Vuelta Stage 15 Preview

Another day, another summit finish with the steepest part saved for the top of the climb.

The Route: a long section parallel to Spain’s north Atlantic coast but most of it is not on the coast itself and so the riders won’t be blasted by the sea breeze. The race then does a loop to climb the Alto del Torno, 10km at 3% but in words of Dr Spock “it’s highly irregular” thanks to a variety of steep sections and flatter parts. The next bump on the route to Ortiguero isn’t a marked climb but adds to the vertical gain with some 5% slopes before a reciprocal descent.

The road turns up the valley of the Rio Cares and starts climbing before the final climb proper starts in Poncebos as the race crosses over the river twice in short succession before the formal start of the final climb.

The Finish: 12.7km at 7.9% but this includes the flatter part midway. It’s steep from the start as the road quickly gains elevation up the side of the valley walls and on a decent road that’s wide for a climb and with a good surface. It’s full of long ramps and few bends, along with some short tunnels along the way as it rises to the village of Sotres. Here the road is steep as it goes by the buildings and then climbs onto a smaller and rougher road (unless it’s been redone for the Vuelta) to climb above the town to the finish line.

The Contenders: it’s a difficult course for a breakaway to go clear and stay away. The opening part of the stage is flat and exposed to the wind so a route for Flandriens only there’s a big summit finish at the end to deal with, a rout for Flandriens. Katusha and Astana are likely to drive the pace to the final climb and the uphill sloping approach will make things even harder for a breakaway.

With repeat mountain stages tend to come repeat results, if not identical then similar. The presence of time bonuses ensures that a rider like Fabio Aru cannot gift a stage to a rival in exchange for a late non-aggression pact. So we should see the same names in the mix but in a different order.

Fabio Aru is again the top pick. He lost ground yesterday thanks to an over obvious attack and this should mean more caution today and he can save his energy for the tough last slopes.

Nairo Quintana‘s shaken off his illness and it’ll have done his mind a power of good too but what now, a consolatory stage win or a bold bid to climb up the GC? Rafał Majka is climbing strongly too and if stage wins could be rotated around it feels like it’s his turn. If not Joaquim Rodriguez is looking sharp too.

Fabio Aru, Nairo Quintana
Joaquim Rodriguez, Rafał Majka
Chaves, Valverde, Moreno

Weather: sunshine but cool temperatures of 18°C. No sea breeze but an 15-20km/h wind from the east.

TV: the approach to the final climb comes just before 5.00pm Euro time and the finish is expected at 5.40pm. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: Say “Cabrales” and a Spaniard will probably think of the blue cheese featured in the picture below. Spanish cheeses may not be as famous as the French, but we have our own variety. Idiazábal ​and R​oncal​ come from the Basque-Navarrese area, as do many Spanish professional cyclists (Landa, Izagirre, Txurruka, Intxausti and so on). They are made of milk from a certain race of sheep. M​ató,​from Catalonia, is sweet and usually served with honey as a dessert. T​etilla,​ from Galicia resembles a female breast, and its name could be translated as “tit” . M​anchego, ​from La Mancha, is one of the most famous. Finally, from the archipelagos come M​aó​ (Balearic Islands) and a​lmogrote (Canary Islands) cheeses. Enjoy yourselves!

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

31 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 15 Preview”

    • N0ticed that too. Cause the Kazakh turquoise (or whatever it’s called) doesn’t match well with red at all, fashionwise. That#s why bibs should be black. 😉

  1. This race is coming to the boil.
    And it’s become quite intriguing in a manner that is somewhat unexpected but still welcomed.

    Who is now the main rival to Aru ?
    Rodriguez is closest, but seems a little inconsistent. He could sit on Aru’s wheel today and look to hop near the finish and bag some more seconds.
    Dumoulin is hanging on. He was disappointed to lose 19″ yesterday, but still rode well. A similar time loss today would not be disastrous, I feel.
    The threat of Quintana has probably come too late, but a podium place is possible still now that he seems to have recovered from illness.

    It’s Aru’s race to lose but my support has gone to the underdog Dumoulin.
    I might be watching from an armchair but it’s edge of the seat stuff as I urge him to keep fighting.
    A tough steep finish for Dumoulin – to continue the Star Trek theme, will it be a case of “cannae take no more” or will the warp drive kick in at the last ?

    • This is how i see it:

      Most commentators I’ve read consider that Dumolin will put at least 2:00 minutes in Aru in the TT.
      A currently has .49 sec over D.
      The next two stages appear to be the only 2 remaining where A can put more time into D.
      Therefore, A needs to put on average 35 sec into D on each stage for the next two stages to have a chance at winning.

      • Dumoulin will put a couple of minutes into Purito as well so he will need to do more than jump at the line if he wants to win the Vuelta. A podium position looks more realistic for Purito this year.

