Vuelta Stage 21 Preview

The final procession to Madrid is the last chance for the sprinters and a victory parade for the new red jersey wearer Fabio Aru.

Stage 20 Wrap: Tom Dumoulin cracked. Astana worked over the Dutch race leader on the penultimate climb. Fabio Aru attacked and Dumoulin didn’t respond, instead he instead looking behind and hoping someone else would chase. He was quickly dropped and chasing alone with Mikel Nieve on his wheel. On the descent Dumoulin was closing the gap and got to 10 seconds of the Aru group but just at this point Astana got another team member to help drive the Aru group and they rode away. The gap went up and Dumoulin’s shoulders went down. Ruben Plaza won the stage with a giant 117km solo raid.

The Route: unremarkable. A ride into Madrid and then laps of the 5.8km finishing circuit. This has wide boulevards and a long finishing straight over a kilometre long. They cross the finish line ten times on the way to the finish.

The Contenders: back the sprinters. John Degenkolb gets his final chance at a stage win and maybe Tom Dumoulin folds into the sprint train too. Degenkolb is the only big pedigree sprinter left in the race but has been struggling all the time so once again we could see another rider surprise. It’s difficult to pick someone here because the sprints have been unstructured and random: no team has controlled matters and no sprinter has gone on a winning streak. Degenkolb has kept losing but it’s this consistency which suggests he can be close again today and when others have won it’s because “Dege” and his team have made mistakes. Nobody else seems to be above all the others so it’s hard to chose between Tom Van Aesbroeck (Lotto-Jumbo), Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka), Jean-Pierre “Jempy” Drucker (BMC Racing) and Julien Simon (Cofidis) come to mind with Van Poppel the safest pick among them.

A sprint isn’t certain either, as the Giro’s final stage showed when teams don’t and won’t take control others can have a good chance. Look to fast, powerful riders like Iljo Keisse or Jimmy Engoulvent. Lastly if he can make to the finish then Adam Hansen wins by setting the record for the most consecutive grand tours ridden, now 13.

John Degenkolb
Danny Van Poppel, Tom Van Aesbroeck
Impey, Drucker, Richeze, Rojas, Keisse, Engoulvent

Weather: sunshine and a few clouds, 26°C at the start and cooling in the evening.

TV: the finish is forecast for 20.30pm Euro time. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: Do you know M​ortadelo y Filemón? ​Perhaps you’ve heard of the mas Mort & Phil, as they are known in English ­speaking countries. Their creator, Francisco Ibáñez, has been working on them since 1958, which makes this couple a classic in Spanish comics, read for decades and still active (the latest issue, E​l Tesorero,​was launched earlier this year). Mort & Phil are detectives of the TIA (T​écnicos de Investigación Aeroterráquea)​, and every case they are assigned becomes a mess before a surprising solution is discovered. Mort is a master of disguise, while Phil is the boss but usually the more unlucky of the two. Their adventures are absurd, ridiculous and very funny. Sometimes you’d think they are the organisers of the Vuelta!

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

69 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 21 Preview”

  1. I would hope Aru is giving Landa a massive bonus after his ride today! It was his pace making efforts that first put Dumoulin in trouble, Aru atacked for a km then looked around for Landa to bridge up and continue nailing up the coffin. I wonder what Iwan Spekenbrink would have paid to have a climbing domestique in the squad over the last week!

  2. Did Landa / Aru make their move on a ramp, or was it surges of high pace that cracked Dumoulin ?

    As Dumoulin almost bridged the gap on the descent, Nieve chose to tag instead of lend a hand ?
    I struggle to understand this aspect of pro road cycling at times. Why not be the best you can be ?
    If Nieve and Dumoulin had worked together and bridged, Nieve himself may have been able to stay with the group and would have finished a place higher at least in GC.
    In hindsight, and as Dumoulin to his credit admitted at the finish, a bridge would have only delayed the inevitable however ; his “legs had gone”.

    It was somehow fitting that in the historical region of Castile, a fiendish plot dethroned the King-to-be in the cruelest way. Death by a thousand cuts indeed.

    • I think you might be being a little harsh on Nieve. He looked as though he was coming through when he could but he was plainly not as quick on the descent as Dumoulin and was hardly the ideal TTT companion.

      I felt very sorry for Dumoulin. The last few kms were painful to watch. Rodriguez had some kind words to say at the finish, as he knows how it feels I guess. The sympathetic tweets from various riders in the peloton (including Porte & TJVG) show the human side of the sport. Nice to see.

      Great stage and a pretty good grand tour, even if I can’t warm to the winning team.

      • Having re-watched this again, off a better Spanish feed, I think that you’re right TD.
        Nieve did do his bit yesterday ; they were a rider or two short at the crucial last moment unfortunately.
        And, as Inrng pointed out, it was almost at that very moment that LL Sanchez joined up with Aru and refreshed the effort to get away.

