The first of the Cantabrian trifecta with a some steep climbs, today shape the race for the red jersey and show us whether Fabio Aru’s strong ride in Andorra was merely a good day or a sign he’s better than the rest.
Stage 13 Wrap: a big breakaway and and a big chase after it took hours for the move to go clear. The bunch continued its pursuit, at times the whole bunch was lined out single file. Astana took up the chase in order to control things and if the gap fell once the group was held around four minutes it left the break to itself knowing Gianluca Brambilla and Romain Sicard would not be a threat overall. Over the top of the final climb Nelson Oliveira took off solo and the Portuguese time trial champion went on to take the stage win, helped by his legs but also marking from his Lampre colleagues behind, a team victory.
The Route: a start in Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country where it is known as Gasteiz. The race heads west towards the Burgos and Catabria provinces. The first listed climb of the day is the gentle Puerto Estacas de Trueba which is followed by a descent and then the climb up is much tougher. The Puerto del Escudo is a hard, selective climb and an early test for riders. Teams are likely to drive a high pace up this and then over it although once over the top there’s still 38km to the start of the final climb.
The Finish: billed as a new finish the race has visited the ski area of Alto Campoo before, the novelty this time is the road up beyond the previous finish line to the Fuente del Chivo (“goat spring”). As the profile the shows the percentages are steady most of the way up and it’s only near the top that things get nasty. There are two sections at 14-15% here and then it’s back to 5-6% to the finish line again.
The Contenders: every time the road has gone uphill on a big climb Fabio Aru has made the difference. He’s in top condition and needs the stage win and the accompanying time bonus to reinforce his overall lead. However he’s almost too obvious and the risk is Astana burn themselves out too early and he’s left exposed. We should see Mikel Landa play loyal team mate today as a way help out after he rode away for a personal stage win.
Joaquim Rodriguez and Dani Moreno look like the next challengers, the Katusha tandem is climbing well although Moreno made a late spurt on the final climb in Andorra to distance Rodriguez, an odd gesture for someone who usually plays the lieutenant.
Rafał Majka is climbing very well and could finish on the podium. A stage win against Aru and Rodriguez sounds like a big ask though. As for Tom Dumoulin we’ve expected him to crack by now but he keeps hanging on and today’s final climb could suit him as he tries to pace himself.
Normally Movistar pairing Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana would be obvious picks but the Colombian has been suffering from a fever. “It’s passed” said team management on Thursday only for Quintana to look febrile and it’ll be hard to bluff. He can soldier on and hope for recover in the final week but today his chances look reduced. Valverde was also looking weaker in Andorra too but could be back in the game today.
|Joaquim Rodriguez, Dani Moreno, Rafał Majka
|Valverde, Dumoulin, Landa, Nieve, Torres, Dombrowski
Weather: cool and cloudy with a temperature of 15°C.
Daily Díaz: Take a close look at the profile of today’s stage and you’ll be able to learn a lesson on the geography of Spain. The first 118 km are undulating, from the 500m of Vitoria to the 1,140m of Estacas de Trueba. From there to Puerto del Escudo (158,5 km) it’s a rollercoaster: the race will descend down to 270 m before a quick rise to 1,010 m. Then comes a flat part (197 km, 975 m) where the intermediate sprint is located, before the final ascension (215 km, 1,980 m). The explanation? The 1st part of today’s stage takes place on the upper Ebro valley. The 2nd section (the rollercoaster) is a descent to the Northern coast of Spain, crossing the Cantabrian Mountains twice (Estacas de Trueba + Puerto del Escudo). The 3rd section takes place in the Ebro valley once again: actually Reinosa (intermediate sprint) is the first city the river flows through, and that lake we’ll see right after Puerto del Escudo is artificial, result of the damming of the river. The final part of the stage visits the Cantabrian Mountains one more time.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel