Vuelta Stage 17 Preview

The only solo time trial of the Vuelta was designed to rebalance the overall classification late in the race and the scenario couldn’t be closer with time trial expert Tom Dumoulin needing to take two minutes on his rivals to see red again.

The Route: a start and finish in Burgos. There is some elevation but this is a course for powerful riders and specialists who can use their refined aerodynamic positions to speed along the long straight sections of this course. Much of the route is very exposed meaning the slightest breeze can be felt; the plains around the roads have farms for wheat, sunflowers… and wind with giant wind turbines dotted across. The roads out in the countryside undulate more than the profile suggests and apparently Fabio Aru was delighted to discover this. They climb up in the town of Burgos to the 5km to go sign before a twisting route to the finish line.

The Contenders: Tom Dumoulin is a top pick for the stage win, indeed it’s easy to keep listing him as a time trial specialist when as the Vuelta is showing he can do so much more. Normally he’d be an even stronger pick for the stage win but his daily fights must mean more fatigue.

Looking at the other contenders there are not many more specialists given Fabian Cancellara and Chris Froome have left. Vasil Kiryienka is a strong rider who took his first TT win in the Giro’s time trial stage to Valdobbiane earlier this year. Luis-Leon Sanchez was another surprise performer that day and could shine again. Previously a GC contender Jurgen Van den Broeck has been saving himself for today’s test but a win would be a big surprise.

A stage win for Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) would be a surprise pick before the race started but he’s been looking very strong and crucially he’s had the energy to keep going in moves suggesting he’s in great shape. He’s Portual’s TT champion. I’m curious to see what Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quickstep) does, he’s a strong rouleur who has been visible in this race and would be a better pick for a 15-20km effort rather than today’s longer ride. Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo) is another rouleur who can do the classics but he too might find this stage too long. Jerôme Coppel (IAM Cycling) used to be a rising time trial talent but hasn’t quite kept the momentum going but this an ideal day for him to make the top-10 while team mate Sylvain Chavanel could win TTs at this level before but seems to be a declining force these days. Trek Factory Racing’s Markel Irizar has hovered outside the top-1o in TTs before, he could go better today. Steven Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) is a strong rider with TT wins to his name. Cameron Meyer (Orica-Greenedge) is a strong rouleur ad finally younger team Damian Howson could upstage him, the former U23 TT World Champion in 2014 continues his progress and the dark horse pick, fourth in the time trial stage of the recent Tour of Poland.

As for the others who won’t win, a few comments:

  • Joaquim Rodriguez can find ways to save time when it matters, see the 2012 Vuelta for example when he made the top-10 in the 39.4km TT to Pontevedra. It was hillier then but he’s not terrible
  • Rafał Majka won the 2014 Tour of Poland after defending his overall lead in the final time trial, he has a good all round engine
  • Fabio Aru should be able to limit his losses too, he’s usually finishing in the top quartile of the field and has been working more and more on his pacing and aerodynamics. He was 21st in the Borja time trial of last year’s Vuelta
Tom Dumoulin
Vasil Kiryienka, L-L Sanchez
Howson, Oliveira, Cummings, Coppel

Weather: warm temperatures of 27°C and a light 10km/h breeze from the south-east.

TV: the first rider is off and the last will finish around 5.40pm Euro time. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: Welcome to Burgos, home to the 2.HC Vuelta a Burgos. There is a 2.1 Vuelta a Castilla y León, too, which may need some explanation. Which is the territorial structure of Spain? In the lowest level, m​unicipios​ (municipalities). There are over 8,000 all over the country. Next come the provincias​ (provinces), which are 50 in total, each one with dozens of municipalities inside. Finally the c​omunidades autónomas​ (autonomous communities), there are 17 of these, formed by at least one province each. Most provinces bear the name of their most important city: Burgos is a municipality, but also the name of the province where the 2.HC race takes place. Burgos­ province is inside the Castile and León (2.1 Vuelta) autonomous community. The funny fact is that a province (Burgos) can sustain a 2.HC stage race, while the autonomous community it belongs to (Castile and León) has to settle with a 2.1 race.

