Vuelta Stage 12 Preview

The peloton turns its back on Andorra and the climbing today is gentle. But will the racing be easy? That’s up to the riders and we could get a wrestling match between the sprinters’ teams and a breakaway.

Stage 11 Wrap: it was a hard stage but it wasn’t great to watch. Right from the start a big move went clear and others bridged across. Romain Sicard the highest on GC and Mikel Landa disobeying team orders. Over the next 130km this was reduced until Landa was solo and on his way to the stage win.

Things did happen behind, an early crash for Chris Froome had him hobbling and once he got back on the bike he took a long time to make it back to the peloton, even with his hare-vs-tortoise pacing method this was slow and something wasn’t right. Sky rode on the front but it looked like show, a bluff and TV images seemed to show Froome getting pills, presumably a painkiller or anti-inflammatory from the race medic and went for X-rays in the evening (update: he’s out of the race)

We got a glimpse of a tactical ploy when Movistar’s Imanol Erviti and Katusha’s Alberto Losada sat up in the break and were joined by Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez and Dani Moreno on the tricky descent of the Coll de la Gallina, a classic relay move and a rare sighting of a Spanish alliance, often talked about but very rare. It came to nothing as they were reeled in.

On the final climb Fabio Aru attacked with 7.5km to go. Anyone who’d been watching the whole stage would have found this late in the day but it was relatively early given how slow everyone looked. Only the Sardinian appeared more energetic, his body rocking to a high cadence while the others, including Nairo Quintana, looked to be pedalling treacle. Aru rode away to put 35 seconds plus a time bonus into Moreno and now leads the race with 27 seconds on Rodriguez and 30 on Dumoulin. Is Dumoulin going to “do a Hesjedal” and each day we expect him to crack he’ll soldier on? There are some very difficult stages to come before the time trial so once again anything he does is a bonus.

It might not have been a riveting watch but it was a decisive day. Sky and Movistar now look out of the running for the red jersey with Valverde almost two minutes down, Quintana at three and Chris Froome at over seven minutes. How far will Aru go? He’s taken time on the two summit finishes now and if this continues then he won’t have to worry about the time trial.

Finally Sergio Paulinho was taken out by a motorbike on the day Tinkoff-Saxo published an “open letter” calling for improved safety following Peter Sagan being run off the road by a motorbike. Oleg Tinkov added to the noise with ranting tweets about a boycott which would only harm his riders. Rafał Majka sits in fourth place and won last year’s Tour of Poland on the back of a surprisingly good time trial, a podium awaits if he can persuade the boss and avoid moto mayhem.

The Route: the Col de Bóixols is 15.8km at 5% and steady all the way, much like the rest of the stage.

The Finish: a long flat, straight run into town. The profile above shows an uphill rise to the line but the roadbook’s location for the finish is a flat section several hundred metres after this rise. Which is right? There’s a railway bridge to ride over and then the drag up, a test of momentum and being in the right gear. It’s not as steep as the finish in Alcalá de Guadaíra won by Caleb Ewan but it could ruin a few chances if riders are caught out.

The Contenders: can John Degenkolb get that elusive stage win? He’s been consistent in narrow defeats and lost out the other day to Kristian Sbaragli. Now there are even fewer sprinters in the race with the absence of Caleb Ewan. Sbaragli will be confident and find a team ready to back him all the way. Otherwise there’s still J-J Rojas (Movistar), Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing), Kévin Reza (FDJ), Max Richeze (Lampre-Merida) and Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) hoping for that big win. Veteran Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) doesn’t sprint much these days but might fancy a brief comeback.

With even fewer sprinters left in the race means even fewer teams willing to chase. So today’s a good day for a breakaway to make it. But who? The finish lacks the obvious springboards for a win so to narrow it down there’s the brute force and youth pick of Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), the brute force and ageing Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), the wily sprinter Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quickstep) and his mate Niki Terpstra seems in good shape too. Pavel Brutt of Katusha has shown a couple of times this race too.

John Degenkolb
Sbaragli, Van Poppel, Druker, Rojas, Keisse

Weather: sunshine and some clouds with a temperature of 25°C in the plains around Lleida.