      • About 2′ is more realistic than “at least 2:00”. Third week of a GT, after a lot of mountain stages, big improvements climb-wise (losing weight)… Everything is possible, but this is not the TdS (and even there, there were climber losing less than 2′).

  2. Really interested to see how this all plays out, given Aru has been targeting this race he seems less strong than I’d have expected. The Dumolin question creates an interesting conundrum for the climbers…what can they try to do.

    • The climbers need to work together to eliminate him today, if teams co-operate and go mental over the last climb to finish with a small group, they can put enough into him. However, considering how Movistar seems to generally hate Rodriguez, and how Aru just looked like he wanted to gnash teeth, I doubt that will happen.

      • A couple of footnotes about teams and collaboration:
        – Landa was on the front for Aru, that’s true. About 38″. I don’t think he really burnt himself out, since after that he hold on with Dumoulin, Mentjes, Moreno, Valverde most of the time. He has lost some mere 30″ to Aru on the finish line. Compare that with LL-Sánchez. The previous 4′ at an impressive pace – then he lost 2’/km in the last 3 kms. Maybe it was a team tactic, but anyway Aru went – too early, that’s for sure, just before an easier section – when Landa had just sat down and changed his hands’ position. When Landa lets himself be passed you can see him speaking with the team car.
        Was that the plan? Did Landa try to go away with Aru, maybe hoping for a stage win, instead of pulling strong all along until the -2 kms mark? It was quite obvious that from -3km to -2km, where the avg. speed was around 25 km/h, being alone on the front was going to be a “power bloodshed”.
        – Valverde was the one pulling Dumoulin during the last km, when Mentjes couldn’t help anymore. In the last km, albeit hard, speeds were over 20 km/h, that is, the slipstream is quite significant. Of course he was defending is own GC, but he was also preventing the main rival from having to opt out between spending a lot of energies or losing even more seconds. Not exactly a winning move by Valverde, not teamwise at least, I’d say (nor for him personally, IMHO, unless he’s hoping to place high and has totally renounced to any podium chance). Is his priority not being overcome by Quintana in GC?!

        • By now I seriously wonder how M. Landa affects Fabian Aru. Yesterday that “I look like I pull”-move and today nothing. I wonder, if F.Aru worries, if Landa will attack him? Hopefully this situation isn’t costing Aru any energy.

    • Regarding Aru’s strength, has he raced two grand tours in the same season before? I know it’s certainly the 1st time as a leader of two tours. Taking this into account, I’m not that surprised that he hasn’t been dominant. Come to think of it though, he wasn’t even dominant during the Giro. He’s still young and I enjoy his aggressive style but I’m not sure what to expect from him yet.

  3. Aru realizes what He did on 14 and may be sharper today. And tomorrow.

    Otherwise Aru meets His certain doom / Dum.

    A bad day for Aru would not surprise either. Want a climber over a time trialer.

    Getting paid to ride Dumoulin ragged. Gain time, take time, on mountain climb. Leave Him nothing for 17.

  4. Another monoclimb stage, but the final climb looks harder than yesterday’s, and should be a good opportunity to put time into dumoulin for the climbers. I don’t see however anyone attacking before the last ks. Aru tried yesterday but he was then overclimbed by Quintana and Purito. Plus in the Giro he had some difficulties in the beginning of the 3rd week. He might be a little more cautious today, Purito is not that far in GC. Speaking about Purito, it is really not his style to try it from the foot of the climb. Maybe Quintana, who is 3min down, would launch an early attack. It is the only way for him if he wants to escalate in GC.
    Conclusion: it would be no surprise to me if Dumoulin was able to limit time losses, despite of how tough the climb is.

  5. Almogrote is not a cheese! It’s a “mojo” (just a sort of sauce, no mister mojo risin’…) – with cheese – from the island of La Gomera ^__^
    For Canary Islands, I’d suggest “Queso Majorero” (a cheese from Fuerteventura, the first goat cheese to be granted the DOP protetction in Spain). Canary Islands have got another couple of DOP cheeses, the Queso de Flor from Gran Canaria, a quite uncommon vegetable-rennet cheese; and the Queso Palmero (from the small island of La Palma, where you can also find what is considered the hardest climb in the archipelago, the Roque de los Muchachos).

    • “From the small island of La Palma, where you can also find what is considered the hardest climb in the archipelago, the Roque de los Muchachos”

      Not only in the Archipelago – in all of Europe exept from Pico de Veleta (if you include the Canary Islands). The Gradient is a wopping +2400m, just a bit more than Teide but quite a bit steeper. I have done all 3 from each side.