  3. I think it’s fair to say over the last couple of years Astans have been by far the best and most imaginative team tactically. Nibali established his Tour win on first weeks ‘mini classics’ stages when the cycling text book says wait for the time trial and high mountains. They tried alsorts to unseat Contador at the Giro and have pulled a number on Dumoulin here. The only thing I would add to this is that it isn’t hard to be the most creative cycling team as the vast majority of them are conservative in the extreme.

    • still think it’s extremely harsh to call other teams conservative when you’re not on the bus don’t know their strength etc etc and a good few thousands miles of cycling……..

      think Astana having an extremely strong team and big wallet is also part of it plus teams with similar strength rarely being in this position where daring tactics were necessary (ie Sky, BMC, Tinkoff – although Contador seems to have pulled it off a few years back but people forget his teams role in this…..) – Giant, Katusha, FDJ etc simply don’t have the strength to do this, as it basically means having a extremely strong domestique who’d be a leader on any other team……. although again I guess your comment is probably directed at Movistar, again a different circumstance, Tom Dumoulin hadn’t previously ridden away from Aru to the tune of a minute on the first mountain to destroy his confidence…..

      But yeah, Astana raids have been great, but more out of circumstance than Astana being least conservative tactically.

      Plus it’s also down to the route enabling this, no a coincidence that these raids have happened on Vuelta rather than Tour.

      Finally – peoples condition/overall level in the Vuelta is different to the tour maybe also……

    • I think Bjarne/Contador were the most tactical combination, but think that all the failed attacks by Aru on 18 were a clever bluff with everyone else conserving for yesterday.

  4. thought they’d be more analysis of Dumoulin’s performance! one of the most gutting stages I’ve ever witnessed, absolute disaster, Dumoulin was undone by riding with a weak team, and absolutely deserved to win this Vuelta.

    but obviously awesome Vuelta, awesome stage, awesome everything – why you watch sport, proper drama.

    but didn’t not expect him to explode like that at this point? incredible shame, similar to Geraint Thomas in TDF.

      • The moment the race was lost for Dumoulin? The moment at which Giant Alpeci decided to send a B team to la Vuelta that was hoping solely for one or two stage wins. Dumoulin almost winning a Vuelta designed for pure climbers without any real help from his team? Either this is the most impressive performance of the last few seasons, or his rivals were not riding at “Tour de France level”. I’m afraid for Dumoulin that it’s predominantly the second hypothesis. Regardless, he has completed a huge feat at the Vuelta, hats off.

  5. Yes! Finally. Finally Aru got his first GT win!!! Finally the teams used tactics. And finally Astana got Landa to work (for them). It was nice to see some racing the last days after this strange Vuelta. I hope the race organisers learn from this race. Such a hard race with the difficulties always at the end only frightenes the teams/riders and freezes the race. Make it a bit easier, give them more room to attack, to use tactics. Let them think about how they could win. This vuelta showed, what is possible, if riders believe they can win or achieve something. It is normal, that the teams want control and only go for what they think is in their grasp. Make the race possible for more teams, then you have more teams that race and not just the few with the money. And Plaza’s ride was just wow. I think, when Dumoulin had a few days to recover, he will see what he has achieved. But for Giant-Alpecin, things haven’t become easier than they were the whole year. The Tour and this Vuelta showed they have two really good non-sprinting riders, who now are ready for the next step – and not the support those would need. At one point, they will have to decide, what they want: Sprinters including a lead out or going for -shorter and longer- stage races too. Which with their budget will be hard to do.

  6. Tom Dumoulin finally paid for a lack of team support. Constantly left isolated finally took its toll. I think we have all been there when you can’t close a small gap on your own. It’s brutal.

    • I think we all now are really keen to see what Dumoulin could do with a proper GC team riding in support of him over the three weeks. When you think about it, finishing 6th after turning up with only John Degenkolb and his lead out train for teammates is quite remarkable.

  7. Awesome stage. I deeply felt for Tom, while having a great time altogether. The emotions only (good) cycling can give you. I think yesterday’s thrills underline two things about GTs. The importance of TTs (and allowing TT specialists to contest the GC), and the importance of mountain stages with no MTN and where the steepest slopes are not on the last climb.

    • Not sure this would happen or the Astana plan could have worked if they were against a fully loaded Sky or Tinkoff.

      The Astana Plan stick because Aru is by far the stronger climber and Astana a much stronger team.

    • Totally agree with you on TTs. So many people complain about TT stages being boring, but I feel they are valuable to stage races due to the drama they add, and they open the general classification to more than just pure climbers.

      • +1 on the TTs. May be boring to watch, but is a way to balance the race between climbers and rouleurs. So unless you want Grand Tours to be for climbers only, I’d say TTs are needed.

