Vuelta Stage 16 Preview

A day trip to the seaside for the peloton ahead of the rest day. An extended day off? Unlikely given the intensity of riders battling to get in the breakaways but it should mean a quieter day for the overall contenders.

Stage 15 review: Ban powermeters! Ban race radios! Ban the wheel! Ban bans! Actually it turns out we can have great racing regardless. If Saturday was great then Sunday was vintage racing although it lacked the the ups and downs, the reversals of fortunes of a real classic. Once the scene was set early that was it. Where to start? At the beginning, with an attack by Gianluca Brambilla after 5km. Alberto Contador attacked after 7km. The bunch accelerated, split, crashed and and suddenly several Sky riders were out the back while Nairo Quintana latched on to the front group two team mates and they were riding away from Chris Froome. It was panic stations for 100km. Froome had two team mates left in Salvatore Puccio and David Lopez but Puccio was quickly burned up and Lopez could do nothing while ahead Movistar had numerical superiority.

Often sleepy tactically this time they caught Sky asleep and the time gap grew
 and there was nothing Chris Froome could do. Later Astana appeared to chase, apparently to defend Michele Scarponi’s ninth place. Either way Quintana put 2m33s into Froome and now has the kind of lead that means he could stop for an ice cream during the time trial and still relax. Brambilla, initiator of hostilities, won the stage after being the only rider able to follow Quintana in the final kilometres.

91 riders were outside the time limit but let back in. There used to be a “safety in numbers” rule which said that if over 20% of the bunch finished outside the time limit they could remain in the race if the officials wanted it to be so. The rule was abandoned a while ago but deployed yesterday. Sensible? Yes in that a peloton of 70 riders would look stupid for the final week; no because it sets a precedent now that riders can ease up and roll in without worry; or at least hope for clemency when the rules don’t provide for it.

The Route: uphill and then back down, the stage is flatter than it looks with the climb to Castillo de Morella as the main obstacle, 3.4km at 5.2%.

The Finish: pan-flat and on the sea front. They arrive into the town of Peniscola on a big boulevard and the trickiest part is between 3km and 2km to go as they circle roundabouts to go through the town before a final corner and then a finishing straight over a kilometre long.

The Contenders: Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) is fast in a flat finish, sometimes winning stages thanks to a seated sprint, a rarity but it seems to be one of his things. Jonas Van Genechten won an uphill sprint last week but is fast for a finish like this too.

Gianni Meersman has sprinted perfectly so far so should be there again while the outside pick is FDJ’s sprinter from the Indian Ocean, Lorrenzo Manzin. But how many teams will work for a sprint? Plenty of others will try their chance in a breakaway.

Nikias Arndt, Gianni Meersman, Jonas Van Genechten
Keukeleire, Manzin, Bennati

Weather: hot and sunny, 31°C on the coast and the wind could pick up to 20km/h, a tailwind for the final kilometre.

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.

142 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 16 Preview”

  1. Wow, great racing over the last few days.

    I admire Chris Froome (I’m from UK) so I am probably biased but I was getting a bit bored with the ‘how do we beat Froome’ theme allied with the “how do we make races more exciting” theme that seems to run on occasion.

    This Vuelta has been great.

    Let’s hope the fact that Chris he has lost some time even with his radio, derailleur gears and power meter allows us to enjoy what for me is a great race.

    P.S. I thought he was gracious in defeat as was Dave Brailsford.
    Well done Contador and Quintana and here’s to next week!

  2. Curious to get people’s thoughts on why Astana did so much chasing yesterday. Theoretically to preserve Scarponi’s position, which seems over zealous for 9th place. A stage win also seems unlikely. Alliance with Sky/Orica? Feud with Tinkoff/Movistar? I watch a lot of cycling and it was one of the odder tactics I have seen in quite some time.

      • Oh the cut off time. They could have ridden the stage on BMX’s , come in another 3 hours later and still been able to ride today’s stage. The race organisers need to make a stand at some point,especially now Fabian “THE DADDY” Cancellara’s not controlling the bus. Sponsors and the public deserve good racing, this is just like the fat kid on sports day walking round the track in the 1500m(sorry to offend fat kids).

        Rant Over.
        Good to see the final week could see us a different a very talented Grand tour rider possibly win,but i do feel it’s one race too many for Froome/Sky/Murdoch to control.

        • Really unfair to complain that these riders were given a pass about the time cut!

          The average speed of the day was over 40kph!!! That’s nuts to expect that the autobus rides at 36kph (10% slower), which is faster than the winners ride some mountain stages!

          Armchair experts at it again

          • Tough perhaps, and only perhaps. But tough doesn’t mean unfair. Unfair is what those guys did to the ones who made the cut, and what they did to the whole viewership.

          • What did these guys do to the whole viewership? In reality, this decision to save the riders actually saved the race.

