Vuelta Stage 3 Preview

Stage 3 and the Mirador de Ézaro climb awaits, the first uphill finish of the Vuelta. It’s an established and familiar test that’s arguably harder than the Flèche Wallonne’s Mur de Huy. Promising for Monday.

Stage 2 Wrap: a stage win for Gianni Meersman helped by his team who looked the strongest in a hectic final that was hard to control, a handy result as he tries to a find a team for next year. One more year with Etixx-Quickstep or a move to Fortuneo-Vital Concept, Bahrain-Merdia or elsewhere? Lots to think about. Back to the heat of the sprint and Michał Kwiatkowski got involved and took the red jersey as a reward. Some GC outsiders lost time, Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural) 1m07s; Pierre Rolland (Cannondale) 1m38s and Alex Geniez (FDJ) 3m58s.

The Route: 176km and 2,715m of vertical gain from the naval town of Marín and appropriately most of the stage follows the coastline. Two marked climbs await, the Alto de Lestaio (8.3km at 5.3%) and the Alto das Paxareiras (9.3km at 5.4%) and in between an unmarked climb but with some 7% ramps for 2km.

The Finish: the same as in 2012. The Mirador de Ézaro might have a lowly third category label but it’s a wall bordering on a fortress being 1.8km long at an average of 13.1% and with ramps at 22%. From comparison the Flèche Wallonne’s Mur de Huy is “only” 1.2km at a kinder 9.6%.

A fast approach along the coast leads to the final climb to the finish, a wall of road. It is 1.9km long averages 13% with some sections at 20%. The middle has a concrete section, rougher and slower than normal tarmac. There’s talk of 30% gradients but only if you ride the wrong line through the inside of a hairpin bend when you’ll be so slow there’s time to deploy a theodolite. There are good sections at 20% and if you remove the brief “easy” section with 1km to go then the typical gradient is 17% with double-digit gradients all the way to the finish line, surrounded by wind turbines that spin in the Atlantic breeze.

The Contenders: a short, explosive finish? It’s over seven minutes long making it an intense but awkward climb where pacing and restraint matter as much as explosivity and punch.

In 2012 it was Joaquim Rodriguez back his pomp when he was unbeatable on a finish like this. Nostalgia? No, his victory is informative because he’s the prototype rider for a finish. In his absence this is a good test for Alberto Contador who was second then, has he got the sizzling form of old? The same for Alejandro Valverde who was third in 2012, has he got the zip needed, the passage of time and 71 race days (only 14 riders have more) so far this season mean the question needs to be answered today while Movistar team mate Dani Moreno has excelled in uphill finishes before – he’s won the Flèche Wallonne – but looks slower these days.

Fresher picks are Orica pairing Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates, both pack an explosive finish and surely trump Simon Gerrans who would have been a pick here but surely has to work for the team today? Outsider picks are Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) and Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac). Can Chris Froome win? He was close on the Cumbre del Sol finish last year so he should place but an outright stage win seems unlikely.

Can a breakaway stick? Unlikely because the finish is so important, the first uphill test will mean all teams with overall hopes are on red alert and they will not want to let others take time.

Alejandro Valverde, Esteban Chaves
Alberto Contador, Simon Yates
Brambilla, Froome, Talansky, Moreno, Anton

Weather: sunshine and a top temperature of 28°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.

24 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Ben Hermans a chance or too steep for him? Overshadowed somewhat by Sanchez, TVG and Gilbert here but he looked in the Vuelta a Burgos..

    • I thought he looked full of beans yesterday too but, reading Inrng’s description of the final climb, maybe he”ll be content with retaining the red jersey for another day.
      As per last year’s edition, I think I’ll tune in for the last 30km or so today, it looks like that’s where the action will be.

  2. Looking at the results from Stage 1 a number of riders appear to have lost more time than their team.
    I thought as long as you finished in the time limit you got the time of the team. That seams a double kick for the small teams.
    No wonder Carthy lost time yesterday, he basically spent the previous day riding solo having got dropped by his own team and lost 2 minutes to them. What was the point of that for Caja Rural? Why drop your best GC hope on day one? (PS I know Carthy is not really a GC hope but its a good example).

    • Nope – everyone in the top 5 gets the time of the 5th place rider. Everyone else gets their actual time. Otherwise a GC contender could soft-pedal the stage while the rouleurs smash it.

    • In pre-race interviews Caja Rural managers said they’re going for Pardilla and Arroyo for GC and Pardilla is first option. They don’t how young guys like Carthy and Roson will handle three-weeks race so they won’t go with them for GC just for stages.

      • Thanks all above. I never noticed that before (over a fair few years). I suppose I don’t normally look down the results and on occasion where I real GC candidate has an issue, the team wait and help them across the line.

      • A shame, in the Route du Sud he crashed on the final day and lost his 3rd overall – no teammates went back to pace him in, he eventually finished as the spectators drifted home, alone. You never know what it’s really like in a team, but if I was Carthy I’d be leaving a team that treated me like that too.

        • Treated badly? Carthy has nothing but good things to say about Caja Rural and vice-versa. As above, Pardilla and Arroya are their GC guys and they are seeing how Carthy comes along without putting pressure on him. The Route du Sud crash happened on the last climb of the last stage of a race without radios. Someone should have been been with him but even so there was no time to pace him back to the field. And even with his move to Cannondale next year, he’s staying where he’s been living with Caja Rural the last two years.

          • Not disagreeing at all with the overall thrust of your point – just the detail of this question of radios/no radios keeps coming up again and again and again in various contexts so it may be worth making the point that :-

            ALL races this year at .1 level and above, ie. all races where World Tour teams can ride, have had radios. Olympics RR was a unique special case with no radios.

  3. Valverde, Sanchez and Barguil are the only Flèche Wallonne top 10 represented here. Froome seemed to handle the Muur du Huy in the relevant Tour stage though so perhaps he won’t lose too much time. But all things considered I fancy the OBE duo and Valverde on the podium with Valverde in red: experience and patience may pay dividends tonight.

    Another way of looking at it is asking who’s the smallest rider in the Vuelta peloton? Ellisonde?

  4. It’s hard to look past Valverde today if he has decent legs. Maybe a new punchy Spanish star will emerge to fill Purito’s void. Other than him it would appear to suit Yates and Chaves but be a bit too severe for the likes of Kwiatkowski and Gilbert.

  5. Why not breakaway? Sky will want to save Froome from the spotlight of the red jersey as long as the can. Movistar has pretty tired Valverde and this finish doesn’t suit Quintana ideal. If Valverde doesn’t feel maximum confidence they won’t bring break back to. It’s just on Orica to reel in the breakaway and I think the best option for them is to send their young climber Jack Haig into a breakaway and then this breakaway can easily stay away.

    • Fair point – I like the nod to Jack Haig too (super young talent (and as an aside it’s nice to hear that his contemporary Robert Power is on his way back after a terrible time out). But, perhaps the time bonus at the finish may entice those GC riders who are feeling frisky to keep it together?

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