Vuelta Stage 18 Preview

Three seconds separate race leader Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru and today’s stage offers time bonuses and a late climb. It should be a day for a breakaway but will Astana and Giant-Alpecin try their own battles?

Stage 17 Wrap: Tom Dumoulin did the dubbelslag, the double strike of stage win and the overall lead. The Dutchman now has a slender three second lead over Fabio Aru, tiny and there are intermediate and finish line time bonuses too.

Maciej Bodnar led the leaderboard for a long time and Alejandro Valverde came close, a surprise. Among the major candidates Fabio Aru had the best day but how can he turn around a three second deficit? Dumoulin is proving hard to shake and if Aru tried an intermediate sprint he’d find the Giant-Alpecin sprint train in response with John Degenkolb leading Dumoulin. It suggests and all out attack is coming in the mountains. Spare a thought for Joaquim Rodriguez who looks to have lost the race once again.

The Route: a long day with 203km to cover. There are two climbs before the halfway point but these are gentle 4% slopes.

The Puerto de la Quesera looms large on the profile but it’s not a hard climb, 10km at 5% with only a few brief sections at 7%. It’s a tactical launchpad for the stage win if there’s a breakaway and followed by a twisty descent before the road straightens out with 4km to go.

The Finish: a slight downhill run in to town on a regular road.

The Contenders: a good day for a breakaway and the usual suspects like Alessandro de Marchi, Nelson Oliveira and Steven Cummings. Some will be tired from their efforts yesterday so a few other names to conjure like Giovanni Visconti, Nicolas Roche and Omar Fraile.

Will Simon Gerrans emerge? He’s had a very discreet race so far. Andrew Talansky was 154th yesterday, was the US TT champion coasting to save today or does this mark a bad season for him? There’s still a chance of a sprint finish from a reduced group, here John Degenkolb, J-J Rojas look the best bets.

Look out for Lotto-Jumbo today, they have said they’ll help Dumoulin and Giant-Alpecin out, a public mention of a conspiracy normally kept private. We’ll see what they do.

John Degenkolb, J-J Rojas
Roche, Visconti, de Marchi, Fraile

Weather: sunny and temperature of 25°C.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Daily Díaz: Don’t expect big crowds along the road today. Not only because the Vuelta attracts far less spectators than the Giro or the Tour, but also because this is one of the less populated regions of Spain. Extensive areas of the country suffered a rural exodus in the 20th century, sending emigrants to the industrial or tourist zones around Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia or the Basque Country. As a result, many towns lost population, and some even were completely abandoned (ghost towns). What’s more concerning, the remaining population is usually very old and ageing every year, and so its future doesn’t look promising at all. Another kind of ghost towns are the so­-called ghost estates, houses built during the Spanish property bubble that were never inhabited or even sold.

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

87 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 18 Preview”

  1. Giant Alpecin are on the verge of an historic breakthrough – a maiden grand tour win. I suspect it’s all hands on deck for Dumoulin, Degenkolb included. He’s clearly not at his best. Wouldn’t the team be better served having their classics star work tirelessly for their star of the moment, even if it means forfeiting a sprint victory?

    • it’s not like Dumoulin’s needed much help so far!

      also, the best help Degenkolb might be may be racing as normal, as if he takes bonus seconds it stops Aru doing so, and if Aru gets away on a climb it’s not like Degenkolb can do much about it. Waiting for Degenkolb to chase on the flat if the break came early on the stage might mean there’s too much time to close anyway – Dumoulin would always be better off to chase them on a climb & catch them himself on the decent/flat alone – it’s not like they’ve distanced him by significant amounts on any of the climbs so far.

      just hope there’s no untimely mechanicals in the next few days, would be a terrible end to the race. This sort of situation really makes sense of the unwritten rule of not attacking the leader when there’s a mechanical, it would be a real disaster for the viewers and make a bit of a mockery of the three weeks.


        • Argh, enough with the unwritten rules! If they are not written, they are not rules! That the state of a rider’s bike influences a bike race should not come as a surprise. Even a puncture could be said to be self inflicted for selecting faster, fragile tires in stead of heavier, more sturdy ones?

          When the race is on, it’s on!

