Vuelta Stage 2 Preview

The race begins for real and there’s no soft introduction, this is a mini-mountain stage with a summit finish.

BMC Racing

Stage 1 Wrap: a team time trial without times nor trials. Given the seaside setting perhaps the riders would have preferred to stop for an ice cream, a beer or some sangria? Some could have with several teams visibly riding the course rather than racing it and Europcar, last and by almost a full minute, could have worn sombreros instead of aero helmets. BMC Racing won the stage and put Peter Velits into red, the Slovak escaping the shadow of Peter Sagan for a moment. But does it matter? Yes because BMC get a stage win already. While other teams coasted along the coast did BMC force the pace to take an early win and take risks because they’re nervous about the condition of van Garderen? We’ll learn plenty today.

The Route: it’s all about the final climb. The roads along the way don’t have too many obstacles, the Alto above Ardales is just 5km at 4.4% and not as spiky as it looks on the profile above but it is up and down for a lot of the day.

The Finish: 4.7km at 6.5% but as the profile shows the gradient varies. It’s narrow, barely wide enough for two cars to pass and steep too with 8-10% from the 3km to go sign and this makes it selective, they will hit this with speed so being on a wheel still means energy savings but it’s all about being on the right wheel and trying to come around riders is a big extra use of energy. It doesn’t show it above but it flattens out for the finishing straight.

The Contenders: the sharp climb suits punchy riders but this is a sustained effort rather than a sprint and we’ll see who is ready to fight for the overall win almost immediately today. Indeed picking a winner today is as hard as picking a winner for the overall, it’s hard to know who is in form and who isn’t.

The safe pick is Dani Moreno, the Katusha rider won two mountain stages of the Vuelta a Burgos and he thrives on the steep climbs but today’s finish with its almost flat run to the line doesn’t suit him, he’ll have to strike early. Joaquim Rodriguez is suited to a climb like this too but we don’t know his state of form. If Alejandro Valverde is still there he can sprint past them both in the final 200 metres.

Among the other GC riders Fabio Aru should have that zip in his legs and the added motivation of becoming Astana’s capo or leader. Sergio Henao is another uphill finish expert, he was looking solid in the Tour of Poland but not sparkling and it’ll be interesting to see how Chris Froome fares, his bid for the Tour de France included a strong ride up the Mur de Huy.

Dan Martin can win a stage like this but he’s the erratic sort, capable of winning the biggest races going from stages in the Tour to Liège… but often not much more. Team mate Andrew Talansky has shown he can punch through for the win in the past but not this year so far.

If Dan Martin is tipped then Simon Gerrans could snipe the win… if only we know his form. He’s not raced since crashing out of the Tour de France so don’t bet a peseta on him but do watch him especially if he’s hanging with the best. Can Peter Sagan hang in there? Probably not, he’ll have to be in peak condition to make it and hope the main teams don’t force the pace. Yet we’re likely to see the main teams in formation as each tries to place their leader near the front coming into the climb.

Alejandro Valverde, Dani Moreno
Joaquim Rodriguez, Fabio Aru, Dan Martin, Sergio Henao

Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 28°C

TV: the Alto de Ardales is at 4.30pm Euro time and the finish comes at 5.30pm. Tune it by 5.00pm to watch the teams jostle for position in the approach to the final climb.

It’s on Eurosport too and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: The King’s little pathway? The current king’s great grandfather, Alfonso XIII, crossed this walkway in 1921 for the inauguration of a nearby dam. It has been pointed as one of the most dangerous hiking trails in the world (Hua Shan in miniature, if you like). The views are spectacular, and unexpected if you imagine Southern Spain as a desert. This is the hinterland of the Sun Coast, a country of bandits, shepherds, hippies and hikers (INRNG: and cyclists on training camps). The Caminito re­opened earlier this year after some extensive repairs. You can visit for free, but need to book in advance as there’s a limit to how many people can visit it at once. See it at youtube.

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

34 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 2 Preview”

  1. This sums up why the Veulta has been such an exciting race over the last few years.. it’s just so difficult to call. Whilst I love all pre race chat and predictions for the tour, I love that everyone’s form is so unknown in Spain. I really hope this will be another vintage Veulta..

  2. Looking forward to today after Saturday’s shambles. I’m still not quite sure what to think about the TTT but as a race organiser, you really don’t want to be a figure of fun. Goodness knows what the sponsors think.

  3. The TTT was very strange as it didn’t even do a good job of showing off the area on TV, the whole thing was a mess, god knows what they were thinking? Roll on the real racing.

      • Cycling could learn a lot from F1 where the Podium and Press Conference is all done within 15 minutes of the race finish! Ok the Green Jersey can sometimes finish 30 minutes down on mountain stages, but the other Jerseys’ should be presented and interviewed as soon as they finish. Keeping fans hanging around endlessly is not good.

  4. Watched half of yesterday’s stage then gave up. I am all for different surfaces but that was a mess.

    Agree with the comments above. At last some road bikes on real Tarmac!

    • There is something very interesting about the fact that no one raised concerns about the TTT course until a couple of days before. Whilst I don’t want cycling to be ‘any other sport’ I can’t imagine this happening with any other high profile event – just look at the uproar about the 2022 World Cup and the concerns about heat. I’d argue that this is exactly where the pro teams need to start to impose a level of professionalism and ensure that someones attempt to add excitement and spectacle can be difficult but is actually appropriate.