TV: you guessed it, the finish is at 5.40pm Euro time and tune into see the sprint or the fight among the breakaway for the win. As ever it’s on Eurosport too and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: Back to Spain, how many people live in the country? 46,5 millions in 2014, down from 47,2 in 2011. Where did all the missing people go? Back to the places they came from during the 1990s and the early 2000s (mainly Ibero-­American countries). The prosperity attracted immigrants for the jobs the Spaniards wouldn’t do, and the crisis has thrown them out again now things aren’t so good. It’s curious to see that even during the best years there were no less than 1,8 million unemployed people in the country. The population density is 91,9, which means Spain would have 875,000,000 inhabitants if it was as big as the USA, but only 22,000,000 if it was the size of the UK. The distribution is awkward: some coastal areas are crowded, while there are large areas very lightly populated.

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

56 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 12 Preview”

  1. Mikel Landa disobeyed team orders ?
    Naughty boy.
    That must have been an awkward dinner around the table in the Astana hotel last night.
    I would assume from this that Landa has signed to Sky for next year, though I haven’t read anything definite on that as yet ?

    Talking of Sky, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chris Froome pull out of the race today. He looked in bad shape after the stage finished.
    Great effort from Boswell yesterday by the way also. He did well to hang on so long and then rouse himself after Aru went past him.
    Dumoulin and Chaves – still there ! Good to see.
    Note that Dumoulin put almost a minute and half into Majka over a 38km ITT in the Tour de Swisse (and that was on a rather lumpy course) ; the Dutchman could yet re-emerge in red ?

    • Dumoulin is certainly not out of it yet and his mountain rivals will realise that the ITT on stage 17 is an ace up his sleeve with no mountain top finishes after it. So its only half a job done so far for Aru who I would think will feel he needs 2 or 3 mins in the bag over Tom before he can feel safer too.

      PS Froome has abandoned with a confirmed broken foot. Chapeau to him for riding “the hardest stage ever” to its completion in that case.

    • The race is not over yet, I think Aru needs at least 2 more minutes on Dumoulin to do the ITT with a safe lead. He took 1m38s on Dumouilin yesterday. 2 out of the 3 coming stages are mono climbs (or almost: the stage to alto campoo has the escudo, but very far from the last climb), so the differences won’t be huge. I however assume that it is feasible for Aru, but not that easy.
      Note has well that after the ITT there are 2 stages where it is possible -although difficult- to create differences: Riaza and the one in the sierra near madrid (the latter not very well built with the easy puerto de Cotos as last climb and then 7k flat before descending to the finish).

      • Except that Froome disobeyed orders for about 20 seconds and otherwise gave up his own chances in both the 2011 Vuelta and the 2012 Tour for Wiggins.
        Almost certainly would have won the 2011 Vuelta otherwise and who knows about the 2012 Tour.
        Neither of them came out of that situation with much dignity.

  2. Does anyone know what caused Froome to fall?

    Just like yesterday’s hyped-up “most difficult” stage, this year’s Vuelta–so far–is quite tedious to watch.

    • It wasn’t caught on camera, I think. It looked like he tried to do a Danny MacAskill and ride along a wooden roadside barrier. Unfortunately, it was more of a lack o’skill and he hit the deck. Maybe leave the tricky stuff to Sagan.

      Great ride from Landa on an otherwise relatively dull stage. Carlton Kirby on Eurosport kept banging on about him leaving Astana so I don’t think it’s a well kept secret. I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a “too hard” stage but it was obvious that a lot of the guys coming out of the TdF were struggling a bit. Mind you, if I was riding it I don’t think I would have finished yet….


      • “It wasn’t caught on camera” you correctly say…… before proceeding to assume it was all his fault.

        I see where you are coming from. *rolls eyes*

        • Hi RonDe,
          What I tried to do was cleverly combine the lack of TV coverage, the presence of a MacAskill-style obstacle and Froome’s apparent propensity for falling off a bike for, admittedly, minor and schadenfreude-laced comedic effect…..Or do you believe I actually thought he was attempting to ride along a crash barrier during a grand tour? *rolls one eye*

          “Froome’s Twitter says he was knocked sideways onto a barrier and stone wall”. There, happy now?

          I hope he makes a speedy recovery.

          • Careful Steve, criticism of Froome or SKY can quickly get you branded one of those “haters” as I well know 🙂
            I don’t understand (perhaps because he’s going to SKY) all the comments about Landa vs Aru. I heard all about this from clients arriving in Italy after the Giro. I had no idea what all the polemics were until I realized they were watching English-commentary who played up this angle non-stop. I thought Aru said yesterday went according to plan, they had a guy in the break and Aru would attack on the final climb. Aru didn’t need the stage win, he needed the time over his rivals. The puny bonus seconds would never be worth making Landa sit up and wait for Aru and would put a big dent in the team morale. While gregario Chris Froome went on to glory after serving his captain, the idea that these guys are being deprived of GT wins because of “team orders” makes me laugh. With rare exception (Paolo Bettini’s another one who comes to mind) there’s a reason these guys are helpers rather than stars. They rarely have what it takes for victory on the big stage. I doubt Landa will be much more than the next Richie Porte once in the SKY colors.

