A hilly profile but the stage is for a breakaway or the sprinters rather than a set piece showdown between Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru.
Stage 18 Wrap: a win for Nicolas Roche and a year when Team Sky seem to be winning everywhere as Wout Poels won a stage of the Tour of Britain at the same time. Years ago when he rode for Ag2r La Mondiale Roche briefly looked like a points jersey contender in the Tour de France because he was aggressive and could sprint well from a select group. Yesterday he outsprinted Haimar Zubeldia, the Trek Factory Racing rider who has finished high in the Tour de France but would you spot him if he walked past you on the street? He certainly keeps a low media profile. By contrast Fabio Aru was Captain Obvious as he tried some moves but it was as blatant as Vincenzo Nibali’s taxi ride moment and Dumoulin didn’t have to stress. It’s all going to come down to Saturday’s stage.
The Route: 185km as the race swings south towards Madrid and the finish. The race reaches the city of Avila with 100km to go before going out for a long loop. The first climb of the day is the Alto de Valdavia, 13km at 3% or less and a long and gradual descent too. The day’s intermediate sprint looks like it’s on a climb but the Alto de la Paramera is a long steady climb and won’t allow Aru to trounce Dumoulin, besides a breakaway should sweep through. It’s not mountainous but the lumpy roads make life hard for tired riders.
The Finish: the race runs through Avila and the road climbs up, nothing fierce but the 5-6% slopes have urban cobbles.
The Contenders: another good day for a breakaway. Who will win is another random pick among those who have been having an active Vuelta for the last 10 days and where the flat finish after a climb suits the strongmen. So think Nelson Oliveira again, Alessandro de Marchi, Mikaël Cherel, Giovanni Visconti and Adam Hansen. Otherwise there’s John Degenkolb as the “sweeper” in case of a sprint. Cofidis’ Stéphen Rossetto had a good time trial and has the engine for a ride while mountains jersey Omar Fraile can sprint from a small group too.
|Degenkolb, Thomas, Oliveiera, Visconti, Rossetto, Fraile, Bouet
Weather: sunshine but mainly cloudy with a temperature of 22°C
Daily Díaz: Ávila and the Middle Ages are almost synonyms in Spain. The walls around the city, and the cathedral inside these walls, are icons of that time. A curious event happened here in 1465, known as the Farce of Ávila. Some noble families were unhappy with the rule of Henry IV of Castile: they accused him of being fond of Islam, and particularly of practising homosexuality and not being the father of the princess. These aristocrats simulated the deposition of Henry by humiliating a doll depriving it from the crown, the sword and the staff that identified him as the legitimate king of Castile. His half-brother Alfonso, who was 11 years old at the time, was crowned instead, which led to a civil war. Eventually Henry kept the kingdom, but was forced to acknowledge Isabella, his half-sister, as heiress to the crown of Castile. Game of Thrones in medieval Spain, as you can see on Youtube.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel