Vuelta Stage 13 Preview

Stage 13, lucky for John Degenkolb? The German’s missed many chances so far but today could be the day to change things. From afar the day looked like it was for a breakawas but the lack of an obvious sprint star in the race means several teams will fight hard to set up their sprinter.

Stage 12 Wrap: another stage, another five minutes of action worth watching although normal given the previous day’s efforts in Andorra. A break of five went to be caught in the final kilometre. The chasing teams had their work cut out with some good engines in the break, notably Alexis Gougeard, the energetic rider on Ag2r La Mondiale where the team management have issues restraining him.

MTN-Qhubeka worked hard but this used up a lot of their riders, the same for Lampre-Merida and the break’s chances rose when a slow puncture for Danny Van Poppel meant Trek had to stall their chase in the final 10km as he rode back. It didn’t phase the 22 year old Dutchman who took a clear win, his fourth of the year and his biggest so far. Meanwhile Giant-Alpecin messed up their leadout and John Degenkolb wasn’t so much boxed-in by Lotto-Jumbo but gift wrapped and with a ribbon on top while Van Poppel surged away.

Van Poppel comes from a cycling family with his brother Boy, also a pro at Trek Factory Racing. Father Jean-Paul was a top sprinter in his day who is worth looking up on Youtube for the way he could surge with a long spring, the kind only Alexander Kristoff and occaisonally Arnaud Démare can manage. Mother Leontine van der Lienden rode the 1984 Olympics.

The Route: the Alto de Beratón is the high point of the route and a first category climb but look how steady the climb is, it’s really 5km at 6%, accessible to all. Later on comes the Alto del Moncayo, another steady climb of 8.5km at 4.5%. It includes a couple of steeper sections in case a rider wants to attack but it’s a long way from the top to go clear.

The Finish: a narrow approach on small roads. The pinch point above is with just 500 metres to go, risky if there’s a bunch racing into town but there’s a good chance of a breakaway. Otherwise it’s straight and predictable with a slight rise to the line.

The Contenders: another contest of breakaway vs sprint teams. John Degenkolb‘s lack of success so far is encouraging the other sprint teams to give it a go; in past editions of the Vuelta he’s taken five stages. Now there’s no monopoly other teams feel more enterprising and willing to work all day for their sprinters.

Still this is a day the breakaway riders will have marked for some time and we should see a strong move go clear, perhaps after a fight. So think Adam Hansen, Alessandro de Marchi, Amaël Moinard, Steven Cummings and Angel Madrazo. Jurgen Van den Broeck might test his legs but once again he’s been a pro since and has only one win so far. José Gonçalves has been a surprise this race and the Caja Rural rider has gone in many moves and contested sprints too. Giovanni Visconti is another name but yesterday Movistar said no to J-J Rojas sprinting as he was tasked with pacing their GC leaders despite their less than glorious positions now. Team Sky have to change plans now so perhaps Vasil Kiryienka is let off the leash today?

John Degenkolb
Hansen, Moinard, Cummings, Kiryienka

Weather: cool and cloudy with a top temperature of 19°C.

TV: they’ll cross the Alto de Moncayo at 4.50pm Eurotime with the finish at 5.40pm. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: The Moncayo Massif has been a regular in the last editions of La Vuelta. At 2,314 m above sea level, it is the highest point of the Iberian System, a mountain range in North­Eastern Spain. Speaking of altitude, how many stages in 2015 Vuelta will cross the 1,000 m line? 11, which is more than the 9 in this year’s Tour, or the 8 in this year’s Giro. If we look at the vertical gain the Vuelta will probably be the third grand tour, but the geography of Spain allows to cross the 1,000 m barrier many times. How many stages in 2015 will cross the 2,000 m line? 2 in the Giro, 4 in the Tour, 1 in the Vuelta (Andorra, actually). Conclusion: Spain has lots of mountains, but not so many roads over the highest passes.

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 13 Preview”

  1. That finish pinch point, pictured above, looks about one car’s width.
    Given all the problems with high speed crashes, and motos, this looks like a very untimely piece of unfortunate course design. Is that a fair comment ?