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

46 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 17 Preview”

  1. I’m very excited for this stage! An ITT is never the most interesting to watch but the build-up to the stage and the suspense of who will be in red tomorrow is in my opinion one of the most exciting cycling moments so far this year. I’m Dutch though.

    There’s some doubt about whether Dumoulin will be at his best after 2.5 weeks of racing, but in a short interview with the NOS he said he liked the course (said it would be hard too) and was looking forward to it. His surplus of morale and motivation might make up for some fatigue.

  2. oh pls pls pls can Purito just pull one out of the bag at get that GT win his career deserves…. Dumoulin is going to be a great addition to the variety of potential GT winners out there, and the Netherlands surely deserve someone to cheer on with a genuine chance (did I see the Giro16 has 3 TTs??), but I’d just love to see JRod have his moment on the top step…

    • I think it’s beyond Dumoulin, but I’ll be happily proved wrong. I really do hope he does it, especially due to his having not had the support riders to help in the climbs. Puriot deserves it for sure, to top his career off. He’s been far too unlucky for a rider of his quality.

      • Part of me wonders how much of it is naivety with Purito – I think it’s harsh to pin too much blame on him for the Hesjedal Giro, and equally the Nibali Vuelta was always going to be difficult for him to win, it was more the sheer amount of time he lost that was the headline.

        But maybe if he’d have skipped the Tour he’d be in a stronger position here?

        Either way, I’m all out rooting for him to take home the Vuelta and finally break his duck

        • Hesjedal’s was a miracle win. Credit to him for never giving up, but a big blame on the others, especially on Purito, for not cutting him off when they could.
          Lago Laceno was the first big opportunity but, ok, they thought it didn’t matter, if he was falling back that soon (note that he was the leader, anyway, and he climbed fine to Rocca di Cambio).
          Cervinia was a huge error, especially on J-Rod’s part. He was in top form (he won the selected group sprint, and was the best GC man both in the previous and following uphill finish). He could easily have gone with Hesjedal: he’s got a faster change of rhythm, so Ryder couldn’t just drop him, and it’s a slipstream climb. Again, they let Ryder ride, and he took a 20″ gift.

          Admittedly, nobody could expect Ryder to put in such a performance as Pampeago. His old narrative “I’m better in the 3rd week ’cause the other fade and I follow as always” is a poor *excuse* for that result. He was up with the records of some of the best climbers ever. That is, it was not *relatively* good, it was absolutely impressive. Nothing to do here… sure the surprise only partly justifies the fact that Purito was assuming he’d gain, or at least not lose, time in this stage, hence not needing to do anything elsewhere?
          Though, once again in the Stelvio stage, where it was clear that no second options would have been granted, Purito renounced to go with Scarponi with 2,7 km to go.
          Not that far from the finish line, come on, especially for *two* riders… with a strong common motivation (no GC rivalry with a 2′ gap, Scarponi needing to reduce time difference to De Gendt, Purito needing a gap on Ryder)!
          He knew Hesjedal couldn’t follow, but he preferred to bet everything on his fabled last km (…about 600m in that case). More or less like yesterday. I’m not expecting from Purito something which just doesn’t belong to his technical profile, like long-range attacks, but he must have known that the best course of action was moving *a little* before, whether going with Scarponi or pushing Ryder against the ropes, don’t know, with 1.2 km to go?
          He lacked the necessary character or determination, he chose the known and “easier” path. But that Giro was his to lose. And he did.

      • The Giro apparently will feature a roughly 10k “prologue”, a 40 km “proper” ITT in the Chianti vineyards and a 20km mountain time trial. Translates in little more than 10 extra ks for a Dumoulin to make up time than in this Vuelta. I don’t see him making up time against his climber rivals in the “W/kg test”.

