Vuelta Stage 4 Preview

A decisive summit finish yesterday revealed who is climbing well and today brings another uphill test with a longer, steadier uphill run to the line to confirm the contenders for the overall classification.

Stage 3 Wrap: Alex Geniez looked to be having a nightmare start to the Vuelta after losing beaucoup time on the first road stage but it a case of retreating in order to better advance the next day. He got in a break and it was whittled down to IAM’s Simon Pellaud and Etixx-Quickstep’s Pieter Serry in the finish. The trio began the final climb with two minutes on the chasing bunch. Geniez rode his rivals off his wheel and took the stage win.

Behind the GC riders were quickly reduced to their own private battles with gravity. On such a steep road there’s no drafting effect so it’s every rider to themselves. As Movistar pulled clear with Ruben Fernandez, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana Chris Froome was distanced but the Briton did his usual linear pacing effort and caught up with Valverde, Esteban Chaves on the finish line. Fernandez jumped clear and celebrated as he crossed the line, Geniez had won but at least he had the red jersey as consolation. Alberto Contador lost 28 seconds to add onto his team time trial deficit.

Was it too much too soon? A climb like this is a pure test of power to weight and as well as seeing some lose time in the moment it also reveals who is likely to be climbing well in the coming weeks and who won’t and the stage had riders scattered all over the mountain. In other words it’s only Stage 3 and we’ve seen the relative state of the contenders. Still it was a prologue of the climb compared to the longer efforts to come. What’s more certain is that several riders lost minutes (Kruijswijk, Gesink, Talansky, Rolland, van Garderen among others) and their hopes of the red jersey have gone. The same for Miguel Angel Lopez who crashed hard and lost over 12 minutes.

The Route: 163km and 3,295m of vertical gain. Two early categorised climbs offer rewards to a breakaway hoping to take mountain points and the route changes direction several times in the day to leave the route exposed to the wind.

The Finish: 11.2km at 4.8% sounds easy but that’s only because there’s a descent on the way up, instead this is two climbs with a solid 4.5km at 7.5% to the finish on exposed coastal roads blasted by the Atlantic sea breeze.

The Contenders: Alejandro Valverde was among the best yesterday and the uphill finish here suits him and his sprint, if he can arrive in a small group then he’s likely to be the fastest especially as he’s supported by a strong Movistar team. Ruben Fernandez won’t have so much room for manoeuvre but had the jump on everyone yesterday and Nairo Quintana can try his chances with a late move. Chris Froome is climbing well, he can’t pace himself like yesterday or at least he has to be with the leaders in the final kilometre. Esteban Chaves is looking lively and it’ll be interesting to see if Simon Yates can hang on here. Among the others Gianluca Brambilla looks strong. Finally Contador was down yesterday but is he out of the race? Watch him today because he can’t afford to lose any more time.

Alejandro Valverde
Esteban Chaves, Nairo Quintana, Ruben Fernandez
Chris Froome, Gianluca Brambilla, Simon Yates

Weather: sunshine but building cloud and a top temperature of just 24°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.

44 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 4 Preview”

  1. Why not get the GC race going early? It makes a change.
    Of those you list as being no longer GC contenders, surely only Kruijswijk was ever considered one anyway.
    Haven’t looked at the parcours, but hope the Vuelta doesn’t have too many of the ‘wall’-type finish that we saw yesterday. One would hope at least for a variety of gradients and lengths, but the Vuelta is keen on these.

  2. Good to see that GC isn’t going to be a procession. Le Tour was all about the efficiency of Team Sky and Froome’s meticulous preparation. A weaker Sky team, Froome not at 100% (how can he be after TdF and Rio?) and Movistar looking strong will make the Vuelta much more of a competition.

    • Yesterday’s final climb saw the race splintered, yet there was a host of Movistar banditos swarming on the front.
      If that serves up as an example of the next three weeks, I think Movistar are about to dish out some serious pain to Froome.

    • And yet I note that even at this early stage the only genuine contender ahead of Froome is Valverde. And he has 2 grand tours in his legs looking for a week 3 payback. If Froome can hang with Movistar over the first 10 stages then week 2 seems set fair for him to take charge. The Aubisque climb on stage 14 is tailor-made for a Froome romp away from the field. Its too early to say this will happen yet but Froome has reasons to look forward to good outcomes in this race if he can stay on the pace.

      • there are a couple of pretty steep climbs prior to d’Abisque and d’Abuisqe will be climbed from the consistant grade steep side (no soleur) that has not been used in TDF since 2007. i doubt that Sky will be able to do their frome-train over Marie Blanque. Piere sant martin is to be climbed from the side which is hotter – not from the side used in last years tour (or from spain), they will be decending the accent used in TDF 2015 which is kind of technical and invites to attacks.

  3. Thanks for the previews inrng, highly appreciated – not in the least for fantasy cycling enthusiasts to get some expert opinion on who to select for the day.
    Hoping for some more of the non-punchy climbers showing up today to mix with the winners of yesterday – Atapuma, de Gendt?