            Without these riders, the rest of the stages would be ridiculous – you’d have Chris Froome going back to the cars to get his own bottles (he’s the only Sky rider to make the cut), no team would have any riders to pull back a break, no riders to ride in the wind, etc. It would be ridiculous.

            This decision had to be made. People might think it would be exciting, but it would more likely be the opposite. This race is already exciting enough and the decision to include a short and hilly stage meant the organisation might have to be pragmatic when enforcing some rules.

          • Oh, also, please tell me what these guys did to the viewership? I really want to know how we as the viewers were unfairly harmed… Are you saying that if the Vuelta asked you to race instead of these brutally slow riders that you could’ve held on to the leaders? Maybe they took YOUR spot in the peloton?

            FYI – 10% of the race leaders’ time on this stage was faster than many Grand Tour mountain stages are run by the leaders of those races.

          • They sat up, and refused to go as fast as possible (which is the first condition if you expect to be “saved”), playing on the expectation that the jury would violate the rules, that say that these “savings” can be made ONLY in exceptional cases (a fast race is not exceptional), and ONLY in the presence of “force majeure” (and there was no other force than the refusal by some to try and make it on time to the finish). That’s cheating, that’s refusing to race, and that aggresses the public, as well as the name of cycling.
            A race with 70 riders would be just fine, much more difficult to control (I hope you don’t have any problems with that), much more unpredictable, and unusual.
            Now you tell me that they couldn’t go any faster.

          • So you’re basically saying, the ones who made the time cut rules, which are always based on the stage winners speed, are armchair experts, yes? These people, who are in the sports for decades, have not your armchair expertise, we see.

          • Ferdi – I just left another comment about the autobus’ speed on Stage 15 – it proves they absolutely did not “sit up”. They absolutely could not go faster on this stage.

            If the autobus were to have made the time cut, they would have had to ride way faster than climbers often ride on climbing stages (time cut was at 36kph – approximately 5kph faster than the autobus usually goes on a climbing stage). These guys in the autobus are not climbers and to expect them to ride 35+ kph on a mountain stage is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous. Especially if you guys want them to be clean.

          • Vitus – nobody foresaw how fast the leaders blistered this stage 15 – and as we all saw, the organisers took a pragmatic view of this stage and gave these guys a break.

          • The official schedule said that the winners would finish the stage 4-5kph faster than normal? 40+kph for a mountain stage is potentially the fastest ever climbing stage.

          • @CA
            Armchair non-expert may be even worse ^__^
            Sorry for GB, Red Hare et al. but this is just too much fun.

            1) The organisation forecasts three schedules, and the result was coherent with one of the options, albeit the faster one. Not at all *exceptionally* fast. It was faster than that, indeed, but only by 3’15”: the time cut was hence 35″ faster than what you *should have expected*. Seconds, not minutes.
            You are perhaps confused about “going exceptionally fast from start (in a 14 men break)” and “going exceptionally fast (full stop)”.
            Only the latter has a direct effect on the time limit, although the first may have indirect effects.

            2) That 10% you say is just laughable. If the time limit is +18% when compared to the winner’s time, as on Sunday, the speed of the winner will be +18% when compared to the one required in order to make the cut.
            That is: slowest time/fastest time = 118/100 which inevitably means that slowest speed/fastest speed = 100/118.
            You can try to put it down in a more convincing way for your argument’s sake, taking as a reference (100) the fastest speed, which will imply that such “18 points difference” in the above reference system will apparently weigh less… but it will anyway be 15,2%, not even by far a “10%” as you wrote.

            3) Which brings me to ask you where did you find that 36 km/h number, which overestimates the real value quite a lot: they just needed 34.5 km/h. Cyclosportive, on such terrain. Most of them would have easily made it – except those who had burnt themselves out working crazily in the first hour.

            4) It was a relatively easy stage… which calls the question: how could you possibly think to compare it with Pla d’Adet? Have you at least given a look to the stage profile? (PS The bus sets its speed also depending on what the guys on the front are doing).
            It’s very hard – and nearly meaningless, IMHO – to compare very different situations, but you could also pick the Andalo stage in the last Giro, the incredible La Spezia one in 2015 (devastating), Pra Loup in the 2015 Tour, Lac de Payol this year, Calvi in 2013, Fuente Dé itself in the Vuelta, or Eibar… fast and short mountain stages, not terribly hard but often hard-fought, where the bus came in 20′ back most of the times, 30′ back if anything.

          • Gabriele – the resident Armchair expert has checked in.

            4) I’ll address your point number 4 first as this seems the most relevant:
            You say that Vuelta’s stage 15 is a lot easier than Pla d’Adet was – but I beg to differ. This year’s Vuelta has virtually been racing mountains every stage plus the race profile of Stage 15 (much like all the stages of this year’s Vuelta) suggest that the road is constantly going up and down – so clearly the climb ratings don’t mean a whole lot. These guys also raced this stage way more aggressively than climbing stages are usually raced. This all suggests that this stage is comparable to Pla d’Adet.

