 2015 is not a let down as this year and we have a great battle between the big four. Do you think that Sagan’s green jersey aspirations will be difficult to handle together with aiming for yellow?

    • Not sure, Froome had to take over at the point where he did if he wanted to try something. Leave it much later and he’d run out of the first steep section meaning only the last ramps were left and not enough road to take back any time if – big if – he could have cracked Contador.

      As for Sagan, the points system is due to change with more rewards for the stage winners so he’ll have it harder vs Kittel. But he doesn’t need a big lead out. I’ll be interested to see how he gets on for the whole year, he’s on a huge contract and presumably surrounded by people flattering him, will he be hungry enough to win? Not just by training but the tactics, he threw away a few races this year.

  4. Let’s see what the Trek duo have to say about it – they didn’t have much team obligations to lose their energy to. All-in-all it’s a technical TT with a chance of rain after three weeks of racing, so, surprise surprise

    And bytheway, as this is my comment at INRNG – thank you very much! Your writings and posts are very good, interesting and entertaining.

  5. Has there been any news of about the yob who threw the branch at Froome inside the last 700 meters (right before contradors attack) of the Saturday stage?
    The pained look on Froomes face as he looked at the yob was indescribable, I believe under UK law the yob could be done for assault with intent.

    • There’s a video from a different perpective of what happened on (sorry, I can’t look for the direct link right now, but presently it’s in the homepage).

      And, yes, he was a yob, but not the kind we were thinking about.
      Hard may it be to believe, the man was *hitting the ground* with a branch in an attempt to make noise (well, note that he apparently had a loudspeaker, too) or just in a burst of demented excitement. Incredibly similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey’s opening scene.
      The branch broke, and a piece flew away totally out of control just to reach the unlucky Froome.

      So I guess that if Froome was seeing what happened his look was likely to mean “WTF?!?”. I know that Froomey wouldn’t use these words, but, in fact, it was just a gaze 😛
      “Assault with intent” is out of question, but something like “causing danger in a public event” (or whatever may exist like that) should be fit and well-deserved. The man is easy to identify. Besides the danger of hitting a rider’s eyes, the stick could end up in a chain or in the wheels: quite a literal staging of the Italian saying “mettere i bastoni fra le ruote” 🙂

      The only consolation is that it wasn’t an act of violence and hatred but only of utter stupidity. The first would have been unusual in cycling fans (even if not at all a novelty), the second is becoming more and more common, so statistics are safe.

  6. A very satisfying Vuelta, some great stages – lacked a standout stage liked the Giro or Tour, but full marks for consistently good and positive racing. Looking forward to seeing the Tour route, roll on 15

  7. Would you mind explaining in which respect you found the 2010 Tourmalet showdown between Contador and Andy Schleck “disappointing”. Just to prevent any misunderstanding on my side.

      • Thanks!

        I saw Andy then trying at least as often as Froome did now. But Contador matched him easily and Schleck was acclerating much smoother than Froome so you had to watch more closely.
        But the difference was that Berto did not want to beat him to the line. I think he felt superior and tried to compensate somehow for Chaingate. And Schleck had never managed to humiliate Contador before so there was no need for revenge.

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