Vuelta Stage 16 Preview

The Queen Stage of the 2015 Vuelta a España, 185km with seven marked climbs and a new and vicious summit finish.

The Route:

  • ALTO DE ARISTÉBANO, Km 14.6, 14.6 km at 3.4%
  • ALTO DE PIEDRATECHA, Km 43.1, 10.6 km at 4.8%
  • ALTO DE CABRUÑANA, Km 85.6, 4.8 km at 6.7%
  • ALTO DEL TENEBREDO, Km 119.9, 3.7 km at 8.9%
  • ALTO DEL CORDAL, Km 150, 8.5 km at 5.7%
  • ALTO DE LA COBERTORIA, Km 166.5, 9.8 km at 8.7%

A lot of climbing but as you can see the hard slopes come later. However it all adds up to another stage with over 5,000 vertical metres.

The Finish: 6.8km at 11.1%. Look at the chart above and you’ll see the jagged edge to the profile. This is not a drawing mistake but illustrates the way this climb rises like a staircase with a steep rampón then a flatter moment before pitching up again. The steepest part is midway in the village of Salcedo with a 20% slope. It starts with a wide road but closer to the top it’s a rough road, surfaced but just and a very difficult road for anyone suffering the slightest weakness.

Queen Stage: yes, this offers as much elevation as Stage 11 in Andorra but it’s longer and ends with the Ermita de Alba, the high point of the 2015 Vuelta and the Cima Ferandez prize.

The Contenders: another good day for a big breakaway and the chance to score a lot of points for the mountains jersey, especially with the uphill start where some will jump away while others worry about tasting breakfast again. With this in mind and the hard nature of the stage it’ll suit strongmen like Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida), already a stage winner and also the last to be left behind by Mikel Landa on the final climb in Andorra. Otherwise Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing) is climbing well and could repeat again. Once you start to see who is in form and aggressive in the second half of a grand tour you start to see them again and again.

The same repeat pattern for the overall candidates. But yesterday Fabio Aru said the steep slopes suited Joaquim Rodriguez so today’s tricky finish looks like it’ll suit the Katusha captain too especially as Dani Moreno is there to offer support. Otherwise we look to Nairo Quintana and Rafał Majka which order will they finish in? Both look strong and perhaps Quintana is getting better and better after his virus?

Joaquim Rodriguez
Nairo Quintana, Dani Moreno, Rafał Majka
Oliveira, de Marchi, Landa, Chaves, Nieve, Valverde, Dombrowski,

Weather: sunshine and clouds and a top temperature of 21°C in the valleys and cooler at altitude.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm Euro time but tune in early to watch the climbs and descents which come in quick succession in the final hour. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: One last stage in Asturias, time to say goodbye to Samuel Sánchez’s homeland. Three notes on the region. First, if you like architecture, you can’t miss the Asturian pre-­Romanesque buildings (8th­10th century): S​an Miguel de Lillo​and S​anta María del Naranco,​ near Oviedo, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Second, the Princess of Asturias Awards (sort of Nobel a​la española) ​have a sports category. Regarding cycling, the winners have been Miguel Indurain (1992, first Giro-­Tour double), Lance Armstrong (2000, no comment), and the Tour de France (2003, 100th anniversary). Third, one of the worst events in recent Spanish history happened in Asturias: the miners’ strike of 1934, a revolutionary uprising against the entry of a right­wing party into the government, which was crushed by the army (led by Francisco Franco and consisting of the Spanish Legion and the Moroccan colonial troops). Franco’s association with the Muslim North ­African population is shocking in a dictator who had a very close relationship with the Catholic Church.

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

63 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 16 Preview”

  1. I tried to find Ermita de Alba on the map yesterday, but there was no such placename in google earth. Is this actually Angliru from the backside, two of several roads up the same mountain?

      • It is the same mountain as Angliru but from the west side (the “famous” Angliru climb is from the east). It also doesn’t go all the way to the top of the plateau, the roads never meet.

    • it’s really hard to say? watching live with timings/commentary it appeared he actually made up time on the steepest part yesterday, but at the same time I was aware the timings/distances etc onscreen seemed incorrect (ie watching the lead rider going under the 2km banner and the screen saying 1.7km to go…..)