          • Aye but he who lives by the sword dies by the sword, and the peloton are very cognizant of this, note the trials and tribulations of Nibali for example

          • “…note the trials and tribulations of Nibali”.
            Nibali’s troubles depended mainly on his own team.
            Nor did he ever do anything special against the peloton’s rules. Unless one thinks that the peloton’s rules are for one or two teams to be set (indeed it was like that in some past times – are we there again?).

          • ‘Nibali’s troubles depended mainly on his own team.’ – True, they totally neglected him causing him to lose so much time. However, the option to let go of the bottle was always there.

          • Yeah, but what I meant is that I couldn’t see much vendetta from the peloton. They were pushing an hard rhythm, of course, but I believe they would have in any case. That’s how it works nowadays (and Astana has been a part in this attitude, which isn’t new at all, it just comes and goes in different periods of cycling history. Being “aggressively” present more often than not).
            I can’t see a scenario in which Sky and Movistar wouldn’t ride hard to have Nibali out. Moreover, I can’t see when Nibali may have broken the peloton’s *unwritten rules*, unless, as I said, we want to identify them with some riders’ interests.
            Nor the bottle episode is especially against the unwritten rules, despite being outside the written ones. And, however, we haven’t seen yet how the peloton is going to treat him after that.

  2. Cracking ride by Dumoulin! In the moment of truth, he delivers beyond (my) expectation. And as a bonus, Aru is within seconds of him. Will we have Tour Down Under style racing for bonus seconds? A sight for sore eyes surely, Giant and Astana trying to set their men up for an intermediate sprint?

    • If it’s Aru who needs to actually take the seconds at an intermediate sprint, firstly you expect Dumoulin to do bloody good job outsprinting Aru but also there must be a good few riders in Degenkolb’s lead out train who can take the seconds themselves without Dumoulin really needing to do anything if it really came to it?

      Guess Aru must try but seems unlikely.

      Dumoulin has been exceptional, and it doesn’t look like a one off, feels like birth of a star. The Giro’s three TT’s next year must be very attractive, although given that he has time to develop and get even better next year, if the Tour had one or two TT’s itself he would surely have to give it some thought given his performance here? Giant now have an issue with Kittel and Degenkolb on the team also!

      • The Giro might well be a possibility, but let’s be honest, Dumoulin has not been faced with cycling’s best at their best here – he’s been faced with Aru, who is probably one of the ten best current riders, but very probably isn’t one of the best five.

        • In fact, GT-wise he’s probably number 6, beat on the line by Valverde’s fast finish (metaphorically speaking: he’s sure finishing his career on the highest note).
          “Currently”, that is, in the last couple of years or so, not considering a whole career. Purito has won more, but he’s left his best moments behind.
          Not having ridden the Tours plays against Aru, but during both seasons he took on a couple of GTs fighting for GC in both of them (and, as we’ve seen before, albeit Giro-Vuelta is no consecutive-GT feat, yet it’s far different from tackling one GC each year, since you end up noticing the “weight” of the race days).
          Bardet and Pinot may get better, but the latter showed some significant limits this year whereas the first still has got several technical steps to climb up. Kelderman and Barguil need to step up, too (they’ve got time, anyway). Mollema’s growth seems quite slow. Majka is damn good but looks he’s not on the same level as Aru, for now.
          The likes of Gesink, Frank, Rolland, Kreuziger, Urán have come of age and are good top-ten GC contenders but nothing else. Not to speak of Hesjedal.
          The years are passing for Van Garderen, König, Talansky… they need to prove something, but it looks like they probably won’t.
          Chaves, Meintjes, Elissonde, the Yates – in perspective, they look good (or even great), but aren’t quite there, yet. A couple of years of delay for them (in Chaves’ case because of the injury).

          • Yes, I see Aru as a better prospect than most, but for now still behind AC, CF, VN, NQ and AV.
            Pretty much agree with your thoughts on those above, although you left off Landa, Porte and Thomas, you Sky-hater!
            Thomas is unproven as of yet, whilst Porte is just unproven – over three weeks.
            Landa… it depends on the attitude perhaps. (And that brings up Betancur – who is probably a lost cause.)