            Besides, even if you’re right and Pla d’Adet is harder, it isn’t as if this is a flat criterium. It is still an extremely hard stage, with 3 large mountains and many uncategorised climbs.

            You and other commentators make it seem like this stage was a recovery ride.

            3) Your second point contradicts itself – “except those who had burnt themselves out working crazily in the first hour” – exactly, that’s my point. They were burnt out. Plus, I’ll go even further, these racers have been going all out for 2 weeks at thsi point – so they’re all burnt out. Besides, you, and others keep saying they “easily” could have made it. That’s nuts. Have any of you ridden a bike up these things? As I mentioned before, to average over 30kph is not easy, especially for big riders on roads that keep going up and down.

            2) “that 10% is just laughable” – relax buddy, it was a mistake – I forgot that they scale the time cut based on the finishing time. But, even still, my point is still completely relevant – this stage was a mountain stage and the autobus rarely goes over 31kph on them. It is unreasonable to expect them to do 34kph (17% of 40.5kph), finding an extra 3kph is impossible. These riders go all out to make the time cuts at 31kph, finding an extra 3kph is not easy.

            1) Ok, so this point of yours’ proves my point – the race finished faster than even the fastest scheduled time predicted. Plus, Vuelta organisers have set up an entire stage race that is only up or down, and all stages have unclassified climbs – even looking at this one, the final climb is listed at 14km but it started 14km before that… haha, the 14km climb was actually 28km… Classic Vuelta – where the actual climbing miles are double the classified climbs. This sounds like a classic case where the Vuelta organisers completely misunderestimated the difficulty, but they recognised their mistake.

            I think I actually posted a longer response than Gabriele’s.

          • @CA
            “Hardcore version”.
            Sorry, but I’ll have to disrespect.
            To my eyes whoever is able to call these…
            Pto. Alto de Petralba.6.3 km de subida a 5% – categoría 3 / Pto. Alto de Cotefablo. 12.5 km de subida a 4.3% – categoría 2 / Sallent de Gállego. Aramón Formigal 14.5 km de subida a 4.6% – categoría 1
            … “three large mountains” isn’t worth holding an opinion about cycling ^__^

            You’re obsessed by the “mountain stage” phrase, but it’s not a videogame with its difficulty levels. Very different things match that definition.
            Luckily 😉 , modern cycling has PMs and some guys started speaking power, making this whole discussion irrelevant.

            “Easy level” version:

            a) …*except* *those* who had burnt themselves out working crazily in the first hour. Read again with emphasis.

            b) the three scheduled times (I appreciate you had no idea about that) are all *average* and *normal* possibilities – the fastest one is often beat. In Andalo they arrived 25′ (quite different from 3′) before the fastest scheduled time. *That* was *hard to forecast*.
            The schedule is a very serious thing: lots of practical aspects depend on it, feel assured that it is as precise as it can get.
            You can also compare the scheduled times to understand more exactly how hard a stage is and to what can it be compared.
            Examples: Pla d’Adet had 32-34-36 km/h – whereas Formigal had 36-38-40. Andalo had 35-37-39. Pra Loup had 37-39-41. La Spezia had 35-37-39. Got it?

            c) I sincerely suggest you to let the “you readers couldn’t ride that” argument go. First, it’s a pathetic version of “get-a-life”, sort of a “get-a-bike”, which has lost any legitimity in every space of cycling debate, be it virtual or real. Saiz, Martinelli (father), Unzué or Brailsford (not sure) can’t ride that much but, guess what?, they understand a bit about the sport. Plus, in this specific case, most readers could have made the time cut on Sunday and know perfectly what we’re speaking about. Me included. Yeah, yeah, perhaps not after racing for two weeks – but I spend on a bike 1% the lifetime a pro rider does, and I’ve not got their talent/genetical superiority. Nevertheless, if I started with them along with a couple of friends on Sunday, we’d have arrived before those 90 guys. You now get how farcical that was?

          • “I compared my power meter with Jesus Hernandez [his teammate who finished 140th in the gruppetto – ed.] and he had made half the effort that I did in that stage. If you don’t apply the rules correctly, somebody pays for it.”
            Alberto C.
            You’ll hardly find such numbers on other stages, gruppetto riders doing only half of what the leaders did

          • Jesus Hernandez is a climbing domestique who was riding in the autobus with the sprinters – OBVIOUSLY he would have done half the effort as the leaders. He’s a 128lb guy racing beside 170, 180, and 190lb sprinters up mountains… OF COURSE he will have done half the effort – that quote doesn’t prove anything.

          • On the point of whether readers would have beaten the grupetto, it’s worth noting that in the last few years’ Etape du Tour cyclosportives, only the first one to three finishers would have made the time cut for the equivalent pro stage a few days later. So maybe the fastest third of M. Ring’s readership might have made it this time?