      I have a feeling you’re right and going just from my eye – that actually he was never 1.20 behind yesterday and therefore didn’t make it back to 50secs on the steepest part and actually what happened is he kept it around 20-30secs for the shallow section and lost a further 20secs on the steepest section.

      So yeah, inclined to agree and he will loose 1min today and end GC hopes…… although taking 2.30min out of Aru or Rodriguez isn’t completely out of the question given the lay out of the TT…. especially if he’s shooting for a Grand Tour?

      Podium is definitely still on the cards…… but again what’s to say this isn’t the day he finally cracks properly……

      Whatever he has been superb this Vuelta, absolutely phenomenal. One of the most impressive performances for a number of years, and by seemingly such a nice guy?

      • On such a climb, it’s impossible to have them right, unless you sacrifice the riders’ safety. Gaps are taken by motos (no Dimension Data sticks here), who can’t – or shouldn’t (see San Sebastian) – keep themselves very near to the riders. On such a steep climbs, a few meters mean a significant time difference. If one moto is behind the rider it “represents”, while the other stays ahead, the distorsion is very relevant.
        Checking gaps manually, I’d say that your hypothesis about gaps is correct. He wasn’t losing much time only when the others were going quite slowly, studying themselves.
        Losing only 1′ today would be a great success, and we would have an interesting last week.
        I wouldn’t rule out some funny situation like Dumoulin being behind also after the ITT (now it seems the most probable thing, we’d need a double great performance from him both today and Wednesday, or some relevant fail by Purito and Aru), but going on the attack in the last mountain stage… downhill finish 😉

        • ah sorry I should have said I did know this about motos – was just highlight that it was more deceptive than usual yesterday.

          should have also said a few days back when I referenced slower climbing speeds that I wasn’t talking about Contador specifically and was actually going from the INRNG article a year or two ago that went over the entire peloton’s decreased climbing speeds – I think with Tony Rominger being the main ref in terms of Vuelta climbs maybe? – even if I do think there’s a little to be said for Verbier 2009 & Bruyneel but similar for lots of cyclists so time to move on…

          But I do agree with you Rodriguez comment below and 2009 not being a pinnacle. Although I do think it’s a bit harsh biting someone’s head off for Ted’s argument, as it isn’t that outlandish to mull over. You are correct though and it’s no proof whatsoever of being clean.

          • Even if you take into account partially biased data as those posted by Vedrafjord some time ago, you’ll see that climbing speed haven’t gone that down in a general sense, either. They don’t vouch for any kind of ongoing process of *cleaning up*, since they’ve been steadily raising again in recent years, among other things.

            However, there are a lot of problem involved just in creating a data set.
            Most of people tackling this debate only consider final climbs, for example, but the speed of the previous ones hugely affects the final result, and that tends to change a lot for many different reasons. You can see a sample in my (partial) Tour 2007 analysis. I won’t extend that to other years because it’s quite hard to find *all* the climbing times, but only that kind of throughout scrutiny would grant any meaningful result.
            Someone else transforms everything in w/kg and then goes on calculating an average based on the number of climbs, regardless of their duration. And so on.

            All that said, we’ve now got a different situation when compared both to the ’90s and to the 2000s, that’s for sure. Probably better? Probably. But a long reflection on that would be needed, and I won’t write it down now. Enough for this.

  2. Confused by description of this as the queen stage, having the greatest climb. As far as I can see, this ends in a ~750m climb that ends around 1200m – whereas stage 11 ended in a ~1000m climb that ended at about 2100m? Am I missing something?

  3. Hard to say Quintana is getting better when he lost time yesterday. He might be allowed to sneak off the front for 30 seconds now though seen as he’s a bit back and running out of stages. Aru today I think, he seems to cope better with multiple climbs than Purito

    • It was such a half hearted attack, all Movistar’s work for that?

      I think people were extremely harsh on Movistar at the Tour – not sure what they really could have done anything that different given the circumstances *(plus from the outside you never know how a rider might be feeling on any given day etc so seems harsh to judge) – but yesterday was very odd, I guess they just had to try and not give Aru any let up….