  8. Don’t understand Movistar’s tactics. What was Visconti doing up ahead during all of Quintana’s attack? Why didn’t he drop back to help on the flat and descent to the finish? But, an amazing stage, great last week. Thank’s for keeping on writing Inrng!

  9. Weird approaches to the stage, Martinelli-Giant 4-0.

    Talking to my friends, since the ITT we focused on the penultimate climb of yesterday, saying that the last was too easy for making any difference. Eurosport UK commentators were saying that the last climb (an easy one) would have been decisive, while Landa attacking strong (of course) on the penultimate proved that the only way to kill Miguel Indumoulin was on a steep climb. It was the only place since Andorra where a grimpeur could make the difference.

    Not only Eurosport commentator forgot about the penultimate climb, but also Giant team forgot. Out of 39 riders NONE was a Giant. Are you kidding me? Why? At least ONE, ONE of the team…. Tom has to blame his ammiraglia for such a mistake.

    Martinelli, on the contrary, saw that with Landa and Aru was possible to make the difference way before the last climb, and sending 2 riders out in the morning showed very clearly the plan. Landa-Aru almost killed Contador on the Finestre this year, do you want to challenge them in a one to one match 60km long?

    Martinelli-Giant 4(riders) to 0.

    PS1 Maybe years of boringSKY bringing everybody to the last 3 km emptied the minds of many teammanagers…
    PPS Jumbo/NL said: We will help Tom to keep the red. But then they don’t stopped Bennet to give some help to Dumoulin

    • The Eurosport commentators – well, Calrton Kirby – have been dreadful. More time talking about motorbikes and a few riders he quite likes then actually focusing on the race and tactics. I watched a couple of ITV4s highlights when I missed a stage live and Ned Boulting and Millar are terrific. Flecha is great, though.

  10. Mano-a-mano, no doubt that Dumoulin is the better rider for the overall. Aru won thanks to his sports director’s game planning. Hope to see more of Dumoulin in future grand tours–with a proper team!

  11. I think Giant will want to show they have some teamwork skills and Dege will get it today-if the team isn’t empty because of yesterday. He said he feels better every day and is ready for the worlds. Have to say: Plaza’s ride yesterday over more than 100km (!!!) was simply crazy, but I was hoping for Gonçalves to win the stage after the many days he had tried it.

  12. I’m going to sound a bit harsh but, in my view, Dumoulin collapse was mostly mental. True, he cracked physically when Aru and Astana attacked on the Morcuera but he wasn’t able to rally forces to minimize the damage afterwards. He basically dropped his head and let others (Landa and Alex Howes!?) do the work for him. Compare that to Contador on Sestriere. Of course he is a very young rider with lots of potential and no expectations before the race. But this is part of my point as well: it is much easier to perform when no one expects anything from you, as he has done most of this Vuelta. The real test was when people were expecting him to defend his jersey handily on the moderate slopes of yesterday’s stage. (people were also expecting a lot before the TT and he came through, but a race against other riders is the real test). To be a GT contender you need that mental fortitude to never give up and I don’t think he has it. Based on that, and considering the effects of yesterday blow must have on one’s confidence, I predict he will not be very successful in future GTs… (Probably he’ll focus on being the best TT in the world). I said I was going to be harsh! Hopefully, he’ll prove me wrong.

    • I’d have to disagree JP.
      He bridged one Astana surge lower on the Morcuera but got caught with the next.
      Even that was almost closed (an agonising 9″ or 10″ away) on the descent.
      Dumoulin has shown great fortitude and has come back time and again during the race.
      Aru has too.

      It was a real contest, and it was unfortunate that when Dumoulin’s legs weakened, there was no one there to assist him.
      Aru, in contrast, could call on Landa (who had coasted much of the latter week relatively) and Zeitz (I never heard him mentioned before this) at precisely the time when they were needed.

      Pro road cycling is one of the cruelest of sports and Dumoulin was left deserted in the wind, almost at the very last. It was checkmate.

      • My biggest concern in regard to TD yday performance was the way it appeared that he gave up as soon as he sensed that the red jersey was lost. I felt he didn’t try to limit the damages and save the podium. Again, this is my impression from miles away.

        • honestly, i don’t think it was mental, i think it was completely physical… he was just cooked…

          look at it this way…. has he ever once before in his career been able to stay with “the big boys” once they started to get serious on a real hill?

          in keeping with his previous results, the “expected result” is what happened… what would be completely unexpected would for him to be able to hang with the big guns on a serious hill when they really fired… that would have been shocking…

          the more i think about it, the more i believe astana played this just right… let tom hang around, soak up some of the press that would normally be going to aru (thus taking some pressure off of him), knowing the whole time that they could easily get rid of him yesterday…

          might sound a bit counterintuitive, but aru won the race with his tt… as long as he was within 2-3 minutes of tom after that, astana was playing from a position of strength…

    • That’s just silly. Mental cracking would have happened long before this. The guy is not built for this GT and has done ridiculously well.
      Believe it or not, your brain just can’t say ‘shut up legs’ or whatever and keep going forever. To say he doesn’t have mental fortitude is insulting.
      And you predict he won’t succeed in GTs? So what? 180 riders start and one wins. Predicting ‘failure’ is a very safe game, particularly if the names aren’t Contador, Froome, Quintana.