          • @CA
            Hey, you caught me! I wrote “most readers” but it was a shameful typo, it ought to be “many readers”. “Some readers”, maybe?
            My fault.
            Unconscious wishful thinking, perhaps.
            By the way, what’s Contador weight? 138 lbs? Let’s suppose he averaged 6.0 W/kg all the way to the line (pretty much impossible). That would be averaging 375 W. Thus, let’s say that Hernández was going at average 190 W.
            With his weight, it means averaging 3.3 W/kg. I do better. Currently untrained. Dunno about other readers/riders.
            We’ve got specific *real PM* data shared by Pellaud about the finale: the last 13′ of the climb were tackled at 3.8 W/kg by the gruppetto. Little to add.

          • @Nick
            In a cyclosportive, especially in the last tens of kms, there isn’t the kind of organisation the peloton can display thanks to its homogenous high level, with turns, sacrificed riders and so. At least in Italy and in Spain (never rode one in France). I have no reference about the wattage needed to make the cut on Sunday, but I’m sure I’d have done way better than the actual gruppetto, of whom I’ve got the figures. Maybe the correct formulation was: “if I started with them along with a couple of friends on Sunday, we’d have arrived before those 90 guys”, as I concluded, rather than being sure of making the cut, as I had wrote above; still, it doesn’t look like a huge feat – and we’re speaking of pro on Sunday against Sunday riders.
            But what I find really insulting isn’t “not making the cut” (although many of them could easily make it), it’s the kind of total snubbing of the rule in order to take a total rest day… right what the time cut is intended to prevent.

  3. Well, if I had to choose, I would say the ladder, they have some history with Movistar…

    Having said that, I’m actually surprised more teams didn’t help!
    BMC, Ag2r, and maybe even Cannondale…

    They all had extra riders in there, and if they had helped the chase, then maybe they could have taken time on both contador and Quintana (and Cruz)…

    Certainly if they were chasin the podium, both talansky and Sanchez had their big chance yesterday! Now, they ended up loosing time on everyone!

    Cannondale could have chased, and then let for milo sit back… He could then have gone for the stage win if they didn’t get caught. Now he moved up to 8th, but surely u would rather have 5 and 13 than 7 and 8, especially as talansky is one of the better TT riders and then could have chased the podium!

    All the teams went into defend mode, and thereby they missed what could have been turned into an opportunity…

    • Don’t think Contador or Quintana woud have cracked. Untill the last climb, they hardly dis any work, I’m quite sure they were about as fresh as the otter GC-contenders.

      Astana’s tactic? Not too strand imho. It’s not unusual the lesser gods put their teams to work for a spot further down the ranking, especially when the top contenders’ teams are failing. And don’t forget, Astana is a top class team.

      • A comment from someone who didn’t watch much of the stage, perhaps? Yes, Contador and Quintana had teammates who did a big amount of the work, but Froome didn’t dare pull until the last 5 km or so, letting Astana and Orica do all the work. The Spanish broadcasters went on quite a few priceless rants, calling out Froome for taking almost zero responsibility and questioning his ability to race sans team dominance. They also called out the work of Astana as basically dirty pool. Great Stage!

        • Hmmm, Froome did obviously try to not waste himself on the front but he was there a fair bit, it’s not quite true to say he took zero responsibility. I mean, if he looked even slightly like he’d pull, the whole group would have gleefully sat on, so you can appreciate his reluctance!

        • I’ve watched all day and have seen many races since early 90’s. I too chastised Astana because of their work. I didn’t like it one bit. But it’s not unusual in cycling for teams who have the numbers to work for their captain, even if he’s down in GC.
          If Astana hadn’t worked, Scarponi would be down perhaps more than 3 minutes on Formolo and De La Cruz. Now he’s within a minute and has every opportunity to pass them in GC in Madrid. For us, 10th or 8th may not matter, but for riders and teams it might.

          ps. sorry for the spelling errors in my first post. Dutch auto-correct on my phone.

          • We must have watched a completely different stage. The one I saw had Contador, Brambilla and Quintana do a ton of work (w/ teammates) to make the breakaway, and they took pulls in the break. Contador was especially crucial in creating the stage, a true protagonist. Quintana pulled for the last 8 km of the climb, flicked his elbow twice but just put his head down when he got no help.

            Froome, on the other hand, spent the day haranguing other teams to work. He was the fresh one. Yes, there would be little sense in him taking extended pulls on the front on the flats for 90kms, but he didn’t even take initiative when the climb started, just looked around waiting for others. Without the A-team Sky train he looked lost. The Spanish commentators really roasted him on that final climb, not for the fact that he cracked or lost time, but that he showed a lack of forage befitting a great champion. They said they’d never seen anything like it – the whole chasing group were acting like Froome’s teammates, waiting for him to catch up, and/or waiting for him to do something. They were dumbfounded that he never responded. Also, they said that without the help of Luis Leon Sanchez, Froome would be way off the podium.
            Of course, and rightfully so, they heaped praise on Contador (and Quintana, Brambilla, and others) for making it an amazing stage.