          • Bit harsh on Konig, – if you exclude the latest TdF he’s been getting better and better at grand tours and has only been with a top team for a year. As back up for Porte he had a great Giro and could be excused his performance in the TdF. Not quite the same as TVG or Talansky who have had leadership roles with big teams on multiple occasions

          • @J Evans
            I was indeed confirming your “not-top-five” POV, about which I agree by the way, albeit I wanted to point out that he’s just outside the top-five (and I think that, on the whole, he’ll end up proving better than Valverde, probably – not the last couple of years, anyway).
            I don’t think all the best as I should of those riders who, say, don’t show any glimpse of top-GC propension until they’re over 25 (unless there’s some prior matter like injuries or being a – top – gregario), nor those who should start cracking top-fives in a GT only when they’re around their 30s.
            I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Porte on a human level but, no, for now he isn’t a GT contender – in any sense. Thomas is a great rider, but *currently* not among the GC best in most contests.
            Landa was clearly a lapsus – however, Aru has shown quite a lot more consistence to the date. Hope he won’t be another Betancur (looks like a bit of a different thing, anyway), that boy’s situation really hurts cycling lovers, what a shame. Hope he won’t be another Dombrowski, either.
            You’re right. I just didn’t differentiate much, it was more of an age thing, in the last paragraphs (whereas before I was more going on with memories from the last TdF). However, he should have been on top form in the Giro and got quite soon team support – not like starting as the captain, indeed, but not like being a surprise guest, either.
            That said, what worries me more is: what will Sky do with him? It looks like they apply their perfect plans and high intensity racing only on riders who they really care about. Is König one of them? Where will he be road captain, if anything? Sky’s methods haven’t proven very effective at the Giro. Besides, he’s racing style is a bit Zubeldian… always there, rarely seen. That doesn’t help in getting a podium, even if it can provide plenty of top-fives.
            Learning soon how life is up there on the very top is very important in building a future winner – a lack of winning habits was probably what hindered a bit riders like Purito or Andy, who often just couldn’t finish up the work (well, if König gets the career of one of these guys, is fans will be happy, and rightly so. They were just examples).

          • Gabriele, what’s a ‘Dombrowski’?
            Like you (and I’m sure many others), I suspect that being at Sky will be the ruin of both Landa’s and König’s careers, as they are ‘sacrificed’ in being made to work for British riders (some better, some maybe not).
            Mind you, Astana do that with Italians and Movistar do that with Spaniards, as we’ve seen this season.

          • Joe Dombrowski is a ’91 American climber who crossed sword with Aru while in the U23 ranks – and used to kick the Italian’s *** from time to time. He clearly was the next big American-Flyer thing, riding with Trek-Livestrong and making top-tens with the pro in the American races. He passed pro with Sky some three years ago and he has gone more or less missing in action due to several health issues, the most notable of which was surgery on his iliac artery (a classic). Truth is that they had him in a brutal programme from his first days in the team, and he always looked like kind of a fragile type, maybe ’cause he’s super skinny. Come June of his fisrt pro year he had about 40 days of racing, like, what he used to have in a season, and these were *real* races, Tirreno, País Vasco, Trentino, Tour de Suisse… he collected various DNFs, obviously, but very often in the last stage, even when it was easy, meaning that he was being burnt out. The second part of the season was more or less a complete failure. Troubles went on the following year, then the artery problem came out. He’s gone to Garmindale, now – he’s in the Vuelta. What striked me is that in an interview he released when he left Sky he repeated some 100,000 times that the reason he was leaving Sky (where, apparently, he would have been granted a renewal of his contract) was *environment*. Great logistic support and so on, great friends, too, but he felt out of place as “an American in a British team” (the first point he made) and… he was looking for a “better environment”, whatever that means, which he hoped he’d find at Garmin. I still hope he can recover from that traumatic first pro experience and get enduring health, pure climbers are always welcome 😉

          • @ gabriele
            I do worry about Konig, i think he’ll not get a chance at sky (even as a sky fan) he’ll fall behind Landa and Thomas in terms of team leadership so not get a chance but hopefully he’ll only be there for another year before he leaves to lead a team. If he’s smart he’ll learn how the leaders set their own teams up and take the experience away with him. Agree that thomas is a favorite and will surely be pushed into that role although how they combine that with the classics and being froomes wing man i have no idea

          • Read on the terrible website that is CN that Thomas is hoping to be Plan B at Tour next year and plan to give up the classics.

            Personally I think it is a disastrous decision. He’s never close to Wiggins or Dumoulin on TT and not that much stronger on climbs over either. Both Wiggins & Dumoulin need extreme favourable condition to win a GT, surly Thomas cannot base his carrier on such rare jack pods and give up classics.