      It is a fantastic Vuelta though, shame Froome & Quintana aren’t there either in person or in form (not sure minus injuries/illness it would have changed much though), but awesome to see Rodriguez back, what are his TT’s like in comparison to Aru’s in recent years? Is he definitely slower?

      Always love Rodriguez, although given he’s from a generation of serial Spanish dopers and on a team with a bit of a history not sure why I desperately want to believe his is and has always been clean! Guess he is just very likeable.

      • Agree on Rodriguez… aside from his clean record, I think if you look at his results they vastly improve from 2008 onwards as convictions start and the sport starts to clean up. Not foolproof, but his results in the supposed twilight of his career back up a picture of a rider who was perhaps always one of the best of the clean riders?

        • Oh, please. It’s just that he was Valverde’s gregario before.

          This “sport is cleaning up” thing is utter nonsense as an explainer of anything. Other guys defending these theories look like they say that 2009 was doping top ever, or the likes. They’ve got some doubt about 2010, and maybe 2011, too. Now I’m learning that things improved from 2008 on. While the CIRC says that nothing was going that well with Pat around (curious enough, isn’t it?). Come oooon… ^___^
          I’m willing to think that the sport is “cleaner”, whatever that means, but I won’t be ready to state anything before some ten years have passed.
          And, above all, trying to explain a rider’s results through this theories is simply crazy.

          In 2009 Valverde focused his prep on the Tour and got to the Classics low on form. Purito had his chance as a proper captain and he went on to get a 2nd place in the Liège, winning the bunch sprint behind a fabulous Andy Schleck. Add to that the bronze medal in the Worlds. He knew he could get a life on his own and changed team.
          It’s only then that he starts to make a lot of GC top ten in minor and major stage races, since he can finally ride on his own, whereas his previous results in the Vuelta were always behind his good captain. Got it?

          That sheds a funny light on Florence, too. Valverde always struggled to accept the idea that his gregario could be as good as him…

          Having spent a big part of his earlier career (until he was 30) without needing to fight hard with the best to the end of every single stage or race, we can expect his longevity to be a little better than the average road captain, albeit he’s been obviously declining in the last couple of years, especially when pure spark is concerned.

          • That’s a good comment…….it’s often used to praise a rider that someone likes, rather than as an unbiased evaluation.

            It’s a variation on the “no way my guy would ever dope, I just know it” theme.
            Or the…..”those dirty cheaters dope but no way we do…” logic.

          • Absolutely. It is the perceived idea that Purito is an underdog and the dislike of Valverde that leads to these nonsensical ideas. I don’t get this obsession. Last year,when Purito hit another rider during a race, I think some were really shocked-as if the riders would or should be heroes of supermorality. These expectations, that normal human beings will never be able to fulfill, are so bad for the sport and one of the many reasons, why secretly so many bad things happen in sport.

  4. I thought everyone looked really tired yesterday and I could quite see one of the big favourites loosing or gaining minutes today and a bit of change in the top 5. Dumoulin particularly looked totally done in, I hope not but I wonder if today will see him loose too much time for him to stand a chance of gaining it back in the TT. It would be great if today’s stage and the TT could see some loses and gains that would result in a hand full of seconds separating the top 5 to provide some real racing in the remainder of the Vuelta.

  5. Fascinatingly poised, this tour. I was surprised at how little time Dumoulin lost yesterday. My instinct still remains that he will struggle to even reach the podium; if Froome, TVG & Nibs were still in and/or Pozzovivo was on form I doubt he’d be pushing for GC. Fair play to him though, he’s shown tremendous character.

    I like Rodriguez again for today. He knows that he’ll lose time to Quintana & Aru (let alone Dumoulin) on the TT so those ‘bonifactions’ mean even more to a climbing finisseur (sp.?). Would be good to see a breakaway win though. Elissonde, maybe?