          • +1 @Alex M
            Contador did a lot of work at the front of that group not only in the beginning of the escape when it was him who clearly drove the group.

          • @Alex M.
            I’ve seen the same things as you did. Not arguing with you there. I was just reacting to Tom, who said that if more teams worked, they might have gained time on Contador en Quintana. I really don’t think that is the case. Maybe on Contador, but there is no way Talansky would have beaten Quintana for instance.

            Froome may not have done a lot of work up front, but it was clear his legs weren’t good, he just wasn’t fresh.
            Contador did a lot of work in setting up the attack and making sure they got clear. After that, it was mainly Rovny, Trofimov, Castroviejo and Fernandez. I really don’t think Quintana suffered much more in the lead group then Froome or Chaves did in the chasing group. That Quintana extended his lead on Froome on the final climb and didn’t loose too much ground on Chaves, goes to show.

        • @ AlexM

          Didn’t catch that but agree with Spanish commentators: especially in the case of a great champion, a lack of forage can be a real problem, too.

    • Two Cannondales in the Quintana front group, was that not Takansky?

      Froome surely was complacent yesterday. It is understandable after his busy season and having achieved 1.5 of his two seasonal goals, with the Vuelta as after thoughts and bounce. Still, the lesson is much needed to keep him on his toes for years to come.

    • Cannondale had Formolo in the front group, worth sitting in for his sakes. I don’t think BMC or AG2R really had the firepower and it was actually quite reasonable to assume OBE and Sky could close the gap but they just… didn’t.

  4. 1) “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira la hasard” (Mallarmé). A good race nowadays can never prove that the equipment is the best in order to have good cycling. A poor race in cycling’s heyday doesn’t prove that today’s equipment is equally conducive to good cycling. Your “ban this, ban that” seems to aspire to use the logic I am denouncing in this paragraph.
    2) The “Hors-Délai” scandal: what does it mean that “a peloton of 70 riders would look stupid for the final week”? It’s an extremely radical assertion, and it begs the question.

    • Yeah, the hors delais-“solution” will now again trickle down to lower ranked races, unfortunately.
      I have experienced these situations every once in a while. Sometimes the group really struggles and sometimes they rely on their strength in numbers.
      If I catch them on the latter, I tend to let the group of riders and their DSs know that they cannot ease up. They must put in an effort if they want to remain in the race. That kind of threats often works.

    • I known on 1), causation and correlation and the like. It’s more the way some are bored by an afternoon’s TV and call for things to be banned immediately that amuses, just as one weekend’s good racing could undo a ban. As ever a long term, more reflective stance is probably better, ideally with data and counter-examples etc

      • Just to weigh in (again..) on 1). Some races most definitely suffer from conservative racing, and has been for a number of years which calls for change somewhere. Case in point: Liege Bastogne Liege which has been almost unwatchable for a few years now.

        However, I am not convinced this has much to do with PowerMeters, as there are other more important factors. This is not my point, though.

        The call for ban of PMs (and other tech) could be for other reasons other than its potential for conservative racing. Henri Desgrange infamous ban on derailleur gears was not because of this. Why is doping banned? One reason is because it supposedly corrupts the so-called “spirit of sport”. Maybe the same could be said of certain types of technology, not regarding that doping (medicine) is also a technology?

        This discussion will go on and on and gain traction in the coming years with new developements in bodysensor, interface and display technologies. This deabte is not only about the “Sky train”.

        • I quite agree with your enlarged perspective. Focusing on PMs as an example, the first question that must be asked is “why are they there, and what do they change?”. Then we can deduce if it changes the nature of whatever it is cycling as a sport is about, and we can also examine the effect it has or can have on the rider, the race, the organiser and the sovereign armchair-spectator. The debate should, according to the principle of prudence, take place before the device is authorized. But what we see is the opposite, the debate is avoided or turned into a disdainful joke, or littered with “pro- or anti-Sky”, or tech-geek subjectivities (what are tech-geeks doing watching cycling instead of motor sports anyway?). And yet the debate comes up again and again (I remember discussions since the introduction of tri-bars), because there are many questions about what kind of cycling we should want to have that remain unanswered.

      • Let’s face it, yesterday it was Contador (with the help of his two team mates of course) who made the difference / made the day exciting with his strong will to create that group. It takes racers like him who ignore their PM, logic, probability and sometimes even their DS’ recommendations or orders.
        With all respect to his and his team’s superiority in the TDF I’m pretty sure we will never witness something like this from Chris Froome who clearly and heavily relies on his PM. Which is typically a successful strategy winning him grand tours. But one that is boring to watch. Period.