      • The course was still being constructed until a few days ago, so recon wasn’t possible. Of course, teams possibly should have looked at the map that was published (also quite recently) which showed a nice red line where there clearly weren’t any roads.

      • The amount of road furniture was frightening. It would have made for a great ITT course, but a TTT with the change of front man, and everyone going full gas – too dangerous.

  5. Re: the Caminito del Rey, they’ve recently restored the pathway to make it more appealing to tourists. It’s an amazing place. Definately put it on your “to visit” list.
    Was lucky enough to do it before they restored it last year. It was proper sketchy! El Chorro is a great rock climbing destination.

  6. Hi INRNG.

    Apologies if I have missed it but do you have a preview of the whole race (stage profiles, dates etc)?

    Thanks, this stage 2 profile could give us some decent time gaps already after just one “proper” stage.

  7. I was a little shocked by how low on their target list this Vuelta appears to be for Etixx.
    They’ve admitted that they’re only present for, basically, the breakaway and bits and pieces opportunities and camera time here and there.
    An Etixx / MTN Qhubeka breakaway in tandem today ?
    Caught by the Sky train-inspired pack with 20km to go, with GC teams jostling for position for the final climb, thereafter who knows. I suspect Rodriguez may have done some serious recon on this, so perhaps plump for him.

    • yeah, i was surprised about how weak theyre squad is. In terms of top tens for this years, out of 29 people in the etixx team, they’ve brought numbers:

      9, 10, 15, 19, 20, 21, 22, 26, 28

      6 of the bottom 10…Not a very strong team at all

  8. I’m fancying it could be an opportunity for one of the youngsters to take a pop at it today, I’ve a few in mind who I think will shine this Vuelta.

  9. “The Route: it’s all about the final climb.” – too many stages of this year’s Vuelta fit that. People seem to find it exciting, but for me it gets a bit formulaic – so many stages end with a final blast up the last few kms. A wider variety of stages – chiefly, at least one or two long stages with a few mountains immediately following each other – produces a tougher test, favours a greater number of riders and should produce more interesting racing as riders seek to exploit the parcours that suits them.
    Having time bonuses at the end further increases the likelihood of riders sitting and waiting for the final sprint, rather than going on long range attacks.

  10. Does anyone else suspect that Nibali thought ‘Form’s not good, don’t want to spend three long weeks working for Aru, if I hang on to this car I’ll be out’?

    A lot of riders seem to have turned up lacking in form. Still can’t understand the mentality of someone like Froome choosing to make a few more hundred grand he doesn’t need doing the – frankly embarrassing – criteriums, rather than really trying to win the Vuelta with optimum preparation.
    But judging by today, it seems even less clear who will win.

    • That’s highly improbable, I think. Shefer and Martinelli were in that car. It was most probably them who called him to do so. You can see how the car accelerates once Nibali attaches to the mirror or the sticky bottle. If it was Nibali’s idea and Martinelli oder Shefer were against it Shefer would not have accelerated.
      As a racer in the heat of the battle you do a some things you would rather not do in hindsight.
      I think it was quite the opposite of what you’re supposing, J. He did not want his bid for glory in the Vuelta to end on the second stage again after that’s what happened to him in the TdF also because of a crash which was not his fault.

      • I don’t think Nibali was as calculating as to try and get DQ’d but this is probably the best thing for him. At this stage in his career, I don’t think he needs another Vuelta title, and the fact he came in such a top heavy Astana team seemed quite odd. He’d be better focussing on trying to become a double Giro winner next spring or alternatively salvaging his season by winning the rainbow jersey. He is the only one of the GT big guns -unless we count Valverde in that bracket- who is any good as a one day racer. As for who the Astana top dog is now, I noted Luis Leon Sanchez was up there today too, and actually this parcours with most of the climbing in the first ten days and a less gruelling final week suits him better than anyone else in the team. He can’t get onto the podium but is in with a chance of top 10 because I think both Aru and Landa peaked for and were motivated for the Giro.

      • I was just assuming that he wouldn’t do something to extraordinarily stupid – you’re almost certain to be caught and everyone knows that’s an automatic expulsion.

        • Right! In his position as a possible GC-Contender he and his DS should have been aware that most probably there was a camera watching him closely on his way back into the peloton. Therefore it was a very risky, even silly move especially from Shefer/Martinelli. Nibali was certainly going at close to 100% at that time so at least I can understand why he did not say “No” when Shefer offered him a bottle.
          On the other hand I’m pretty sure that further back in the peloton where there’s no camera “pulls” like this still happen each and every day. And if (nearly) everybody or every team benefits from it over the course of a three week race no competitor will accuse a rider of cheating when he witnesses a maneuver like this because he knows that he might also have a bad day at some point and might still make it to the finish in time “with a little help from my friends” 😉

  11. I cannot agree that Nibali’s punishment was “harsh”. Put yourself in the cleats of the guys he got towed away from. You could almost see them cease pedalling in unison out of shock at the audacity of it. It was an outrageous bit of cheating. Plus, Nibali’s got form – I witnessed him do exactly the same thing in the Worlds RR in Florence. He should have been kicked out then too. How ironic he made that snippy reference to Froome’s exclusion from the Giro the other day for the same offence in 2010 (but in entirely different circumstances (Froome was going to be a DNF anyway)).

  12. If He was not kicked out, penalizing him 20 seconds would not be fair enough. Penalizing him a minute or more would have been more appropriate.

    Hanging on and NOT accelerating may be a 20 second penalty.

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