      • I think it has to be the Giro next year. He wants the Olympic gold medal in the TT and with the Olympics later than when Wiggins on the TDF Olympic TT double I think the Giro is better prep, especially with the 3 TTs in the race.

          • He’s only 24 and knows his best years are ahead of him. Olympics only come around once in four years so he is right to take that chance while he can. Realistically next year he can target a high place in GC in The Giro and perhaps Vuelta too but going for the overrall in the Tour seems very optimistic. No rush, plenty more opportunities ahead. Also Giant will probably send Barguil to the tour if he is still with them next year (I’m not sure what his contract situation is)

        • Also when Wiggins did it it was a short hop from Paris to London, not a change of continent like next year, and even then it was seen as a bold, even reckless thing to pull off

      • Heh, not really expecting either GC contender to go for Intermediates, more amused at the idea, really.

        However, now is the time for Aru (and possibly Rodriguez) to throw caution to the wind and go on desperate attacks in whatever climbs remain. Serves the climbers right for underestimating Dumoulin’s ability to stay with them and not creating sufficient TT buffer.

  3. Great to see Dumoulin do his thing at the TT! Would like to see him take the overall.

    Sad to see Purito’s embers of hope fizzle out and turn to ash.

    Tom seems like such a likeable guy, so down to earth. While Aru comes across as a bit of a jrrkov. Even during the daily interviews after each stage on Eurosport, the ever personable and great Juantonio Flecha is all smiles with all other riders, but with Aru, he’s completely stone faced. Even those grotesque faces Aru pulls when he’s on the limits is SO unappealing and very bizzare indeed.

  4. Even by Purito’s standard that was a pretty dismal effort yesterday. On one of his better TT days he might have put in an Aru type time but he seems to save his worst efforts for when a grand tour is on the line. Fair play to Dumoulin he was an absolute machine and blew an established TT star in Kiryenka out of the water. That was an effort that would have been a tough job for Martin and Wiggins to match at their best.

    • +1 – He is looking a far better prospect than Wiggins once he reaches full potential in both TT and climbs – wonder if Wiggins would have held on on the climbs Dumoulin did even at his best. And yeah, Martin must be quaking, where is he doing his build up?

      Machine is definitely the word, it was just unreal.

      again +1 on Rodriguez….. I desperately want him to win a GT but when he consistently loses that much on a TT, especially when you’ve seen other climbers develop better TT’s over time (Nibali, Valverde and now Aru) and similar body shape climbers work it out (Quintana, Porte), it’s hard to have that much sympathy. That feeling sort of increases when you consider he’s had a few GT courses almost tailor made for him now, and been given a chance to win, which he’d not have received were he part of any other generation (as they once had longer and more TT’s) and then still come up short…

        • Besides what you’re pointing out (that’s absolutely true, Pampeago was kind of a miracle by Ryder), Purito himself – and other GT contenders – made some serious errors: just avoiding any single one of them would have prevented Hesjedal from winning.
          Purito can be sorry for at least a couple of personal blunders he shouldn’t have done – no hindisght needed, it was pretty clear on the spot (although everything is clearer on a sofa then on the top of some Alpine climb).

          • just out of interest what blunders were they?

            I’m sure they were, just heard a few people say J-Rod should have attacked earlier on climbs, but thinking back over years of watching him, I can’t ever remember him really being able to attack similar to a Froome or Quintana with 7-5km left of a climb as sustain it, not sure he’s really capable of that sort of effort, maybe it’s to do with types of mountains and gradients, but not sure what more he could have done here?