    In the run-in, and at the finish yesterday, the road was perfect ; nine or ten teams wide and of good surface. The GC teams could jostle for their position until the 3km point and then the sprinter teams could take over. The road allowed Van Poppel to get back to the peleton after his puncture 11km out too (how much drafting did he do to get back ??).
    And, more importantly, it was safe.

    That run-in looks potentially problematic, to me. If there were to be a spill there, it would be carnage, especially with the walls on either side.
    And did ASO gamble on the weather being dry ?
    Not good.

    • I agree very much with you Special Eyes.

      Apparently they don’t teach safety first.

      What’s the point – lets flip a coin – we get a breakaway or worst case a mass pile up.. In many professions Race Director Javier Guillén would be fired for even thinking this is ok.

      Maybe one can argue
      – it makes for better TV
      – ASO wanted it
      – this is how it used to be back in the day
      – there are other races that have similar setups

      These all don’t count when you are gambling with someone’s livelyhood.

      I happen to be an registered official in a different sport (with headquarters in Switzerland)… we would likely be forced to change the race the minute we saw this.

      What is wrong with with the UCI, are there so many “this is how it has always been folks”, do they need to completely clean house ?

    • This road looks indeed one car’s width. At 500m to go. Is it another funny joke as the sandy TTT was?
      Seriously, all this looks very amateuristic.

    • I was thinking about this as a racer. I actually like this approach to the sprint, but it is a totally different safety issue than the moto problems or some other finishes. Here is my thinking, and you may not agree but thank you for letting me lay it out:

      1 – Moving objects that weigh 10X what I do need to be way away from me when I ride. Motos, cars, cows, any of that stuff. An unpredictable moving object is much more dangerous than a pinch point.

      2 – This is half way through a really difficult month. In the first few days a lot of riders are nervous, energetic, and hot to get into trouble to impress their boss and themselves. Now, the sense of urgency is reduced. Think of riding a mixed pack where for some reason juniors or Cat 3 are allowed into the same pack as you. You know what is going to happen in the pinch point. Then think riding the same race 200K in. The impetuous riding is diminished. A pair of sprint trains will take most of this narrow channel, but the other riders will be less excited about challenging a train.

      3 – All the teams will have the same info that InnerRing has given us. This is not a surprise, nor is it a cliff. Nor is it long. In my sense it is no worse than traffic furniture or a sharp turn with 500 meters to go.

      So I am fine with this one. But I am ready for a lifetime ban for the moto and car drivers who hit riders.



      • Inrng’s picture is of the Carrera de Cunchillos, off Google Maps or suchlike.
        From the tv footage it looked like this road had been reconfigured and widened, possibly some demolition (that building on the right looked to have gone).
        So, no problems.
        The Google Street View car needs to do another pass !

    • In fact, Spain has many mountain ranges but the peaks above 3000m are rare (i think in continental spain only sierra nevada’s and the pyrenees’ highest poinst are above 3000m – BTW, the highest altitude in Spain is reached at Mount Teíde, in Tenerife thus).
      For instance, the highest point in the sierra de guadarrama, near madrid, has an altitude of 2400m. The roads getting above 2000m must be then roads getting to the top of a peak, which has no practical utility (in this range, the only road above 2000m is the concrete betonweg leading to Bola del Mundo, where there is a meteo station). The mountain passes or ski stations are normally at lower altitudes. The Puerto de Navacerrada is both of them and has an elevation of about 1800m.
      Next to that, most of central spanish plateau is above 500m (Madrid 700m, Burgos 850m), so it is difficult to find climbs with huge altitude gains.

      • Absolutely +1.
        You stole the exact words I was thinking to write down 🙂
        Altitude and the degree of *mountainousness* (ouch, what a word!… o__O …well, it’s in the dictionary!) of a country, meant as its geographical overall “unevenness” or “bumpiness” (on a giant scale), are not necessarily that related.

    • It must also be noted that the highest paved road in Europe is by far in Spain (the Veleta Peak). But I think the issue, as Díaz showed yesterday, is that most of Spain is very sparsely populated, so less traffic and less need for roads, especiallyu in teh mountain áreas.

  2. I’m not sure that Giant Alpecin will put their confidence in Degenkolb again in this race. He has been woefully disappointing against mediocre competition. The lead out from Luka Mezgec yesterday, whilst unhelpful to Degenkolb, was a fair demonstration of who has the greater finishing speed in that team. They also have the hugely impressive Dumoulin to look after.