      • What do you think about the Teide climb from the Radazul seaside and up through Machado? A variant to the classical La Esperanza side, connecting with the main road around the “km 9” mark of the TF-24 (a couple of kms above La Esperanza).
        I generally don’t like it, because it’s not “in the spirit” of the rest of the climb: those 10 kms are way too different from the rest, and I guess one ends up riding it as a “different” climb, for example using the first kms of the main road, when you’re back there, just to recover.
        However, if one’s thinking in terms of difficulty and steepness, this variant certainly spices up the climb: starting with 10 kms which average 10,1%, with some 6 central kms averaging 12%, often up to top gradients of 18-20% is certainly a significant element of hardness. Kind of a Mortirolo before you go on with all the rest…

        • I have only been on Tenerife once, febuary 2014 with snow above 1600m. I had booked a hotel in Candelaria. (this winter i went to La Palma instead and stayed in Los Llanos , less trafic, less people, more sunshine in late febuary – and Roque de los muchacos from both sides. Rideing on the edge of the Caldera was very special experience)

          On Tenerife i didnt ride the TF24 – i did the TF523 road (Arafo) though on my first day, also up to the Esperaza road. Basicly it was my first day on a bike since late november that year so i was kind of pleased to see that the Espananza road was closed from TF523. TF523 is longer but less steep 17km at +7%, especially the last third which contains 3 or 4 streches of 0,6-0,9km with avagerage gradients of 13-18%. Until my last day the Esperanza road was closed past TF523 because snow.

          The following days i rode:

          Candelaria – Granadila – Vilaflor and back. All day in the rain so i didnt go further than Vilaflor because i was cold and wet.

          San Isidro – Vilaflor – Caniada – Teide and back. Awfull road up to Granadila, nice road up to the edge of the Caniada. a long but not steep climb exept the first km after Villaflor. TF523 is tougher.

          Calendaria – Laguna – Anaga – San Andres – Santa Cruz and back. Beautiful landscapes and easy roads. The downhill to San Andres was awsome.

          Calendaria – TF272 up to La Esparanza, the long way up to the Observatory and back down the TF523. TF272 was brutal, dead straight and really steep all the way. The Esperanza road was a beautiful way into Teide with a long stretch in the first third with more friendly gradients.

          • Nice rides. Lots of altitude gain! The Anaga area is one of my favourite and has got a lot to offer, a good number of relatively short (5-7 kms long) climbs, but quite steep and with impressive views all around. The shame is that they’re all dead-end: you must descend to some pueblo at the bottom of a ravine and then climb back. Still, absolutely worth a try. Any of them.
            I think that the most beautiful climb to the Teide (las Cañadas) is from La Esperanza, even if it’s the easier one, at least from La Esperanza on! The other ones are a little monotonous until you’re near to the top.
            The road I was talking about above is a sort of alternative to TF-272: in fact, it’s the TF-274. A bit like the one you tried (usually called “Llano del Moro”), but notably *longer and harder*.
            I had a huge hunger-knock on TF-523 (I forgot, so to say, water and food and when I got there I had been already riding for a couple of hours), hence I remember that as reaaally hard 🙂
            The South of the island clearly has a problem in terms of architecture and urbanism, I really don’t like to ride around there.

  6. This race is shaping up as a “climbers vs BigMig” type affair, which is OK by me though I’m hoping the “Dutch BigMig”s tactics will fail in the end. Nothing personal, I just find the “hang on in the mountains and mow ’em down in the chrono” scheme rather uninspiring. The Daily Diaz bits are a nice addition, especially when it comes to food, should be no surprise from a guy whose slogan is “pedala forte, mangia bene” (ride hard, eat well) I guess?

      • The real BigMig won his fair share of stages too, but I’m having a tough time remembering any of them, let alone being inspired by them. Funny thing, this “colussus” of a man Dumoulin is only 5’9″ and 154 lbs? At least BigMig was actually BIG when compared to his “scalatore” rivals.

        • It’s pretty obvious when you see a pic of Dumoulin that he’s not 5’9″. Wikipedia says 6’1″/157 lbs. Indurain: 6’2″/176 lbs.

  7. So, considering all of them will be in top-Shane, Gibt will have 4 leaders at next years tour in Kittel (pure Sprints), Degenkolb (less purer Sprints), Barguil (climber/GC) and Dumoulin (TT/GC). Don’t know if the other teams will be jealous?

    • sorry, ruined by my cell:
      considering all of them will be in top-shape, Giant will have 4 leaders at next years Tour in Kittel (pure Sprints), Degenkolb (less purer Sprints), Barguil (climber/GC) and Dumoulin (TT/GC). Don’t know if the other teams will be jealous?

      • What Giant really need are 2-3 climber domestiques. Dumoulin and Barguil are too often on their own in the mountains. Preidi and Geschke can do that, but 2 aren’t enough. On the other hand, that would cost manpower in their sprint train. And there are no activities in the transfer market by Giant so far.

  8. What is funny, is that this all started by accident for Tom Dumoulin: When Tom Dumoulin got his first red jersey, he didn’t realise it and was already at the bus, when he got called to the the podium. And from there, I think he and his team for the first time realised that Tom can have the jersey for some days. And as that went well, they began to think, maybe he can even win that thing! Or at least finish in the top three. But all began with a few innocent seconds Tom Dumoulin won one day…

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