Vuelta Stage 14 Preview

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.

Fabio Aru
Joaquim Rodriguez, Dani Moreno, Rafał Majka
Valverde, Dumoulin, Landa, Nieve, Torres, Dombrowski

Weather: cool and cloudy with a temperature of 15°C.

TV: the Puerto del Escudo starts at 3.50pm Euro time with the finish two hours later at 5.40pm. It’s on Eurosport too and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

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

17 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 14 Preview”

  1. Dumoulin, if he cracks it won’t be big time. He is knows now that he is looking at the top 5 in Madrid, possibly way higher. So he will be pacing himself as this is his thing as a cronoman. Anyone expecting him to loose 10+ minutes is drawing from Dumoulin that’s saving himself for the tt and leadout duties. Not the case this time around.
    He remainds me of Indurain, my favourite rider.

    • Wait, wait, wait… I agree with you, especially since you’re addressing people who expect him to lose heavy loads of minutes: however, it’s not like we don’t have any hint about Dumoulin’s previous performance in mountain-top finishes during stage races where he was actively trying to hold on a good GC placing! Both this year and last year. Also note that they were shorter and generally easier than the part of Vuelta we’ve lived until now.
      Besides, when he goes in some successful breakaway and the stage ends with some climb we can get a good test of his climbing abilities.
      If he goes on like this, we must acknowledge that he stepped up significantly in terms of long-climb performances, even if he was no sinking stone (and we knew he was quite good on short and steep climbs).
      Obviously that may also be due to fatigue accumulated during the season by most other top riders.
      However, I’m curious to see if his climbing improvements hindered or not his TT skills. It tends to happen, even if we aren’t short of good exceptions, either.

      • Good points as usual Gabri! Only time will tell of course but this guy’s looking a lot like the Dutch BigMig at present. He’s hanging on in the mountains, but it remains to be seen if “mowing ’em down in the chrono” ala BigMig will happen. While Fabio Aru’s not exactly a Chiappucci or Pantani in creating excitement, a classic battle like theirs against the likes of BigMig would be OK with me.

        • Wise words.
          But if Dumoulin could limit his cumulative losses today and tomorrow to around 1 min – 1′.30″, it could be game on in the ITT.
          Looking at the 58km ITT at the Giro, Aru lost on average around 3″ / km to Contador, so it is not beyond comprehension that Dumoulin could likewise put 1′.30″ – 2′.0″ in to Aru here at La Vuelta.
          But, as Gabriele said, that assumes all things are equal.

          If Dumoulin is anywhere inside 30″ from Aru today, it would be a great ride.
          And I think, and hope, he can do it.

          How Landa rides adds adds a dash of ‘pimenton’ to this Basque dish !

          • I agree about possible time gaps in the ITT. GC will be tight if Tom holds on. However, for him the decisive mountain stage within the trifecta will be on Monday. Cumulative troubles for him: third week, three hard stages in a row, three serious mountains in a row.

            That said, I wouldn’t be surprised, given that the Escudo hasn’t been taken advantage of, if Dumoulin didn’t lose very much today, nor tomorrow, either. Yes, I would be surprised if he didn’t lose anything at all (1000 mts. altitude gain on an uphill finish, over a single climb, are clearly pure-climber-friendly), but the ride you hope for is absolutely possible.
            Anyway, although the Escudo hasn’t been paced strongly, teamwork could still be a big factor today, because the last climb gives room to relevant slipstream effect, at least until the last 3 kms.

  2. The final climb is long but never steep. This again should suit Dumoulin well in his defensive riding, pacing it the way he can. Podium in Madrid still possible.

    • Agreed. The point, today, is just tactical. If the other teams find some sort of alliance for the Escudo, the question will be: once on the top, how many gregari have you got – more or less nearby?
      No descent to come back in, out of pure risk-taking. The energies you spend to come back to the front aren’t available for other kinds of work – like chasing.
      Which means that, for Dumoulin, it could prove very dangerous to lose even mere 20″, if in the front group Purito was with Moreno, Aru stayed with Landa, Rosa and/or Cataldo, and maybe there waas also some sort of Sky block. I don’t dare to imagine strategies for Movistar, but they could be in the mix with more men, too…
      Dumoulin couldn’t send anyone in the breakaway this morning, or didn’t want to, nor did Astana or Katusha (they really don’t need it, since they’ve got more than one climber able to let Dumoulin behind, in case they want to try something) – but Sky has got Puccio on the road, Movistar has Rojas (they aren’t trying to win the uphill finish with him, are they?).
      Pozzovivo was the best helper for Dumoulin, in Andorra, maybe today he wants to try something different and he’s got Cherel in the break. Brambilla is ambitious and could use Verona.

      Could be a funny stage if they try something… even if I’m afraid they’ll just try to crack Dumoulin out of pure climbing strength during the last 3 kms of the day, where he would well be able to defend himself properly, as you say. I say “I’m afraid” not because I want to see Tom losing time, it’s just that it would make a boring show.

      PS And, in that case, unlike Andorra, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he lost little time.

      • The Escudo went away as disappointing as it could ever be.
        Astana paced it but they were utterly cautious.
        No forcing, just a vague intention to make someone else’s legs a bit heavier.
        No help from anyone else (and they obviously can not burn themselves out all alone, given that they’re lacking numbers and they may have to defend the jersey through three hard stages, particularly on Monday).
        Just about 1′ was taken back from the break, the peloton has hardly lost any member.
        That’s why, despite my hopes I expressed above, I’ve always tended to consider today as another monoclimb stage, if one has to be realistic. Without previous mountains, you can’t create enough selection here, with nearly another hour of racing to go before you hit the following climb.

  3. Hello all. Does anyone know what (if any) channel in France shows the Vuelta? I’m here for the next week and don’t want to miss any more stages.
    Thanks. Tim

  4. Thanks for the review.
    I have the feeling (recounting comments) that this Vuelta is not rising interest in many fans, today’s stage is an important one, though. It is clear that stages like yesterday’s do not help keeping it up: A badly designed route produced a boring scenario. Mostly the final loop around tarrazona was unuseful as it left the finish too far from the Moncayo climb.
    The design of today stage is quite curious, with the top of the puerto del escudo 30k before the foot of the last climb. And since the fuente del chivo looks quite regular and not too steep, I am also wondering if it will be possible for the likes of Aru and Purito to make important time gain on Dumoulin.

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