    • Like Gerrald I also look forward to & thank you for your previews for use in a cycling fantasy comp. Unfortunately getting detailed information for climb profiles just got harder. Veloviewer whose highly detailed profiles many would have seen in the last few years no longer publish them for the general cycling fan. Now Team Sky has an exclusive contract with Veloviewer & I’m happy to see them rewarded for their hard work. Hopefully Sky hasn’t employed a math genius crunching optimal gear ratios & cadence for every 100 metres of climbing 😉

  4. Already after 3 days it is difficult to see beyond Sky / Movistar for the GC with an outside chance for Esteban Chaves. Not sure that is a good thing.

    I guess Sky will try to reprise their TdF strategy of defending on the climbs and attacking on the flat. Kennaugh and König look to be in pretty good form (they are both fresh) though not quite the Wout Poels / Geraint Thomas combo from the TdF. If they can contain Nairo Quintana on the climbs there is a time trial to come and Chris Froome can choose his moment to attack. Lets see if Movistar have come up with a more positive approach rather than the purely reactive one of July.

  5. Minor grammar nitpick: stray if in ‘Watch him today because if he can’t afford to lose any more time.’

    Thanks for your posts as always.

  6. Views on Valverde struggling in the final few hundred metres yday and MOV slowing up for him?

    (I didn’t clock it myself, just listened to Rob Hatch on the latest Cycling Podcast comment on it)

  7. Had to laugh at Fernandez celebrating as he crossed line like he’d won stage, then have him style it out with him saying it was him celebrating getting in the red jersey.

    Who believes him?

    Thought Froome was in trouble in early part of the climb but he did his classic yoyo of riding to his own pace to pop up with main contenders.

    Is it just me or does Quitanna always seem to be looking for a wheel to follow?

    • No its not you, Quintana always looking for a wheel to follow all the time anywhere, everywhere, that’s just him summed up totally. Exciting isn’t it.

    • I assumed Fernandez was celebrating going into red, but maybe you’re right – it was a bit of an exuberant celebration.

      Quintana needs to start acting like a leader. Needs to ride for himself and to stop looking for others to do the work or make the decisions for him.
      Don’t know if this is because Valverde is still the boss – but even if it is, Quintana needs to put a stop to that and if the team don’t like it threaten to leave (he’d have his pick of teams).
      He – and his career – are beginning to look decidedly ‘Andrew Schleck’.

      • He did rise to prominence during the year of Andy’s demise.

        That said, Quintana does not display Andy’s mental fragility. Even if he couldn’t rise to the top, he would keep on being the perfect 2nd place and that is not a bad place to be. Sometimes you even gain more popularity that way.

  8. I don’t understand the obsession with keeping GC action to “a little bit in the second week” and “mostly third week”. It’s not like flat stages become any more exciting when theres less time between the contenders.

    Good on the Vuelta.

    • Not sure if anyone is obsessed by that, just that in revealing the GC contenders on the third day risks removing some of the suspense/anticipation that makes a three week event, we’ll see how it plays out.

      • Well we always had such decisive finishes at the beginning of a Vuelta last years. And the three weeks showed suspense until the end nonetheless. A thing only few people could say about the TdF…..

    • I suppose the idea is to keep the fans interested late in the race, but it so often doesn’t work out like that.
      I think there’s a lot to be said for having the GC battle last the full length of the race – or making that a possibility at least.

  9. I said yesterday maybe a new punchy Spanish star will pop up to replace Purito, would Ruben Fernandez class as such? It was disappointing to see Quintana, and to an extent Chaves, have Froome distanced and then slow down and look at each other. Quintana really seems to lack killer instinct these days. I have no problem with having a GC battle early doors, theres no need to follow a formula. Spain is dotted with hills so they might as well take them in as they come!

  10. Inrng, I know what you meant by posing the “too much too soon” question about yesterday’s stage.
    Interestingly, though, the Muur de Huy in 2015 TdF was a stage 3 also.

  11. Are we down to 4 already? Fernandez will presumably be reigned in and forced to work for Valverde so that leaves him, Froome, Chaves and Quintana. Movistar have the numbers but do they have the brains? Hopefully they didn’t bring their TDF tacticians with them! Then the standings have a 30 second gap to Sammy Sanchez (surely too old and no longer up for the big battles?) and Froome domestiques, Kennaugh and König. Contador is already hinting that he may not be troubling the scorers much and two reasonable hits to his chances in only three days must surely be a foreshadowing of what is to come: more disappointments for his fans. I had Bertie down as the automatic choice for the win here so his sub-optimal performance to date has me scratching my head a bit. Its rare people turn it around radically in a race so I can only assume that Contador just isn’t on it here. Maybe he should have retired after all? Valverde looks good for 3 top 5 finishes in the grand tours this year but my podium has Froome, Chaves and Quintana on it now. In what order I have no idea.

    • it’s going to be pretty disappointing from the others if Froome just turns up to do his ‘base-miles-in-the-legs-for-next-years-Tour’ routine and actually wins it…

    • He won Il Giro last year, and made quite a race out of it, trashing it out with Astana.
      He continued his “a GT a year” routine. This year he crashed and maybe blunted himself a little bit but even if he’s not going to win this one, he surely will enliven the race. He’s the best at that. So no, I’m very glad he didn’t retire and hope he doesn’t so soon.

      I get that many like to go out while on top, but really isn’t it a pity Fabian is retiring after such a display in the Olympics?

  12. I wonder how long will Fernandez stay in red. Perhaps longer than we think. I also wonder who among yesterday’s losers will be coming back later in the race.

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