        • That means 10 km with totally fresh legs.
          The kind of situation which allowed Tom to put 1″/km on a fine cronoman like Geraint Thomas (good form for him) and 2″/km on Rohan Dennis (not in top form). It was in the 2014 Eneco Tour, not a climbers’ race, but some climbers made it in the final top 25 (or even top 15), meaning that they were in relative form or at least keeping an eye on GC: they were lesser riders (D. Quintana, Mori, Jeannesson), but they weren’t that bad in that race, either. They all lost more than 1′ to Dumoulin! That same year the TdS featured a 9.4 km prologue including a small climb: the only climbers able to limit the damage were Slagter and Mollema. Final winner Rui Costa lost 36″, in form Formolo and Kreuziger about 27-28″. During the 2014 CRI, in a 7 km ITT, Dumoulin inflicted more than 3″/km to most climber (only Frank below that mark), with most of them over 4″/km.
          The “proper” Chianti ITT is technical but easier than most recent Giro ITT, favouring sheer power. Above all, it’s in the first weekend, with just a couple of quite easy mountain stages before it. I’ll raise my eyebrow if Dumoulin gets more than 2′ over his rivals today; conversely, I’d be very surprised if he didn’t take at least 2’30” on them in the 2016 Giro conditions.
          The uphill ITT is anyway more favourable to him than any mountain stage it’s probably taking the place of. It’s not uncommon that in an uphill ITT you’ve got a mixed top ten where good time triallists can be found along with the climbers. It’s a shorter effort than a whole mountain stage, but, above all, it’s more akin to what time triallists are prepared for / genetically apt (in terms of muscular fibres), even if the weight component goes against them. Obviously, the harder and longer the climb, *heavier* the weight of weight ^___^ He won’t make up time, but he should lose less than in any “normal” mountain stage.

          • Interesting Gabriele.
            You say a 2′ gain ; this equates to about 3″ / km.

            I don’t know how undulating the route today is, but Dumoulin so far has shown a typical time-trialist’s ability to maintain a seated position even on the climbs (think Wiggins, and Froome to an extent). He looks to have very good power, although the fatigue factor is the unknown.
            But if he were to increase his advantage to, say, 3.7″ / km that would translate in to approx 2’20” final gain.
            That would then become very interesting.
            However, we shall see.

          • What I’m saying above can be read from two POVs.
            He made between 3″ and 4″/km on a lot of climbers in a short, first day, ITT. This implies it would be difficult that he didn’t achieve the same if he was in next year’s Giro, but it’s also very difficult (or strange) that he gets a comparable difference in a third week ITT after fighting hard for the GC.

            We lack examples of Tom’s performance in a 3rd week ITT, but we’ve got something, anyway.

            In the last ITT of 2014 Tour, where we must suppose he put in a strong performance, he couldn’t inflict 3.5″ or more to any of the final top ten in GC, except the two Belkin guys affected by the Bianchi Caporetto (who ended up 9th and 10th in GC; however, that was evidently a special situation).
            The worst performance was Valverde’s, who lost 3.2″/km. Bardet, a very good reference for today, lost 2.9″/km. Zubeldia lost 2.3″/km. Pinot, a good sample for Majka, lost 1.7″/km. Peraud, Van Garderen, König and Nibali all lost less than 1″/km (0.4″/km for Nibali). They’re not good for us, since they’re all fine time-triallists, but it helps to show how differences are generally reduced in the 3rd week, even if a rider, like Tom did, is aiming just for a stage win or helping teammates.
            In 2013 Dumoulin wasn’t as strong as last year, but he wasn’t that bad, either. In the very easy and power-bound Mont-Saint-Michel, stage 11, just a couple of days in the mountains in his legs, he put 3.2″/km on Nairo Quintana, Dani Moreno and Purito. Not his strongest performance ever, as I said, but not the 3rd week either (that was Embrun-Chorges, where he was terrible, but it included climbs and maybe he wasn’t too well, either, having fought for the stage the day before).