      • I would say Aru and Purito are much of a muchness over a TT, it will just depend who has the better form on the day. You’ve got to think Dumoulin will be too far back after today. Wooping the climbers by 2 minutes on a Grand Tour TT is one thing when all you’ve been doing for two weeks is a bit of chasing on the flat and climbing in the grupetto. When you’ve had to try and follow them and respond to attacks on two weeks worth of uphill finishes it’s a different thing altogther. Dumoulin will not be at his best TT form. Majka’s a dark horse if he can gain a bit of time today, likewize Quintana is far from the worst TTer.

    • TVG would have been no better than Dumoulin on these finishes and Froome was not in peak ‘Tour’ condition. Nibali would have been dangerous with the upcoming TT but Pozzovivo is no better or worse than Purito and Aru in TT’s, and not as good a finisher on the uphills either.

    • Will he definitely lose time to Aru in the TT? Aru lost more time than Purito in last year’s Vuelta TT and lost lots of time to Contador in this year’s Giro. I think it might be close between the two of them.

  6. Funny that Aru doesn’t get even a chainring. I’m curious as to what Movistar can do. Will they use Valverde to try and isolate Aru in the Cobertoria?

    • I presume that Inrng thinks the GC will stay together until the last climb, and that the pattern of yesterday will then be repeated ?
      I’d agree about the GC part, after that..who knows ?

      Movistar may try something, but have they the strength to finish it off – looks doubtful at this point.

      I’m fearful for Dumoulin’s podium prospects today.
      A loss of anything under a minute would probably be a very good ride. Chapeau to this guy, what a performance so far.

      It’s turned in to a great race actually, even if most of the action is at the last.
      But fascinating stuff.

    • In French we call it “la Révolution asturienne”. My memory goes to the defunct “Tour of the Mining Valleys”, a very good stage race that used to take place in Asturias.

  7. Strong attack of Purito yesterday, from the head of the group. I think he has a very good opportunity to eventually win a GT. However, this is a multi climb stage, and I think this plays more in Aru’s advantage, but it is to see whether he is not riding a bit worse in the 3rd week (as it happened in the Giro). In any case, I think the game will be open for the ITT, both between the climbers, but also with Dumoulin in contention. This guy rides very cleverly, he paces very well in the hard slopes.
    I would be delighted to see some fight in the Cobertoria, climbed this year by its steepest access, but I don’t know why, I have serious doubts that this will happen…

    • Agree about Cobertoria. It would be paramount that the teams who have got more than one man able to climb with the best (and better than Dumoulin, or even better than most top ten rivals) decide to act. I’m talking about you, Astana (but is Landa riding for the team?), Movistar and Katusha. Maybe Tinkoff could be included, with the good support Majka is receiving these days.

      I don’t agree that much about Aru. The 3rd week has always been one of his assets. I don’t mean that he’ll be stronger this year, or that he’ll always be stronger during the final week of a GT, but most of his previous experiences say so. In the Giro, too, he was riding slightly better as the days passed: his worst week was the 2nd, although he didn’t lose much time because the stages didn’t fully expose his weakness. However, hey, he won the last two (mountain) stages before the final stroll! He wasn’t *that* strong, but, what’s sure is that he wasn’t fading. Same goes for 2014, both in the Giro and in the Vuelta. In the last week he was climbing exactly like Purito, whereas he suffered the most during the 1st week – yes, he lost a lot of time to him in the last day’s ITT (3″/km o__O), but I think that was more about the wet road and the attitude (in the previous 38km ITT he just lost 0.3″/km).

      I partly agree about the multi-climb stage being better for him than for Purito. Anyway, despite Andorra, Aru hasn’t show himself as an incredible multi-climb rider, until now. Perhaps also because he’s young. His problem is that he doesn’t like a very high rhythm on previous climbs to perform his best assaults. The ideal, for him, is a steady good climbing pace, until his final brutal effort. Astana didn’t ride hard nor towards Cervinia nor on Finestre. Unluckily for Aru, that’s exactly what Purito tends to like, too. We’ll see. I guess that Astana will try to spare energies, giving room to some breakaway, to take the time bonuses away from Purito – thus renouncing them themselves to that option.