      • Sorry, i was not trying to insult him but maybe it came across that way. I just don’t think he has (still?) that little bit extra mental strength to win a GT when that would be expected of him – in the future, with 8 guys solely working for him. His apparent giving up between climbs felt to me a bit like “just let them go, this is not my fight”. I could be totally wrong and he could have been on the limit of what is humaly possible.

  13. …. him cycling past froome on that mountain stage showed completely the inverse of what you’re saying.

    you may be right (who knows) but your prediction is wack.

    you don’t know if he was ill, hunger knock, learning about his body etc etc. Wiggo on Angliru a few years back you could draw the same conclusions (and you’d have been wrong – think that was to do with gearing).

    Dumoulin losing is soley down to his lack of support and maybe a tiny bit of naiveness with aggression at time when it wasn’t necessary. He’s as good a prospect as Aru if not better. D

    • Again, the difference between the stage where he beat froome and yesterday’s was what was expected of him.
      In regard to wiggins, he was beaten on the angliru but he was still able to save a podium place. And the morcuera is not the angliru.

  14. Dumoulin had a great Vuelta and he might become a relevant GT contender if he steps up a little bit more and, above all, if GT route design goes back to more balanced opportunities for time triallists.
    Currently, no comparison with Aru makes sense: Aru has been among the half dozen top GT riders during the last couple of years, Dumoulin has just shown up himself on the scene – and under very peculiar circumstances.

    He made the most – worth at least a minute – by the tight man marking between the more established GC contenders, taking a huge advantage of his superior freshness (both advantages that he’ll probably won’t have in the future, unless he’ll specialise himself in the Vuelta only).

    Every now and then he made what may look like little mistakes – mostly out of absolutely normal and expected inexperience – nevertheless, the kind of mistakes which become so decisive and get little or no pardon if your are an acknowledged GC contender; on those occasions, he received the sort of help a big rider can’t expect (nobody works for Nibali or Valverde, not even teams which aren’t involved in the GC fight), or the sort of mercy no favourite would be allowed to.

    More generally speaking, his weaknesses, both personal and team-wise, weren’t fully exposed before because the climbers were worried one about the other more than anything else. Did they knew better than us, actually living the reality of the race 🙂 , or did they take a huge risk? We’ll never know for sure. The final GC – and the fact that Tom conceded that even if he had been brought back to the front group before Cotos, he’d have fallen back all the same, suggest the first is true. Still, I feel the others were playing on thin ice: they were really good chess-players or very brave.

    Thursday now looks like excellent long-term strategy by Astana. On Monday, they noticed that Tom has changed his effort-management tactics (he declared that, too). They used that to bring him down. Nieve had to work quite a lot on the plateau over the Morcuera, where Dumoulin could have used at their best his skills if he was just a little less burnt out, that is, if he had managed better the climb, which he really didn’t, feeling he could just go on keeping the wheel of Aru as he did a couple of days before with such an ease.

    Spekenbrink can only blame himself for: apparently not believing or not being informed about Tom’s improvements as a climber, something that allegedly the rider had been working on for a lot of time… but the team selectino didn’t reflect this possibility at all; not having studied very well the course (as it became apparent in a couple of occasions); not having tried anything at all to prevent Astana from playing its game in yesterday’s stage – was that going to be easy? Not at all, but there were some two or three things they could try (given the guys available and the strengths of Tom), and I can tell you, having watched the stage from scratch, that they didn’t even try – anything. Resignation or excess of slef-confidence? From various interviews, the latter looks more probable.

    Generally speaking, it’s wrong to form an idea purely by the way the race *looks* to have developed itself. Like – “hey, he was up there until the last stage – what a bad luck, this might not have happened, he was worth the race lead”. Things went this way only because one out of three *true* mountain stages was on the penultimate day. Another of the three stages saw a giant display of paralising strategies, since Aru was probably having a bad day – or decided to play the waiting game (nevertheless losing just seconds to Purito and gaining on everyone else), whereas the last relevant mountain stage saw, once more, Dumoulin losing ground not only to Aru but also to Purito or Majka.

