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.
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.