      What is known to be hard for Aru is… over 12% gradients. He’s not like he can’t climb that (he’s still a light-weight climber, come on! Most reference on internet about him being 65 kg are plain wrong, he’s racing form is about 61-62 kg). It’s more like he gets glued, sticked, and can’t perform at the level which would correspond to his actual shape. Think of Mortirolo and the contrast with his subsequent great solo ride to Aprica. Think of Zoncolan 2014 after he showed he was nearly on par with Quintana on the Grappa uphill ITT, or even slightly better than the Colombian in the Panarotta climb, a couple of days before. Think of yesterday. With a final climb like today, he must be quite worried. His best hope is to be the in-form man who can cope better with all the fatigue, even if the terrain doesn’t favour him. For such a climb, he should change a bit his gears and riding style, but it’s not something you can learn in a couple of days.

      However, I’m rooting for Purito… totally! He deserves it so much. Why do I feel he’ll end up losing with some 10″ margin? 🙁

      • Thanks for your very interesting argumentation on Aru’s performance. What can I say after so much information?
        As well, I must say I am completely in line with the last paragraph on Purito. I am already imagining, undelighted, how he will loose the jersey for some sec to Dumoulin in the ITT or how he will be ambushed the last saturday in the Sierra near Madrid!

      • Sentimental favorite has to be Purito as he’s close to the last-chance-saloon here career-wise, while Aru’s got his whole career ahead of him. More than anything I want to see an attacker win this race, someone who’ll “gopher it” as the Eurosport announcer (Sean Kelly’s the only reason I don’t hit the mute button!) likes to say, rather than a calculated, Indurain-like victory.

        • Rather harsh on Dumoulin, Larry T.
          I think he’s in unknown territory and really seeing what unfolds day-by-day.
          Apart from doing his utmost to stay as near to the climbers as possible, there isn’t any pre-calculated Grand Plan.

          I must say Dumoulin is doing a tremendous job, and I really warm to the guy.
          They’ve just finished a gruelling day, and he was inside 30″ away from Purito & Aru.
          A top effort.
          And a thoroughly enjoyable stage to watch.

          • Enjoyable? A wasted stage. Tension, ok, maybe, but nothing really happened until the last… four minutes? Proportionally to the potential, one of the most boring and disappointing stages ever.

          • I agree! Dumoulin might be an Indurain-like rider, but if he finishes on the podium or even wins, it certainly isn’t a calculated victory. He is a dark horse for the GC, especially was going into this Vuelta. He probably started this Vuelta trying to win the ITT, build form for the world championships and help Degenkolb win stages. He attacked and tried to win a stage in the first half of the race, and now he finds himself placed high in the GC. It’s natural that he’s defending these three days.
            I wouldn’t be surprised if he attacks on the last mountain stage downhill. He doesn’t have anything to lose of to prove (he already proved plenty).

          • I want Tom to win. No doubt. It will teach those speculative climbers that they must take risks and attack long-range, otherwise the TTists win the GTs.

  8. I agree I want to like Purito as he seems like a nice Guy, he always seems so happy when he gets any results.

    Given that this is most likely to be he last great chance for a GT win he may pull something phenomenal out of the hat, i am rooting for him.

    Good luck to all of the poor sods

    • I also think Purito seems a nice guy. I used to make fun of him and of all his 2nd placings, but the worlds in Firenze was really too much.
      I heard him say that he would like to win 3 races before the end of his carreer: LBL, the worlds and a GT. In all of them, he finished 2nd at least once. Hope he can take his chance now.

  9. Team Sky could be up to something. They have a good team, a very resistant leader with, still, serious GC options, a complicated course, and pretty much nothing to lose. Nieve is the one who should attack from afar.

    • With only 3 minutes separating the top 9 today is the perfect chance for someone to go long and shake things up. Nieve has the talent but does he have the legs? I’d love to see Chaves throw everything at gaining a podium place, he’s young and I’m sure will have other opportunities so why not risk the top 5 for a tilt at greater glory.

  10. 3, 2, 2, 1 Blast off!

    This will be different than yesterday with a stage built different.

    Aru deserves a chainring in rankings. Perhaps more.

    I want to see Dombrowski make a show but unless He was simply holding back yesterday, for today…

    So leave Dombrowski off the rankings and Add Aru.