        • Let’s face it what makes a race exciting is neither Froome nor Contador, nor their power meters or their steak with special sauce. In the end it’s having driven, crazy, ocd, obsessed individuals like them both in the same race trying their damnedest to get to the line first. Contador maybe what floats your boat but it’s contrast and competition that makes the day … You ever seen Froome change his wheels at the bottom of a climb? You’re losing site of the wheel because you can’t see past Contador’s ceramic bearings.

      • I’m not sure that 2 hors delai uses for large late groups in grand tours in 8 years hardly sets a precedent. GT riders and teams all going from the gun, with numbers rather than solo breakaways, in a short mountain stage is far less common – so uncommon that the time cut rules make it impossible for a normal 3rd week groupetto to make the cut off. I see a short mountain stage extended cut off, or discretion, being written in. A bit of me suspects the gap blew out after a commissaire reassured the groupetto it could be late due to the extraordinary pace at the front.

        If we are going to have a new controversy du jour every 24 hours, maybe it’s time we banned the real cause – social media and comments columns. Sporting rule makers can’t rewrite the rule book every other day, contrary to the belief of Twitter. We are gett

  5. I love musing on the possible conspiracies within the peloton.
    Or, if not the riders, the owners or owner. Mr Tinkov’s parting gift to Sky?
    There are all kind of unholy alliances in this race but the Tinkoff / Movistar one seems to be a recurring theme.
    It’s beginning to feel like a John le Carre or Ian Fleming novel – “once is happenstance, twice is an accident, three times is an enemy action”.

      • The alliances are certainly there, and there seems to be lots of them in this particular tour.
        Whether yesterday was pre-planned between teams, who knows?
        It’s certainly possible, and is one of the added dimensions that makes the sport so interesting.
        Long may it remain so.
        I’ve just listened to the Telegraph’s cycling podcast and they commented on the alliances also.

        • Contador decided about the attack less than three hour before the start, when he asked his press officer to drive him along the course and see if something could be done. I don’t know if, needing to come back to the start, prepare and so on he’d really have had the time to work up any alliance with Movistar.
          It doesn’t look a collaboration from video footage, either (not the one Peter is speaking of… 🙂 the stage was on air from scratch).
          Besides, Quintana commented about previous team plans in an apparently sincere fashion, saying that they intended to try something only on the last climb, even if they knew that it was going to be a fast start and they had to be careful. It was him who was personally convinced that he had to keep an eye on Contador. The logical consequence is that he found himself there along with his bodyguard, the rider who always guards his wheel, that is Castroviejo, and the in-form lightweight climber, Rubén Fernández. If it was a plan, they’d have sent up there Erviti, for example.

          I’d like you to point out which are all those other situations where you noticed a great collaboration between Movistar and Tinkoff, because the one I rememeber you naming was indeed sort of a favour to Froome! (albeit I don’t think that Tinkoff was doing that as such, but what’s sure is that it was no help to Quintana, quite the contrary).

          All that said, alliances are nevertheless very fine, the spice of cycling, especially if both rider involved get a significant gain – sometimes even plain corruption *or* Astana’s behaviour yesterday can belong to the Great Tradition We True Fans approve 😛

          • Stages 10 and 11 (Tinkoff pulling at the front of the peloton for most of the day) and yesterday. Movistar have hitherto been typified by their conservative tactics in GT’s and suddenly we have them being amongst the most aggressive?

            Perhaps it has been something that’s happened organically in race situations (which is no less enjoyable) but this Vuelta has marked an almost wholesale different approach from Movistar but only on the coat tails of Tinkoff, at least on crucial GC stages.

          • So he couldn’t be on the phone in the car talking to Movistar on a mobile while out reviewing the course? No?!
            I don’t think Contador would have sprung the trap without serious support, being off the front with just your team would have been very risky, and the Spanish Armada have always combined to win their home country tour as much as possible (albeit Quintana is a Colombian he is cycling for a Spanish team), just in the same way French and Italian teams used to gang up on foreign competitors to ensure a home win. Quintana is not typically an adventurous rider and I think he would have been invited to make that break by Contador.

          • @Ecky Thump
            During Stage 10 Tinkoff didn’t pull at all – then Contador simply made his typical move. In 2014 he attacked with about 6 kms to go (and he had prepared a move with 7 kms to go but Katusha aborted it). Quintana just reacted. When Froome was left behind, the two marked each other and didn’t go full gas with regular turns as they could have done if they wanted to hurt Froome the most: they were thinking of each other as two direct rivals, not even as occasional allies.
            During Stage 11 Tinkoff’s work wasn’t at all at Quintana’s advantage. It was the kind of softening up the pure climbers which Quintana suffered so much during the Tour. Hence Tinkoff was really doing Sky’s work… even if it was mainly intended to bring the break down, hoping that Contador could go for the stage in case Quintana and Froome marked each other.