    The final GC reflects a not-that-balanced Vuelta: another ITT, maybe a rolling or hilly one (not *uphill*), would have made it more open, giving Dumoulin more serious podium options. On the contrary, this course just created the illusion of a deeper competition through an excessive number of stages which didn’t allow a true selection to take place. Short differences, made even shorter by Dumoulin’s great form and by his excellent attitude for short and intense efforts.
    The latter would make me hope that the team and Tom himself would give a serious try to Classics instead of (or before) giving it all for GTs – unless some very favourable course is presented by the organisers, of course.

    • well put…

      a) anyone who thinks that tom is aru’s class as a gt rider is fooling themselves… circumstances made it look like tom was “closer” than he really is… i’m not the biggest aru fan, and i think he is gonna get spanked in the tdf next year, but he is at least 2, if not more, levels ahead of tom when it comes to a gt… your paragraph about how “forming an idea based on how it LOOKED like the race developed” is something people should remember when they start saying “give tom a better team, and he would have won”… frankly, even if you had given him sky’s team (sans froome), he wouldn’t have won… having a great team will NOT make you a great climber…

      b) to be completely honest, both astana and movistar should have worked harder to dispose of him last week… i know they aren’t the most popular team in the world, but if a certain team that rides with a black kit had been in the position of astana/movistar, they would have tried a lot harder to rid themselves of him earlier… although since astana’s tactics played out perfectly, i can’t really sit here and say they should have done things differently…

      c) i couldn’t agree more with your last sentence… i think (and posted in another thread), it would be a grave error in judgment to attempt to turn tom into a gt rider…

      d) for people to say that if it had been a “wiggins like” parcours, tom would have won… i think that diminishes how good wiggins is… it is highly unlikely that tom could survive multiple pyrenees/alps stages, which existed in wiggins tdf win… simply having a boatload of tt kn’s won’t be enough…

      • I’d say that ‘anyone who thinks that tom is aru’s class as a gt rider is’ just parroting what TV commentators have told them: an overly romanticised narrative with the hero just being foiled at the last due to his weak team.
        I agree: a more balanced parcours, rather than the monoclimb-filled Vuelta, would have found him out sooner.
        It’s possible that he could develop into a GT winner – time will tell – but I think he should focus on the classics for now too.
        It’s like with Geraint Thomas, people assume that he could be a GT winner because he was good for the first two weeks of the Tour (although one suspects that this view is primarily caused by British bias). But then he collapsed in the third week. And, like Dumoulin, he doesn’t seem to have the climbing ability – and should focus on the classics. This is not denigrating them: they’re both tremendous talents – it’s just a question of where those talents are best focused.

        • again agree on the thomas comparison… both of them are very talented, and i think those talents should be focussed on the classics… it’s almost like people are looking at that as a “put down”, e.g. “oh, they can’t ride a gt, so they should SETTLE for the classics”, when nothing could be further from the truth….

          the classics are (in my mind) in no way “secondary” to the gt’s…

          it takes a special talent to be a great classics rider, and that talent is arguably rarer than great gt riders… in the last decade, we’ve had cancellara and boonen, and that is it…

          i have to admit that part of this is selfish on my part… i REALLY want to see these two guys (and sagan) develop the classics talent i think they have, because we need some great classics riders with spartacus and tommeke just about done…

    • +1 Unbalanced course? Little doubt. But everyone knew that and decided to show up and race anyway and the best man (and team) won in the end, as it should be. Same with the Giro and Tour. Young Aru should be pretty happy with GT’s 2015 – 2nd at the Giro and 1st at the Vuelta vs Contador’s 1st at Giro and 5th at LeTour or Froome’s 1st at LeTour. Pretty good results I’d say and I’ll discount all the “He wasn’t the best, he won it because of team tactics” rants unless those critics are willing to apply same to Froome and Contador’s GT victories as well.

      • aru was the best and most aggressive rider, and he deserved to win… no complaints here…

        as far as “he won it because of team tactics”…. as you allude to, team tactics comes into play for just about every gt winner… it works the other way too, lack of team tactics can lead to a better rider “losing” to an inferior one (hi ryder!)…

        • Gab, Larry, cc, JE – how do you guys think Dumoulin would do, with a Winter’s climbing training in him and say in Lotto NL Jumbo’s team with riders like Vanmarcke, Kelderman, Kruijskwijk, etc with him ?
          I know it’s a bit fantasy computer game thinking, without even considering the ego / personailty factors, but his name amongst that team for instance – in the right tour and at a favourable point in time – could there be a GT winner there ?

          I’d love to see a Dutch Superteam – they’ve got some fantastic riders scattered over numerous teams – that really targeted a GT win.

          • No idea, myself. I imagine he *could* be a Wiggins-style rider, but I think he’d have more success in the classics, particularly as – unlike almost anyone else (Thomas would be another example) – he should be able to do well in the climbing and cobbled Monuments.