            To conclude with an *upper* reference, we van refer to one of his strongest performances this year, which came in TdS, stage 9 (last stage).
            He could make up a huge difference on two top-ten GC climbers, Pozzovivo (4″/km) and Miguel Ángel López (4.6″/km… ok, the boy is a neo-pro ^__^). Pinot and Morabito were 2.9″/km back (like, say, Anacona, that is, no miracle for them), Majka and Gesink were losing just 2.2-2.3″/km. Jungels, Thomas and Spilak are not that much pure climbers, thus I don’t include them.
            The average difference against top-ten climbers (*excluding*, as I say, rivals like Thomas or Spilak who can climb but who’re good against the clock, too), is about 3.1″/km.
            Some other references, out of the top-ten in GC (which means they maybe weren’t in top form as the others) are Barguil and Chaves (4″/km) or Henao (3.1″/km).

            All in all, I think that it’s quite clear that any result over 2′ (3.1″/km) against top ten rivals must be considered as superior to expectations. Above or around 2’35” on in-form rivals would mean a quite unprecedented and barely credible performance.

          • That’s excellent Gabriele, very informative.
            I guess the only other factor that we can’t quantify with Dumoulin may be his weight loss, which seems to have added slightly to his power / kg output ?

            I was quite surprised that he has a 25mm tyre set-up on his TT bike also, according to the video link below. Added to a 56t chainring ; the guy must be feeling good !

            Whether these things can off-set 3rd week fatigue and translate into that extra half second / km gain is another matter though.

  3. Have to say this is shaping up to be one of the more fascinating final TTs in a long time.

    Have everything crossed for Purito after so many heartbreaking near misses – all the more remarkable considering the Tour exertions, but also it’d be a great story if Dumoulin could bring it home.

    (Also, didn’t even realise Van Den Broeck was at the race…)

    • Jurgen Van Den broeck is on prep for the worlds’ ITT. He is sparing himself for that goal, that’s why he is not in the top positions in GC. In any case, I suspect that even if he was, he would not have been noticed either…

      • When you wrote that a few days ago, I genuinely assumed you were making a joke. In what world does JVDB think that the ITT WC is a goal? Unless his goal is to come 8th.

        • I read it in the flemish press. I think he won the ITT worlds as a Junior, but faded in this discipline when he turned pro, until this year where his best perfs were in the Tour de Romandie’s and the Giro’s ITT. In any case, a podium in the worlds seems very unlikely. 8th should indeed be a good target for him I guess.

  4. I’m a big Kiryienka fan, so cmon Kiry!

    Would also like Cummings to put in a good ride – but he usually he goes best over a shorter distance than this one…

  5. This race is the archetypal example of what the Vuelta has been doing badly for the last few years – a lack of variety in the parcours.
    Mind you, even when it’s not just one climb at the end the riders act as if it is (time bonues encourage waiting for the sprint).
    Other than Dumoulin, the riders have produced decidedly lacklustre performances (would Dumoulin have a chance in the Giro/Tour? – will be interesting to see).
    For me, the only slight excitement is the hope that Rodriguez can finally win a grand tour – I maligned him earlier in the season when I said he should focus on the Vuelta and not ride the Tour: he seems to have been using the Tour for training purposes, primarily. Or if Dumoulin can do it.
    No-one attacked Aru – until the last km – when he looked weak on the last stage. That summed up the race.
    It’s close – time-wise – but far from fascinating racing and that makes it hard to care who wins.
    And the KOM has been contested by precisely one person.

    • The KOM comment could apply to a lot of GTs to be honest. There needs to be a serious look at rebalancing the competition… but it is hard when the climbs are primarily a tool to sort out the GC.

    • I disagree. The only thing that I can criticize regarding the Vuelta is it’s place in the season. Because it’s the last GT and closely preceding the World Championships A lot of riders are all done, used up, burnt out, recovering from some pile up or a bike handling error, or they’re training for the WC.

      If I were the head of the UCI (and why not? They’ll let anyone..), I’d alternate the GTs on the annual schedule. Maybe holding three, but alternating four, so every year one GT would take a rest.