          • Contador started studing the racebook In the teambus from stage 14 to the hotel. He quickly saw that the climb to formigal would be way too easy to control for a strong team – instead he decided that the opening km’s of stage 15 was best suited for an attack due to its small hills, trees and twichy road because it would be difficult for a peloton and DS’s to capture the situation – aka ambush terrain.

            When quintana and moviestar latched on as gruop formed he decided to continue a force the pace in order for moviestar to participate and hoped for the chasing peloton to split in order to reduce the chnace of a large peolon to slowly be able to reel them in -while hoping to be able to follow qiantana on the last climb a fight for the stage win.

            No hidden argendas, just a race situation with common interests between tinkiw, sky and cannondale – Britts should stop their paranoid thoughts.

          • @RQS
            … and you think that Movistar was going to throw its captain and red jersey out in the wind with 110 km to go on the basis of a phone call a couple of hours before the race started? I don’t think so, but you can imagine whatever.


            Factual error 1 – Quintana has always been an adventurous/attacking rider along most of his career, indeed (endless list of faraway and/or lone attacks elsewhere) – and he showed glimpses of it even during these last two seasons, if one hasn’t watched the TdF only.

            Factual error 2 – The relationships among the top dogs in Spain are far from good. I already posted recent examples concerning some of the involved riders (and Froome!).
            But you’re speaking nonsense or old news (30 years ago? 😉 ) also when you speak of French and Italian riders. Remember how Bardet and Pinot “ganged up against foreign competitors”? Why didn’t Peraud and Pinot work together against Nibali, according to your theory? And… how did the Italian CSF get along with Contador in the 2008 Giro? Contador was helped by Euskaltel riders during the 2011 Giro, but at the same time the Italians were playing against each other – and rightly so. Wasn’t Italian that Villella pulling Contador away from Aru towards Verbania last year? I could go on for long, as you’ll easily imagine.

          • If you’re going to state ‘factual error’ you need to state facts. Not make generalities.

            I cannot think of a single pro-team race where Quintana has done anything but attack on the final climb. Nothing like this break where he drove on for such a long way. I can’t say I’ve seen a stage quite like this with two top GC riders off the front.

            Perhaps you and I have been watching different races.

            But I remember plenty of times in the Vuelta that Spanish riders have done the old roper dope of attacking a non-Spanish rider one after the other, with Valverde, Contador and Rodriguez all having a pop. Perhaps they have no love for one another, but they do know how to isolate the opposition.

            Yes, national affiliation were more common before the 80s. Perhaps you remember them?!

          • “I cannot think of a single pro-team race where Quintana has done anything but attack on the final climb”.
            Well, you didn’t think much, I’d say. I remember more than half a dozen cases when not only did he do right that, but he also won the race, plus a couple of them in which he didn’t win. Facts above (replying to Ecky). Not generalities. I listed them several times in the last months, that’s why I hadn’t repeated the whole list at first. Yet, I’d ask that for the future if you don’t want to think, try to Google.

            “I can’t say I’ve seen a stage quite like this with two top GC riders off the front”.
            This is why stages like this become legendary… I can easily remember a couple of them during the Nineties, even if the break wasn’t from scratch (not many 118 kms long stages, then…), and some other further back in time. Yet, I’m sure that if you make an effort you’ll recall a famous case (nearly from scratch) less than a decade old. They always involved exceptional riders, in the past, which says quantity about the athletes who made it on Sunday.

            “But I remember plenty of times…”: state facts, please. Climbs, stages. And I’d like to see that they weren’t attacking *each other* – for example, if they went away from the non-Spanish, they should be working together. Or the Spaniards shouldn’t be closing on a fellow Spaniard attack…

            I remember a very famous “national affiliation” in the 1985 Vuelta, perhaps the most famous ever. But in the late Nineties internal rivalries were already prevailing.
            In Italy we’ve got examples of both historical inner rivalries which ended up favouring non-Italian riders and, albeit less common, also national alliances. In Italy, many guys preferred by far to lose to whoever, but standing above their Italian rivals, than sharing winning options with a countryman.

          • “In Italy, many guys preferred by far to lose to whoever, but standing above their Italian rivals, than sharing winning options with a countryman.”

            So true not only of Italians but many other nationalities or only of road cycling but of many other sports. This is often quite difficult for (a) those of other nationalities for whom quite naturally other (for them) nationalities are a more heterogenic, cohesive and stereotypable group than their own and (b) those more familiar with team with a capital T sports and (c) those whose athletic upbringing has centered on and ingrained them with the tenet “there is no Iin “team””.

          • @ gabriele.
            I don’t think you’ve read what RQS wrote properly.

            He/She said: “has done anything but attack” which basically means ‘has ONLY attacked’ (if my broken English is anything to go by). Please correct me if I’m wrong.