          • like j evans, i can’t see the future, but…

            i think the thomas comparison is apt… i think if tom completely concentrated on the classics, he could become very successful… this would also allow him to compete for jerseys in any number of 1 week races… i’ve already commented a couple of times that i believe this is his “best” path forward…

            i also think that if he attempted to become a “wiggins-type”, he would end up being “wiggins-lite”… i know he is a bit of a tool at times, but sir brad IS a great bike racer, and i think that some tend to underestimate just how good he was… tom, as good as he is at the tt, wouldn’t be able to touch an in-form wiggins… and wiggins maintained that ability to tt despite losing a bunch of weight to become quite competitive on the hills…

            even then, brad was only able to win a gt that was perfectly set up for him… not only that, it can easily be argued that his teammate could have easily won the race instead…

            so… no, i don’t see a gt winner’s jersey on tom’s wall when he retires…

            gabriele made a very good point earlier about “don’t be fooled by how close this race appeared to be”…

          • It would seem Dumoulin has a lot of potential. As I’ve written here before, sort of a “Dutch BigMig” though it seems he’s really not that big compared to Indurain. Whatever size he is, with the backing of a strong GT team and skilled, experienced direction and a favorable course he could win in the style of BigMig. I’m always cautious about ideas that a winter will turn him into a climber as that’s almost always (without doping anyway?) at the expense of ability against the clock. Was this performance a one-off, a guy pretty well rested racing against a well-rested and fresh Aru vs most of the others still carrying fatigue from LeTour? Will Giant now build a GT team around Dumoulin and if so, how will he cope with being the team leader carrying all the pressure vs this Vuelta’s free and easy “see what you can do, no worries” atmosphere where the team’s targets were assumed to be sprint stages? Only time will tell, but I’d say the chances of this guy being a major GT contender in the future are better than 50-50 and while I’m not a fan of the Indurain “Limit your losses in the mountains and mow ’em down in the chrono” I have to admit it can be very effective.

  15. Giant not sending anyone (or two) up the road was a catastrophic and predictable error.
    Also, Dumoulin’s head did drop.
    But the biggest factor was the legs – he just didn’t have them on the big mountain stages, throughout the Vuelta.
    Without the first two problems he probably would have finished higher, but the win wasn’t there.
    As with Wiggins, I think he’ll struggle to win a grand tour unless it has a lot of TT km and a relatively weak opposition. But those do happen.

  16. look – someone needs to get Gabriele under control here – his posts are insanely long and becoming an issue in these discussions.

    don’t disagree with most of the points, in fact very often agree – but the tone is often patronising and sorry to say a bit know-it-all.

    the anonymous but perfectly understandable post yesterday (which was actually quite kind in its wording before being shot down harshly) was kinda correct the posts are becoming a reason to stop reading this comment section. maybe a word limit?

    apologies to re raise this – it’s great to have regular contributors and love reading others opinions like J Evans, Special Eyes but Gabriele is currently dominating this blog and writing responses longer than bloody INRNG!

    I agree on Spekenbrink missing a trick, agree Dumoulin had a few benefits of not being marked, disagree on those saying a better team wouldn’t have helped Dumoulin (as does Joaquin Rodriguez – one climber just to close a few gaps would have made a huge difference), disagree intensely with the suggestion that Dumoulin should go to the classics rather than focus on GT’s (absolute nonsense), agree Aru is league above D currently based on previous result but D’s potential to me at least looks to have more room from improvement where it might break into the F/Q/N/C bracket. But Aru is clearly a brilliant cyclist.


    I may be wrong.


    • Regarding Gabriele, I enjoy exchanging differing views with him and I’ll agree he’s probably piles on a bit making his point, but overall he usually has a good argument and I think he’s an asset on this forum. It’s pretty easy to see whose post it is and scroll right past (as I do with most of the anonymous ones) if they’re too long, it’s up to Mr. Inrng to police his blog as he sees fit. I have to be careful here, I could find myself banned probably on the same grounds used against Gabri! 🙂

      • i expressed my opinion yesterday, but i will express it one more time…

        if gabriele chose to write twice as long, it would be fine by me….

        one of the “good things” of the inrng is that the comments section isn’t just a bunch of two liners, it allows for those of us who like an in depth discussion that has facts in it… and those discussions tend to lead to some long posts… i tend to learn from these, so i find them beneficial, not bothersome…

        besides… how hard is it to scroll past what you don’t want to read?

    • +1. Gabriele seems like a nice guy and very knowledgeable about racing. Unfortunately the posts are exhausting in length and I no longer can bring myself to read them and find myself leaving the Inner Ring site.
      Inner Ring article including title and Daily Diaz: 601 words; 2,923 characters.
      Single post by Gabriele: 780 words; 3,687 characters.