      As to excitement, it seemed obvious at the start that today would change everything and still the race would be far from over. Though it does seem obvious now that Rodriguez may never be GT material.

  6. For me, it is clear that in normal circumstances Dumoulin should put loads of time both into Purito and Aru and take the jersey. The 2012 Vuelta’s ITT was when Purito was in his best shape ever, and Kontador put 1min into him anyway (all this when he only had 12days of racing as prep). What would this Dumoulin have done then? It is easy to imagine him 1min faster than Kontador.
    The only mitigating effects are that we are in the 3rd week of a GT and that Dumoulin should feel the pressure on him.
    Would also wish to see Purito winning this (a very shared feeling as I can read), but I see it quite complicated. Hope I am wrong, but…

  7. Looking at the start times I think Dumoulin has a big advantage. Nieve and Chaves start ahead of him. He should be able to overtake at least one (I think), which gives him a target to aim at. Can only work in his favour.

    • If it continues to rain or rains even more, Tom Dumoulin won’t be able to use this ITT to his advantage the way he could on a dry road. Let’s just hope the rain doesn’t decide this Vuelta.

  8. A tall order for Dumoulin to overhaul Aru and Rodriguez in one go. Then again, he is a pretty tall guy. Getting excited over a TT, a rare occurence in itself…

  9. What are the time gaps between starts? 1 minute would mean that Doumoulin would basically need to overtake Aru which could actually make for good TV for a change (in ITTs).

  10. Maciej Bodnar is the current leader of the ITT with 81 riders finished. Funny thing: In the last 3 years he had one win every year – and they all came in ITT’s.

  11. Tom Dumoulin!!! Fabio Aru!!! Movistar!!! Wow! Great stage, great performances! I guess now the race for the bonus seconds starts. In the end these seconds and the question, if Giant Alpecin can control the race well enough, will decide this race. Nice touch to have the names of the riders, that were injured during the race, painted on the road. Nairo Quintana’s pain and exhausted face as he crosses the finish line made me shudder.

  12. Congrats Dumoulin (and Aru) on a great TT!
    For once, this was an incredibly lost opportunity for TV production to make an ITT riveting! There were inconsistent intermediate checkpoints, no live GPS tracking, no instant overall classification, almost nothing! Just clueless commentators (british Eurosport for me), incapable of (doing simple arithmetic and) comparing time gaps in stage and overall, and just doing general comments about Dumoulin amazing performance and discarding anything else…
    In the end, we got a 3 second difference in the overall. Should be some great last stages.

    • Totally agree!!
      Personally not a fan of GPS tracking and live classifications, I like frequent time checks that show progression over the course but leave a bit of suspense between checks. Not just two time checks, four or five would have been great.
      But today you could see it was going to be close from the 2nd time check – even Flecha had already suggested there wouldn’t be much change after that amongst the GC guys!

  13. I always just do the ITT timings myself – using my eyes, and a pen and paper. Apparently, the Eurosport commentators are incapable of this.

    I suspect that Aru can make up 4 seconds on the hills that are coming and if he can’t then he doesn’t deserve to win. Landa was quite right to take that stage – especially after being held back in the Giro to allow Aru to come 2nd – perhaps that is what Aru and Astana will come to regret.

    Personally, I hope Dumoulin holds on, but I doubt it.

    • I see Saturday’s stage as being Aru’s best chance.

      I don’t think tomorrows final climb up the Puerto de la Quesera looks steep enough to drop Dumoulin in the form (and frame of mind) he is in at the moment; and if Astana force the pace, there is a chance that Dumoulin would place top 3 ( and ahead of Aru) in a sprint from a reduced bunch – adding to his advantage. The same could be said for the Alto La Paramera and final km on Friday.

      The longer and more irregular repeat ascents on Saturday could put Dumoulin in difficulty if Astana set a fast pace. Giant-Alpecin haven’t shown much aptitude in protecting their lead rider thus far, so Dumoulin might have a huge fight on his hands (although I hear rumors of Lotto NL-Jumbo offering support – for what it’s worth :p).

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