          • As brave as Froome’s ride was, one would have to be a tad credulous to believe that the fact that he never looks where he’s going had nothing to do with his crash, purely on the basis that that is what he says.

      • Not necessarily – if you have a few stages like this (e.g. the Giro), then they have to ride some of it hard. If you have only one stage like this and the rest being monoclimbs at the finish, then they can ‘ignore’ this stage.

  3. Froome’s twitter says he was knocked sideways onto a barrier and stone wall. That makes sense with the aftermath as shown on TV. He also says he’s unlikely to start today as he can’t walk without crutches. It says a lot about his ability as a rider that he didn’t abandon or loose a huge chunk of time.

  4. Landa’s stage victory was a betrayal to his team. He was 26 minutes back in GC before stage 11. If he was riding for his team, Landa should have pulled for Aru at the end. Instead, Aru had to expend extra energy, had a slower finish, and lost 4 bonus seconds. It’s like an intentional own-goal. Not sure why Astana doesn’t kick Landa out of the Vuelta.

    • I really don’t understand M.Landa. He already has to overcome the reputation of wasting his talent and it doesn’t matter, if it is really true or not-everytime he is lacking form, people will remember that and talk. Now, after loosing time and then more time, he wins the big stage and then goes public, saying that he not only didn’t care for teamorder, but also let down his teammate and with that every other rider in the team, who is working for Aru and the Vuelta-win, too. I am sure this will follow him his whole career – and not in a good way. This would be fine, if he didn’t care about a big career, but he says, he does. Yesterday isn’t helping with that and that although he won the stage! As for F.Aru: his media lesson pay off. Just like A. Contador always starts with “Bueno”, Aru always first “has to look where we stand in the GC” before he can say more.

      • Saying what he said yesterday is not very media-clever. And is not the first time that I see Landa doing “weird” things. For isntance: on the Giro’s podium he left his cap on when spanish anthem was ringing. It looked like a Basque nationalist thing, but afterwards, when polemic raised in Spain, he claimed that he just forgot to put it off. Difficult to say which version is the good one, but none of them are media-clever in any case.
        I have more and more the feeling that this guy is very talented but maybe has not the “head” of top sportman. We will see how he develops in the future.

    • He won the day and it seems Astana are delighted with the result. It’s a contrast to, say, FDJ where Boucher went in the day’s no-hope breakaway, got reeled in and could not help sprinter Démare.

      Landa couldn’t do much work for Aru on a 8-10% slope, there’s little drafting effect on the final climb.

    • I’m pretty sure (I don’t speak Italian) that Aru tweeted something congratulating Landa last night. I’m pretty sure the pros all realise its every man for himself at times. Here’s hoping Sky stick him in next year’s Giro. He’d be one of the favourites for sure.

      • +1 he was the best rider in the Giro and very unlucky.

        really don’t think it’s a big deal him disobeying any orders yesterday after winning stage.

        it must be very difficult for him going to sleep at night knowing he’d likely be a grand tour winner if he’d disobeyed earlier in the year.

        cycling’s so mad like that, no tennis player really goes to bed knowing they’d should have one if things had been different – could certainly if they’d have made that shot etc but not should – similar for a lot of cyclist I guess, Froome should be a 3xtour winner and 1xvuelta winner, Evans should likely be the most decorated cyclist of his generation were drugs less prevalent. That must be even worse.

        I guess similar with Lemond! Although more could than should after 85 > ie 87 & 88 during gun shot recovery. Could have finished a six time clean tour champion.

        Out of interest who are the greatest SHOULD HAVE’s going back pre80?

        • Not a native, but I think you should change most of your “should” with “may” 🙂

          I suspect Froome wouldn’t have won any Tour more in most credible scenarios, whereas, yes, he may have lost a very good chance to win a Vuelta, still that isn’t sure, either.
          The short time difference leads us to think that any saved effort or little time not working for Wiggo would have helped him, and I can agree on that. However, there are a couple of factor more to be considered: when you’re that close in the decisive, final stages… if you *have got* it, you *take* what you deserve. If you have the qualities, if you’re in fact superior to your rival, you really end up pushin’ that +0,01% (to say so) you may need. Besides, it’s far from sure that any previous extra effort wouldn’t have meant consequences we couldn’t really appreciate, be it some hunger knock or a lack of energy in the third week. Both circumstances not uncommon for Froome.