          • @dave
            I’ve commented about that in a recent post. Resuming the most indisputable situations, on Cervinia he had to go with Ryder, just following him… as he was, after all, the second man tracking Purito in GC! Purito was 95% capable of it: Ryder hasn’t got the acceleration to get you off the wheel (his attack is far from any sudden burst) and Purito was in form, the best GC guy both in the previous and the following uphill finish. Ryder went with 3.5 km to go, no sort of long-range Fuente Dé where you need to take risks to follow. Purito just needed to sit on Ryder’s wheel, on a climb where the slipstream is paramount. Instead he decided to wait and try to go himself some 500-600 m later. But… surprise surprise… all the world was marking him, collaborating to shut his moves down and taking advantage of the slipstream effect to prevent him sailing away. On the Stelvio he needed to go flat out with Scarponi (some 3 km to go, again, no far-away attack) because they had common interests. Scarponi had to limit the gap to De Gendt, Purito had to make a gap on Ryder. Sharing a fast, steady pace along 3 km with another very good climber would have meant putting a lot of time more on Hesjedal than with a few hundres meters late surge. Again, it’s not like he didn’t have it, since he caught and passed Scarponi…
            I’m not saying it’s easy to do the right thing when you’re under pressure, but that’s cycling and they were both safe decisions with barely any downside – any genuine top dog would have had at least one of them right in the blink of an eye. Way different from Fuente Dé.
            On Lago Laceno it was a shared fault: knowing that Hesjedal (who had shown he had a good shape) was tracking, they should have put in a couple of turns to avoid his comeback, the following day was an easy one, hence they could afford it.
            There also other minor errors… however, hey, that’s what makes a winning rider. Not just the numbers on the powermeter.

      • Dave,

        put in your skillfully TT GC list Quintana. His performance yesterday was amazing. Many people say height and long legs count for a good ITT (beyond of position on bike), but conparing Purito with Quintana there´s no doubt Purito must train more his weakness or be more bold on high mountains.

          • yes, he has, and good for him… he has recognized early enough in his career that like it or not, he was going to have to learn how to ride a tt, and it appears as if he has been working on it…

            purito, otoh…. i love the guy, but to be honest, he has never “wanted it” enough* (which is rather frustrating)… he has never in his entire career even made an effort to improve his tt’ing… watching his (lack of) aero positioning on the bike is simply pathetic… i don’t expect a climber to look like a tt specialist, but at least make an effort… as nq is proving (and others have before him), a climber can at least improve his tt with effort… sadly for purito, that horse left the barn 15 years ago…

            * gabriele’s superb comment above shows purito’s “lack of want” as well…

  5. If Rodriguez had the b@lls, he’d go for a long range attack – only yet another podium to lose: might as well lose it.
    But you suspect that the lack of those is the reason he lost both the Giro and the Vuelta in 2012.
    It’s a close race and might provide some excitement, but it hasn’t provided much until now: in any other race, a long range attack by Aru would be inevitable – in this race, it seems almost impossible.

        • It would still be great to see if Lotto Jumbo do put a man or two up the road and linger on the climbs, ala the Colombians on the Alpe D’Huez.
          A further added twist and drama.
          That steady climb today, for instance, would be one where Dumoulin would be assisted in the draft of a team mate (or pseudo team mate even !).
          Besides, if Lotto Jumbo are funded through the Dutch national lottery, it’s their patriotic duty to see their countryman home !

          • That was nonsense for Porte in the Giro and it’s nonsense now.
            The only difference was that they could prove that Porte had collaborated with other teams.
            It has always happened and cannot be stopped, but I think L-J were at the very least unwise to announce it.

        • The echelon stage in the 2013 TdF was – as was also admitted afterwards – a prime example of teams collaborating (Belkin and Quickstep). Apparently being in the same hotel the night before helped setting up this ‘combine’. As far as I know no one was punished for that even though it had great effects for the GC of Belkin riders, and put Cav in place for a stage win (so win-win).
          Maybe it’s not too smart of Lotto-Jumbo to announce they will help Dumoulin a bit, but indeed this is as old as cycling and I don’t see how it is bad as long as it doesn’t involve the handover of wheels or bringing bottles/gels.

          • Funnily enough, feeding other riders from the team car is not only allowed, but sometimes expected. For example in a breakaway group, they can’t have the team cars of all the riders represented on-hand to feed them, so often one or two teams will do the job for everyone.

        • Contador owes his raid on Rodriguez to a lot of help from Tiralongo then riding for Astana. So I think what goes around comes around and hope the Dutch riders rally around their man.

    • aren’t the backroom alliances, favours given and returned, payback for arrogance etc etc just another of the layers of complexity that we all love stage racing for?

  6. If all of the initial GC favourites hadn’t let Dumoulin go during the first stages, together with Chavez, Dumoulin wouldn’t be up there now. Those few seconds every other stage are far more than his advantage he has now..
    But everyone thought they (Chavez, Dumoulin) won’t be able to hang on in the mountains. Me too, actually… 🙂

    • What about that ridiculous TTT course though, how could a properly-designed course have affected the race ?
      Or the fact that there was no prologue ; that would have benefitted Dumoulin greatly.
      Or that there were two time trials last year in addition to the TTT ?
      C’est la vie.