  11. Dumoulin reminded me of Indurain in that he’d try and hang on in the mountains and gain time in the TTs. I liked those days of specialists as oppose to the Lance era where a single rider dominated all terrain.
    Good work to Dumoulin, he’s made the race a joy to watch and the long game exciting.
    It will be a close finish.

  12. As so often a stage this hard doesn’t produce anything-and surely not big gaps. This Vuelta is probably too hard for big attacks over several days. One lesson learned (again): Harder climbs don’t automatically make better racing. Especially with this short stages. That’s not a new lesson, but it seems for some it is hard to learn. Maybe now, with these feared stages out of the way, we see a bit more. Tom Dumoulin riding behind Mikel Landa inside the last 5km made me smile. If his team and more importantly he himself really begins to believe in him as a leader and he gets some support (he is always without teammates in the mountains), think what could be possible in the future. I think this time the tempo by Landa (Fränck Schleck gained time again, when Mikel Landa made the pace) was what his team wanted, as Fabio Aru seemed to have some problems. I guess there was an attack planned, as Mikel Landa looked so obviously for Fabio Aru again and again, but the best plans can go wrong. Tomorrow we have the second rest day and I still get nothing from this Vuelta. It is ok, I guess (which is one of the worst things one can say about a race? ). Yes, Tom Dumoulin is a nice surprise – as are a few of the stage winners – and yes, Spain is beautiful and yes, it is very close, but still…

    • I don’t know. I’m loving the slow ratcheting up of the tension and I don’t think I have ever looked forward to a time trial this much. I love watching Dumoulin pushing himself up those climbs – I can relate tot hat way more than the impassive faces of the likes of Quintana.

      I would however agree it’s not had the brilliant sages such as 2011 tdf or stage 17 of 2012 Vuelta but as above the slow burn tension more than makes up for it for me.

      And if Dumoulin can’t quite take it I certainly wouldn’t begrudge Purito a grand tour win, he must be thinking its the 2012 Giro all over again.

    • I think Astana did well tactically today–despite losing the jersey. They let a big break get away and didn’t do any work for a long time. This meant Purito would not win any bonus seconds at the finish or he would use up all his teammates chasing. Near the end of the stage I think Landa took that big turn to 1. keep Purito from attacking and 2. to drop Dumoulin. He was looking back frequently at Aru, yes, but it was to make sure he hadn’t dropped his leader. It didn’t work but I think they executed well. Aru can only hope to limit his losses to Purito when it gets really steep.

      I’m rooting for Purito but Dumoulin ability to limit his losses these past two stages has impressed me. I’ve watched only six stages but I have been following the race and I’ve enjoyed it a great deal. If the motorized vehicles didn’t have a vendetta against Tinkoff Saxo it would be perfect. Oh, and how about that hat Purito was presented yesterday? Land Shark!

      • Sorry, I wasn’t explaining well enough, what I mean: I don’t like the kind of racing we have seen so far. First I don’t like it personally, second I think it isn’t helpful for the tv coverage of the sport-if the action only starts 15 min before the end, we will have even less reason to ask for more or longer (or even better) tv coverage. Although the race had it’s nice moments, presented by the various stage winners, to me -personally- it is lacking something (and I keep thinking about what that something could be). The moto-mania never reached me, I don’t like (or dislike) Purito, so two reasons that got other people involved don’t apply for me. I think, if Tom Dumoulin would win, I could make peace with the race, because he really would be a “worthy” winner – being mostly by himself, suddenly being in a situation that is new to him etc., but right now I feel a little bit out of tune with the race. But who knows there are still a few days left.

  13. If Dumoulin does win, it’d be a nice change to see an all-’rounder win a Grand Tour for a change, rather than a climbing specialist, who, like the “Gimp” (from “Pulp Fiction”), is let out of the box only for those really difficult climbs. Once the job is done, they crawl back into the fold of the team where they are taken along safely to the finish of the tour. Tom is no Gimp!

    On a side note: Mr. INRNG, is everything OK? You’ve been silent. I hope all is well with you. Take it easy, and God bless!

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