          Same goes for Evans – indeed a great champion, IMHO. Though, it’s not like you’d win whatever you’ve lost – if things were different – just because there’s *some* difference.
          Cadel was able to lose by himself a good number of races without any possible influence on him by supposed doping from others (moreover, and this is nothing more than a parenthesis, he’s always been considered a *cleaner* rider, and that’s fair enough, but never in the same way other *clean* riders were; maybe also because a number of not exactly irreproachable associations. I’m not saying I know he was or wasn’t clean or to what degree – no idea, really – but these are the element we have).

          Finally, Landa wasn’t the best rider, but the best “climber” in the Giro. He could hardly have got back the 3′ he needed to overcome Contador. If anything… a couple of them? And the Mortirolo stage could turn out to be worst if he was the designated captain and if he had to went to the attack alone too soon.

  5. is it just me or does it feel like no major teams are taking the vuelta seriously.

    No teams are taking a singular focus, or seeming to really invest. Eg. Doumolin pulling for delkinjob on stage 10.

    Yesterday’s stage was one of the most overhyped/ tedious stages in a long while… Even the crowds seem half baked.

    • Tinkoff Saxo and Astana have come to try to win something. Movistar and Sky have tried also but don’t have the riders to make something of it. That doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously, they just have the Tour as a higher priority.

    • Its the Vuelta.

      What was it Charly Wegelius said about the Vuelta? ‘“the crew of a pirate ship“, full of weary and unmotivated riders looking to redeem a season, “either riders didn’t want to be there or they were desperate to perform.”

  6. To bring a little sunshine into the world (even, if totally unrelated to the piece, sorry for that): Cyclingquotesnews newsquotes that Orica-Greenedge had the fastest spit in the Alberta TTT. Always good to have the fastest spit.

  7. I assume everyone made the stage 11 time cut comfortably enough?

    I think I read a preview that said it was set at 22% of the winner’s time, although I can’t find it now. If that’s the case, then anyone within an hour of Landa is ok – i.e. everyone.

  8. Underrated gutsy ride from Froome yesterday for me. He was with Geraint Thomas and looking rough on the Hors cat climb and yet finished 6minutes ahead of G at the end. Either G totally put out the anchor or Froome kept the pressure on, not just choosing to sit behind G (or Kiriyenka, Roche)….even though he knew he was in trouble (and obviously have ended up leaving the race today).

    I hope we now get to see Sky guys ride for stage wins, a very rare occurrence!

  9. Some may come to rue their lack of bravery in not riding harder to drop Dumoulin – Rodriguez for one should have learned this from the 2012 Giro.
    I was so stupified by yesterday’s 130km of nothing that I can hardly bring myself to care what happens now.

  10. Boswell’s ride to third isn’t getting much notice… indeed, ITV barely mentioned him at the time, referring to Nieve as Sky’s best placed rider on the road, and just sounding confused when Aru went past Boswell to take second on the road. It’s a big Vuelta for him and so far a good one. I guess we’ll Sky in the breaks now.

    A stage that didn’t live up to the hype. Seems incredible that in a stage like that, none of the tiny climbers could put a big Dutch TTer out of contention. Brutal mountain stages that are strangely non-selective, sprint stages that finish uphill… maybe two weeks isn’t such a bad idea?

    • Add in the heat, the many and long transfers, the moto incidents, the fatigue at the end of a long year, the many alternative races at this time of the season – reckon there’s a lot of teams and riders would agree with that.

    • Great ride indeed by Ian Boswell. He’s been quietly learning his craft at the WT level, and this year has seen him take big strides forward. That 3rd on the queen stage of ToC was a precursor to this.

    • Why was the stage non-selective? It’s selected some riders and excluded some riders – just not the ones you’d expect. Quintana and Valverde may well be out of it now. That’s quite interesting actually.

    • Jonhard, that big Dutch TTer isn’t that big at all. That’s the mistake many are making. He looks like a big guy, but he is only 70 kilos. Whilst he not a pure climber, his power to weight ratio could very well be right up there with some of the best climbers.

      • “Big Dutch TTler” is just a no brainer phrase, said by people who obviously only follow Grand Tours or have not that much cycling knowledge at all, mean typical Carlton Kirby viewers 😉
        It’s like the “Giant is a sprinter team”, completely ignoring riders like Barguil, Geschke or Dumoulin.