      • That’s not the same. The riders decided (at least that was my impression) to let some ‘weaker’ riders go for stage wins and GC lead during the first stages, assuming they will catch them soon enough. The number of TTs and the opening TTT stage was a given structure within which the riders have to decide what to do.

  7. I think attack might be the best form of defence for Dumoulin today; launch an attack close to the summit of the final climb and try to pull away from the chasers on the descent. I imagine they’ll also be happy to see a large breakaway form to hoover up the bonus seconds.

    • Will V,
      I don’t see Dumoulin attacking close to the summit. He will want to risk bonking and losing 3+ sec’s. -And He’s been good enough at following for the most part… That’s also why I believe the riders with climbing guns have held off; avoid the long range missile risks of bonking / fading before the finish, losing time, which has some critic claiming a boring Vuelta…

      Personally, this has been a great Vuelta with some great anticipation and more to come.

  8. If Astana are well-informed, today is the day for their all-out, especially the 15kms before what the official profile considers the beginning of the Puerto de la Quesera (the cheesemaker’s mountain-pass, if I’m not mistaken).

      • David Millar, on British tv highlights yesterday, suggested that Aru will play the waiting game – it is only three seconds after all and go for it on Saturday at the last possible opportunity.
        Gabriele, how did the numbers stack up yesterday ?
        Dumoulin had 1’44” advantage at the 27km mark, then only 1’53” at the end. I was really thinking it was going to be 2’20” – 2’30” at that point !

        • Didn’t check them out thoroughly and can’t find them (complete intermediate times) anymore, but Dumoulin was suffering in the last section, maybe because of the little climb (which he tackled way worst than Aru), maybe because he really started too fast. Yesterday, looking superifcially at the intermediate times, it seemed that it was very important not to go flat out on the slight slopes of the first intermediate.
          That said, my personal impression is that both Dumoulin and Aru were quite a bit faster than what could be expected as a good result, say some 30″, the Movistar guys were pretty incredible, some 50″ better than my personal expectations, whereas Purito was a true disaster, at least 30″ slower than is potential, just like Majka. Chaves, Pozzovivo and Dani Moreno were fine, quite a normal result for them (considering that some rivals’, that is Dumoulin’s & C., were super-results), whereas I really can’t say about Nieve and Mentjes, not enough previous credible references – they were quite evidently struggling, anyway. What sank Purito (and really hurt Majka) was the combination between a great performance by the rivals and a poor performance on their part.
          PS Is Movistar obsessed with Team Classification once more? o__O

          • What I’ve been able to find (figures for the first 13.5km checkpoint are AWOL at the moment), it reads :
            27.5 km checkpoint 31’41” Tom Dumoulin – that’s 52.53 km/h
            33’25” Fabio Aru – 49.62 km/h
            At this point, Dumoulin was 3.78″ / km faster than Aru. That would have translated in to a final advantage of 2’26” at the end.

            Final result 46.01 Tom Dumoulin – 50.46 km/h
            47.54 Fabio Aru – 48.84 km/h
            By the end, Dumoulin was 2.91″ / km faster than Aru.

            So, if my figures are correct (!), that was either a sensible ride by Aru (more evenly paced) or he realised how badly things were going and absolutely smashed the last 10km haha !
            Likewise for Dumoulin, a sensational start and second third, and tailed off over the hillier final 10km. Perhaps he went out too hard, he passed Nieve very quickly.

          • my gut says that more than anything else, the “turny/twisty” nature of the last 3rd of the course made the times over that part “closer”… neither purito nor majka lost as much as you might think they would on that last 3rd either… after the first 2 segments, it looked like purito would lose 4 mins… also, valverde made up a ton of time (relatively speaking) on many riders in that last 3rd…

            although, as others have noted, perhaps tom screwed up his pacing a bit… he is likely a lot more tired than in previous tt’s, and possibly he thought he had more in the tank than he did…

          • The RTVE moto journalist said that Astana apparently had men along the course to provide several intermediate checks, besides the official ones. They reportedly were especially happy with what they saw around the 20th km. Which makes me think that they worked hard on this stage and Aru probably paced it pretty well.