  17. I don’t know why dave (whose posts are not short) and a few – mostly anonymous – others have decided that they are the arbiters of what should and should not be written, but as can be seen from the comments on yesterday’s blog, you are actually in the minority.
    Frankly, a lot of these comments are bullying and childish.

    • To clarify, I didn’t mean dave when I said ‘bullying and childish’.
      With a lot of these types of comment, one wonders if it is simply ‘I don’t agree with that opinion, but lack the knowledge to back up what I think’.
      Like Larry, I scroll through the comments of those I’m not interested in – often ‘anonymous’.

      • cool consider me shot down. I like your post J Evans, likewise Larry T, but it’s been relentless the Gabri show for flippin ages now and bored of it.

        I’ll make my exit, sorry to be considered bulling, I’ve actually thought it was the opposite with a few people being destroyed by the heavyweights and a swarm of posts for a slightly misjudged comment here or there.

        definitely don’t think I own or need to police, just epic A4 pages are ruining the ebb and flow on the conversation currently.

        but that’ll be it from me.


        • As I said above:
          “To clarify, I didn’t mean dave when I said ‘bullying and childish’.”
          The last thing I would want is you to think I am suggesting you don’t post. It would not be my place to do so and I like your posts.
          I like what ccotenj says above:
          ‘one of the “good things” of the inrng is that the comments section isn’t just a bunch of two liners, it allows for those of us who like an in depth discussion that has facts in it… and those discussions tend to lead to some long posts… i tend to learn from these, so i find them beneficial, not bothersome…’

          • But it’s just three or four commenters which have clearly turned off a number of commenters. I’m sure you guys could take it off line sometimes or to a discussion board no? You’ve clearly upset some other readers but you don’t want to hear that. This isn’t to bully but to point out since you’ve dismissed every other criticism out of hand. Monopolizing a comment section could be considered bullying by some , so maybe be not so tinned ear.

          • Cd – Some agree with you, some disagree – in roughly equal numbers, it seems.
            But not reading a comment is a choice; telling someone to stop commenting or how to comment is not giving them a choice.

  18. Or maybe gabriele can start his own blog for full length analysis? As well as to keep posting here as a guest of course. He has the knowledge and enthusiasm (and the vocabulary!) inrng will always remain my first morning coffee read of course.

    and then evans has 2 places to be angry at us (just maybe a reason for cowardly anon postings like this)

  19. Puh, Dege wins after a violent lead out. And Aru is safely over the finishline. Nice one.

    People: Please, don’t take everything so serious. This is supposed to make fun.
    And – this is no forum. It is the comment section of a blog. If we all – including me – try to comment more on the pieces, instead of promoting ourselves, I bet, it will be a whole lot nicer for all and much more interesting (and I admit willingly, as is proven by this comment, I forget this advice only too often myself, when I have something to say).

  20. Just as an outsider who has never commented on the blog before, I have no issue with the length of posts especially if I can glean some knowledge from them. I’ve been reading this blog for past 18 months and am relatively new to following cycling as a sport. Always had a passing interest but started following it a lot more closely in last 2 years. As a result my knowledge of the tactics and history isn’t great so haven’t felt confident to join in the discussions. However I’ve learned a great deal about the intricacies of this sport and a better understanding of how it all works from this blog (massive thanks to INRNG – keep it up) and the comments section.

    I enjoy reading posts and learning from them even if on occasion they’re longer than the article themselves. On point of Gabriele he puts his posts together well with paragraphs and clarifies his points, doe he go above and beyond what is needed? Probably but it is doing no harm, same as anything, if it something I am not interested in, I just skip by it. Keep posts constructive, on topic and not personal.

    Back on topic, felt terribly sorry for Domoulin but I felt it was inevitable he would crack sooner or later even after he marked Aru brilliantly the stage after the ITT as I felt there was no way he could keep it up as Astana did as I expected.

    Interesting points above that it made it appear Tom was closer than it was and in a way I can get on board with that even if it is something I’d not considered. Hope to join in more discussions going forward now I’ve bitten the bullet.

  21. I don’t like meta-discussions, but I’ll add my voice to those saying that Gabriele, like anyone else, should feel free to perorate as much as he wants, as long as he stays respectful and reasonably on-topic, which he does, to great effect.
    On the race itself, I wonder what it would have been if Froome and Nibali were still around, or if Quintana hadn’t been so irregular. But what’s great is that you can have a fantastic race regardless of whether the biggest names are there or not.

  22. On Dumoulin: I think he just cracked. It is not that Aru was brilliant on Saturday (if he was, he would have escaped with the 3 or 4 best climbers of this Vuelta, but there he just rode with his teammates). The route of the stage exposed Dumoulin’s weaknesses, as it was the case in Andorra – and he probably had a worse day in Cercedilla. The stages in Asturias were all more manageable for him, because there was always a steep last climb making the climbers ride conservative. In any case, I won’t call that a tactical victory from Astana, as I found the set up of the race very very risky.