      • That’s all fine, and any doping innuendo is pretty out of place (after all, Dumoulin is way fresher than the rivals).

        Yet we can’t ignore the simple fact that among the 25 men which arrived before the fractured – and quite impressive – Froome, that is, within a SEVEN MINUTES time difference from Aru, only two athletes weighed about 70 kg, according to the Vuelta website [I’m leaving the breakaway out since they had an advantage and, above all, the type of effort they were performing was quite different].

        That is, only Dumoulin and… well, Jeandesboz (who is however more commonly referred to as a 67 kg rider in most sources and has established itself a decent climber on more occasions the Dumoulin; he’s 30, hence he had more time to prove that, and I’ve got no doubt that Dumoulin is a better rider, still Tom’s climbing ability haven’t been really explored until now, whereas it’s confirmed that the French can more or less climb, without being any sort of pure climber).
        Besides, Dumoulin was 1’37” back, while Jeandesboz’s delay from Aru was more than 3′.

        The average weight of those other men in that sort of top-25 of the day doesn’t even arrive at 61 kg. And we can observe that most of the “heavier” guys among them (around 65 kg) lie in the lower part of that special classification. Gravity’s law is generally enforced, I’d dare to say.

        Dumoulin is quite clearly the odd one, as it’s simply logical in a stage like this. Yeah, in the first half of the years 2000 we had a lot of 70 kg guys climbing like goats in the Tour, but depended on a lot of factors (doping, for sure, but also the greater importance of the way flatter first part of the whole race and the fact that they were all similar between them).

        In a stage race like this Vuelta, on a stage like that, with those rivals, observing Dumoulin’s performance as an anomaly with reference to his body structure is plain statistics. Nor I find it especially silly to define as relatively “big” an athlete whose body weight is some 8 kg superior to the significant and very inclusive group of those who I’ve considered to be climbing more or less like him (most of them even, quite worse).

        • Statistics are just statistics, not an explanation for everything or a blueprint who whill win and climb better than the other. Statistic numbers say nothing about mental state, muscles or state of fitness at all.
          Your source Vuelta website says Dumoulin 1.85m 69kg, Froome 1.86m 72kg….so what’s the point? TD is to heavy to climb with the best, while shopcart Froomey has an ideal weight to be with the leightweight mountain goats?
          Or can we just ignore these weight values, cause none of us know when these values were current? They could be taken from a 5 year old source, from January 15 or August 15, nobody knows. And I just don’t care.

  11. For everyone disappointed by the lack of action throughout the stage I would say just do what I do, tune in for the last 10km only: climb or sprint you’re certain to see all the days action in about 20 minutes or less. Doing this I’ve quite enjoyed this Vuelta thus far.

  12. Am I the only one who found yesterday’s stage riveting? It was hard, which made it slow, but everybody seemed to give it all – the whole peloton was blown apart in slo-mo and riders arrived one by one. That was not defensive riding, where nothing happens until the last km. Lots of GC action, from the moment Purito and Valverde tried a flyer.

    • I have to confess that it was a let-down for me, as JE and AM above.
      I turned it off, and tuned back in towards the end.
      Sickness, post-Tour Fatigue and post-Tour Criterium chasing, crashes and mad motos, withdrawals, a crazy first stage design and made-for-tv stage design generally ; all have combined to produce an odd spectacle.

      Having said that, I am enjoying seeing the younger riders flourish.
      It makes me wonder how one of the Yates would have fared, if they had targeted the Vuelta.
      And I think there’s a potential stage victory somewhere for Steve Cummins too.

    • As far as I am concerned, I would classify it as at an intermediate level of riveting… The route was beautiful and there was fight for GC on one side, but on another side it did not happen anything in the first 2 climbs, and in the 3rd the only thing was Froome loosing ground. All the important stuff finally happened in the last climb (as it is almost always the case in every races, regardless of the route…). Conclusion: not as boring as plateau de beille, but not at the level of the Mortirolo.

    • I liked it. It was a hard stage, made weird by the fact that a rider riding in it had designed it, and people were blowing up one by one on the climbs, just not the ones you’d necessarily expect. Better certainly than Stage 10.

    • I enjoyed it (besides the crashes) and I like that it shook up the GC, it was rather over-hyped is all. I had sensed if I took the ‘hardest stage ever!!1’ rhetoric seriously I’d be disappointed, so I deliberately held no expectations going in!

      What amazed me is that they’re even allowed to let a rider in the race design a stage in the first place XD

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