        • I think the best stage to try a move is this one. The Puerto de la Quesera (=cheesemaker, yes indeed!) is not hard, but its approach is really harsh. There are even some hign percentages slopes on reasonable distance. Putting a high rythm there could be perfect to create differences in the climb in itself. NExt, the finish is just after the downhill, so there won’t be much time to close gaps.
          On Saturday in turns, the finish is after the downhill of Cotos, but before beginning the downhill, there are 7km flat. The puerto de Cotos is also a bit easier than the Quesera I would say. However, Saturday’s stage could be a massacre if there are attacks in la Morcuera (the climb before Cotos), which is way harder.

  9. It’s Dumoulin race to lose. None of the remaining climbs are that daunting or steep.

    Am devestated that JRod had his one bad GT stage today. He won the ITT at Basque country and the GC. Would sure love to see him win GC before he rides off to an Andorran retirement.

    • The fact that there aren’t walls anymore is good for Aru, too. He can put in a severe attack more easily on a 7-9% climb than on a 11-13% one (unlike Purito).
      A good teamwork and a little bit of strategy would be finally welcome in this last week, at least, and much needed by Aru, since they’re the better point on his favour.
      He’s got in his team at least a man who can climb absolutely faster than Dumoulin, fast enough to make him lose wheels. Probably Rosa can, too, on a given single climb. Same goes with Purito/Moreno and Quintana/Valverde. Plus, other contenders can opt in and put a gap on the Dutch. If they don’t decide to try and go away together on some occasion, well, they can only blame themselves.
      Someone would get stuck behind and help Dumoulin, the old nonsense we go on seeing again and again. Fair enough. But they would be the less strong men on the day, more probably.

      • I certainly don’t expect Aru and Astana to ride around settling for 2nd place so perhaps the last few days can be interesting, especially with time bonus available. Poor Purito, seems destined to be the Jose Manuel Fuentes of his time?

        • Fuente won 2 vueltas at least!!!! But he does not have the palmares of Purito in one day races, where he collected his greatest triumphs, i.e. 2 lombardia + 1 flèche wallone. This said, Purito has also an impressive set of seconds and thirds in one day races!!!!

  10. for what it’s worth – even on sunday, bonification seconds are in play. So if the gap is less than 13 sec on saturday night the jersey can still switch owner (provided there is a bunch finish).

    • Can you see either of these riders winning (or even placing in) a sprint?
      Surely, the only – remote – possibility would be Dumoulin going off on his own with a few km to go?

        • You might be on to something – depends who is in the lead.
          I think it could be very hotly contested – by their team mates.
          Dumoulin certainly has 3 guys who can beat Aru in a sprint (including himself).
          On the other hand, if Dumoulin lines up behind a Mezgec and Degenkolb leadout there might be no-one on Astana to stop them!

    • agreed… there are plenty of hills left, even if they aren’t at the finish of a stage…

      if aru CAN’T, then you have to wonder what is going on at astana… they should easily be able to set a pace that isolates tom early in a stage…

      i’d be a lot more surprised if tom hung on than if aru passes him…

    • +1 as well.
      And purito should try an all or nothing in this stage and/or on saturday’s. But I don’t know why, I suspect it just won’t happen.

  11. Mtn-Qhubeka, who’s got a man in the breakaway, working hard on the front of the peloton with Giant. “En el pelotón trabajan Giant-Alpecin y, sorprendentemente, MTN-Qhubeka”, says the official ASO ticker (*surprisingly* ^___^). Dumoulin has been making friends. Movistar tried to send up the road two strong men like Visconti and Rojas, but only the latter is in the break since Giant blocked every move by Visconti. Astana keeps everyone with Aru.

  12. Thanks to Valverde and Aru this was a great stage and now we finally have a real race. Astana surely didn’t hope to shake Tom Dumoulin today (but who knows-trying it can’t hurt, if Fabio Aru still feels strong enough), BUT they can hope, that the effort Dumoulin had to give today will help them tomorrow and especially saturday. They must think every day: “Today is the day. For sure. I know it, today is the day! (oh lord, please, let today be the day Tom Dumoulin finally cracks!)” Before today, I thought that Purito still has a tiny chance, but he looked helpless, while Rafa Maika looked good.

  13. Well done to Aru for trying – brave stuff and good to see someone attack in this race (he is virtually the only one who has outwith the final km).
    And bravo to TD for keeping up.

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