    On Dumoulin’s future: I read a lot of opinions stating that Dumoulin should focus on Classics rather than in GT. Maybe: It is clear that he should make his climbing better if he wants to really enter GT contests. But also maybe not: what kind of classics would suit him? Can be both the cobbled and the hilly, but both require (i) experience and (ii) a good sprint, and he clearly lacks both of them. He should maybe try to schedule his seasons à la Valverde or à la Purito, so he can try both the classics and a GT. Just remains the question of what kind of classics he should aim at…

    • Very good points about TD’s future. I’d have thought that he could do both hilly and cobbles, as he has the TT and climbing skills, but I’ve no idea about his sprinting capabilities.
      He could try the Valverde/Purito route, but very few others manage this – mind you, few try.

    • I suggested he shouldn’t give up Classics to focus on GTs, instead of doing quite the contrary (which would be focusing on GTs renouncing completely to Classics).

      In his short career he’s already shown a good natural attitude towards hilly Classics, both in classics-like stages during several short stage races, from Tour of Belgium to Eneco or TdS (I admit that those stages might be “accused” to be too short) *and* in the Classics themselves, with a fine top 10 in U23 LBL, a top 20 placing as a neo pro in the Strade Bianche or in the Lombardia as well as an 8th place in GP Wallonie; in the last couple of years he placed around the 20th position in LBL, Flèche, Amstel, Worlds, the hard pavé stage in 2014 Tour, besides improving with a 12th place his Strade Bianche record and making a double top ten in the 2014 Canadian GPs. His more evident talent lies in TT, but, until this Vuelta, he had shown equal attitudes for stage races and hilly Classics (without looking like a disaster on pavé or other surfaces), especially if we consider the expertise needed to get good results in the Classics.
      During this same Vuelta he showed a couple of times how could he manage to win some Classics despite his lack of pure sprint, both in Ávila and in his previous stage win.

      Riding the Classics hasn’t hindered many GT careers and, in any case, I can’t remember top GT riders losing significant options because of the Classics. Several top GT riders regularly rode some Classics and they didn’t look like they were harmed, above all when hilly classics are concerned (if anything, the pavé might be dangerous because of falls, injuries and so on). On the contrary, I can say that several riders lost important opportunities to improve greatly their palmarés with more Monuments for GT’s sake.

      Both things are compatible, I’m a bit worried about the subject only because I had observed a slight shift in his race programme this year – taking away minor Classics or classics-like stage races to take on more GT-like stage racing – and sort of a (very little) technical step back in the Spring races. But every year and every single occasion are very precious to adquire the Classics skills: you don’t have so many years to do so in a whole career, given how few racing days are available for that.

      • It would be great for Dumoulin to be competitive in both which would make him kind of a throw-back type of rider rather than just a Dutch BigMig. Back-in-the-day you’d see Merckx or Gimondi at Paris-Roubaix and Il Giro. Not many (any?) like that anymore. LeMond tried to be competitive (and was) in every type of race before his shotgun accident, though Eddy always seemed to think he should have done more races each season.
        Caught the last half of the NBC over-the-air broadcast Vuelta coverage on Sunday. They didn’t bother to show what I thought was the most dramatic moment – when Dumoulin was barely 10 seconds behind Aru and Co. but just couldn’t quite get there as Aru’s reinforcements arrived and off they went. Gorgeous HD video let down (way down) by poor editing and gawdawful commentary…made me think “Carlton Hyperbole” on British Eurosport not-so-bad in comparison!

      • Thanks for sharing your pov on that, guys.

        On the bigmig comparison, I am not sure. In his glorious years there was no way of hurting him in the mountains. It is just that he stayed passive because of the massive time gains he could afford to create in the ITT (and partly because of his charachter, too). Anquetil would be a better comparison I think – for what we saw in this Vuelta: maître jacques was more like limiting losses in the climbs and then create gaps in the time trials.
        A more recent comparison might be Olano: excellent ITT but limited in the mountains.

        On the classics capabilities of Dumoulin, I am still skeptical. He is very talented and probably good allrounder, but there are some young(er) riders that have already obtained better results in those races (alaphilippe, Kwiato,…) because there skills -explosivity, sprint- are more adapted to those races. Of course, it doesn’t mean he should not try -it would be a pity not to do it actually- or focus entirely on GT work, but really I see him more as a Tony Martin carreer style.

  23. It seemed to me Landa’s performance over the Morcuera was not only overpowering but masterful. He seemed to know the climb perfectly, knowing exactly when to accelerate and when to recuperate. I saw him ride it on the 2012 Vuelta a Madrid, with the finish at the top, when he was beaten by some sputnik called Firsanov. He must have kept that mountain in his hard-drive. Or maybe he trains around the area, I don’t know.

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