    • He got boxed in yesterday and no chance to sprint out of it. He’s consistently there in the finish which is a good sign for him, unlike the others who can win one day and place 10th the next or finish 5th then 15th etc. Still not consistent enough for the points competition.

      • … and he’s not (yet) in his better shape, why deny that?
        He won relatively easy stages (as well as harder ones) in the Vuelta during other seasons.
        It remains to be seen if these days he’s worn out, or if he’s looking for form or if it’s just low motivation. No lack of respect to the other riders on my part, but, come on, he’s fighting against rivals who should be a couple of steps down; the route matters but not enough to explain him underperforming like this.

        • You’re probably right. At this point in the season it’s as though they all are at the tail end of some Herculean race overall and everyone should be equally taxed positioning him for the win. He is continually in the mix. But should be getting some wins for sure.

  3. If Greg Van Avermaet was the new Peter Sagan until he finally ended his run of second places with a win at the TDF, does that make John Degenkolb the new Greg Van Avermaet? Amazing classics season with two monuments, but now can’t seem to buy a sprint win even against an extremely lightweight field at the Vuelta.

      • As I said, an amazing classics season for Degenkolb, but maybe he’s scarified sprint speed for strength? If that’s what he’s aiming towards then it’s ben a success, but against such thin competition at the Vuelta I’m surprised he hasn’t picked up a win here, another opportunity gone begging today.

  4. I don’t see the point of that dangerous pinch point 500m before the line when everyone will be working up to full chat, if not already on it. Fair enough that town has won the right to host a finish of a stage, but surely there is a wider road than that into the town centre. I’m all for interesting roads and the loss of the long highway stretches of Vueltas of old is definitely a positive, but that last 1000m of a sprint finish should be on the widest, straightest route available.

    Van Poppel looked strong yesterday, so he’d be worth backing again. If not then maybe Giant will give Mezgec a go? Or there is Van Asbroeck as an outsider. The sprints are interesting as they are so open, yesterdays was an old fashioned very man for himself with no lead out trains to spoil the fun.

    I think people are being unfair on Degenkolb, he’s won two monuments this year and raced the Tour. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was up there in the Worlds. Him and Kristoff are a cut above from a sprint after a tough long course.

  5. I am so tired of this soap opera every day. It seems every day a new drama and a new villain must be found. I get the impression the drama is more important than solutions or a better situation, because one thing is clear: Things get better and change, when people work together. Not when they use and accuse each other. Other sports must be happy and thankful, that cycling always creates good headlines. Now there is video footage of the Paulinho accident and it most certainly didn’t happen the way Tinkov wanted us to believe it happened. No moto “taking out” a rider in the middle of the road, instead a rider crashing into/touching a moto in a corner. An accident, it seems.

  6. Why not grease the pinch point with lard? Maybe turn loose some livestock? Are the Vuelta organizers trying for mass injuries, rather than just picking riders off one-by-one with motorcycles? That part of the route is worthy of a game-show stunt, not a true sporting event.

  7. I think there’s some danger here in piling on. Will every day be a whine-fest about some perceived potential danger on the course? Would you rather they run the race over superhighways so it will be “safe” despite the fact high-speed crashes happen plenty often on wide, multi-lane, perfectly straight roads? I’m not advocating racing through hoops of fire, but racing over narrow roads should not be a huge deal, otherwise quite a bit of a potential route will be excluded.
    Note on 1000 m, 2000 m – as the Giro proves often it’s not high how you go, it’s how you go high. Passo Mortirolo and the Zoncolan top out at less than 2000 m but are two of the toughest climbs in pro cycling.

      • Used to be plenty of the same in La Vuelta, one reason I stopped paying much attention to it and why I pay little attention to the “California Vacation”. Since nothing was said on the TV coverage today about this “dangerous” hazard is it safe to assume everyone made it through OK? What “death-defying” on-course challenges await tomorrow? And yes, I’m still angry over the cancellation of the Crostis stage of the Giro a few years ago.

  8. Not sure if was just me but the coverage today seemed frequently broken up, a protest from the broadcasters after the bad press the motos have been getting?!

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