The race returns to the Basque Country with a finishing circuit around Bilbao. So far many stages have been the kind where it pays to tune into the final 15 minutes but the doble climb of El Vivero means more action for longer.
Stage 11 Wrap: a maxi-breakaway of over 20 riders went clear but only after a struggle and 50km were covered in the first hour. All for nothing as Tinkoff set a high pace and reeled them in just for the start of the final climb. Were they planning to send Alberto Contador into orbit? Yes but the team is relatively weak and lacks climbing support so arguably all they could do was set the pace on the flat. Moscovite Matvey Mamykin – one of this site’s neo-pros to watch – tried an early surge but it came to nothing. Esteban Chaves launched the big attack but his long range move smacked of desperation or audacity. He took 20 seconds, went into oxygen debt and founding himself repaying at a high interest rate as he was caught and passed and eventually lost time. Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome rode clear, no hare-and-tortoise pacing for Froome this time and they’re now the joint picks for the race but as of now it’s advantage Froome, he beat Quintana to the win and the time bonus. Quintana has only 54s on Froome which is not enough with the time trial in mind.
The Route: the race rides into the Basque Country which sounds normal given the region is a hotbed of Spanish cycling but for years the race skirted around the region given the political and nationalist tensions of the Basque region, the Vuelta was seen as an imposition from Madrid by some but in 2011 the race rode in and, fittingly, Igor Antón of Eusktaltel-Euskadi won the stage. It’s not just historical significance, the finish was similar in Bilbao with the El Vivero climb.
Before there’s the first category climb of the Puerto de las Alisas, 10km at 6-7% most of the way and a good incentive to go in the breakaway for the likes of Omar Fraile, Alexandre Geniez and Thomas de Gendt who sit high on the mountains classification but know they can’t rival the bigger names in a summit finish show down.
The Finish: El Vivero is 4.2km at 8.5% and climbed twice as the race laps a compact circuit around Bilbao before a flat run to the city.
The Contenders: an ideal day for a breakaway so who to pick? The descent says Luis-Leon Sanchez, he’s riding well and has taken many wins on terrain like this. Simon Yates got the better of Sanchez the other day and sprints well but can’t get in a breakaway. Fabio Felline is good in a breakaway and packs a punch in a finish here while Moreno Moser, Simon Gerrans and Dries Devenyns are all good picks. Some random names are Ag2r’s Quentin Jauregui, half-French and Basque and Zdeněk Štybar needs no introduction but could do with a win.
|L-L Sanchez, Fabio Felline
|Yates, Moser, Gerrans, Devenyns, Štybar
Weather: a few clouds but otherwise a warm 28°C and benign conditions.