            Such a shame, I had high hopes but it’s turned out to be a really Boring Vuelta: The Red jersey has no opposition. No legendary stages. No sneaky downhill attacks. No echelon escapades. No escapes in the final kilometres of a flat stage. No red jersey crashes in the rain. No punctures at inopportune moments. No Red jersey running after dropping his rivals and crowd induced crashes and the second placed rider just sucks wheels and doesn’t attack. Zzzzzzz

          • G, Quintana didn’t start any of the above moves – the ones which have affected GC.
            Nevertheless it’s all conjecture and good fun. But Contador at least deserves a podium place after all his efforts 😉

          • @Ecky

            Quintana has got a record of both …

            … seizing the moment to take advantage of move prompted by others, often against his DSs opinion (think the Stelvio stage, but also the Emilia or Burgos) – just like today, which wouldn’t hence be *strange* in that sense

            … AND going solo, be it from the penultimate or third-to-last climb (first RdS, Murcia, Pailhères), from scratch (last RdS), or, in the finale, some 7-10 kms from the line on long climbs (Ventoux, La Toussouire, Alpe, Tirreno, Romandie).

            Apart of that, he obviously also won races with late attacks in the last 2-3 kms, say, Catalunya or País Vasco, or in Le Semnoz.

            All the cases I’ve named (and the list is NOT exhaustive) involved winning the GC… except in the 2013 Tour, where he was finally 2nd, and in the last RdS, where he let a mate win – but you couldn’t say his moves hadn’t a GC impact.

          • G,
            Let’s not talk of non-GT’s. Froome acted as a super domestique in the recent Ride Surrey Classic but so what?

            Looking at the ride out of stage 15 again, Movistar have riders spaced out along the peloton. There’s Quintana and two others who never leave the front, Valverde and three team mates further back ostensibly marking Froome, and a couple at the back with other Sky riders.
            Tinkoff are mobbed on the front.
            Why would the race leader have his team split, why not clustered around him, unless something was already in the making? It defies the usual logic?

  6. My theory about Astana yesterday: with Nibali off, Scarponi et al were setting out their stall. I really rate Aru but don’t think he’s the finished article yet – beating Dumoulin (another unfinished article) to win a grand tour does not a legend create and barring Contador the rest of last year’s giro field weren’t capable of winning it.

    I would sign seits (apologies for spelling) and Scarponi in an instant. If I was either of them I would jump at the chance to sign for a more stable team or to become a bigger fish.

    I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the sky bus yesterday. Would they have sat up if they were riding for Merckx? In fairness, Merckx would have soloed across the gap then won solo by an eight minute margin yesterday. Surely proof if needed that Froome is racing clean? Top write up inrng and top Vuelta!

  7. I am always very suspicious that many of the great races of yesteryear were more about great journalistic licences. Even now with with all the filming, photographing etc from the side of the road there are still often key moments in a race that only appear through hearsay.

  8. Great stage to watch La Vuelta again is turning out to be the most interesting of the GT’s.

    I am surprised at how bad Sky were the stage had been telegraphed as going to be a quick one as it was so short and it was always going to go off early, my guess being that Sky were completely cream crackered and could not have of responded even if they had to.

    Interesting that David Millars blog has been calling for an allliance to beat Froome perhaps they all read that….. as well as this fine blog of course.

  9. Sky fall, ha ha ha. Well done Contador for blowing the race apart yesterday, made my annual Eurosport subscription worth it just for that stage. Also a great 3hr stage which parcours was just made for an early ambush. Wonderful stuff.

  10. Contador has form for ambushes on apparently mundane stages. Remember how he beat Rodriguez in the 2012 Vuelta with a long distance attack while Rodriguez was enjoying the scenery?

  11. Great stage yesterday. The short mountain stage brings great racing theory worked for once. It should be noted though that a) it was a medium mountain stage with no really long/steep climbs (Felline was 3rd). Unlike in the Tour when they’d have packed 4 cat 1s in. And b) it followed a long difficult stage. If the previous day’s stage was short and/or flat Sky’s domestiques would not have been so tired and Contador and Quintana would not have got away so easily. Lots of gibberish being spoken about Froome and Sky being complacent. They just got caught out and worked over by a combination of tactics over two days. Movistar getting Moreno in the break the previous day when he was only 5 minutes down looks like genius now and was key in setting up yesterday.
    I’ve been impressed by Felline in this Vuelta, and to a lesser extent at the Giro. He seems a versatile rider who can cling on on the climbs. Hopefully he’ll step up and win something soon. He looks the sort who could go well in the autumn classics if he can deal with the distance.

  12. 91 riders outside time limit.
    What would be the correct number for the rules to apply? 50? 30?
    Why bend the rule AGAIN?? This is a TEAM SPORT… the end result should be a reflection of team superiority or lack of.

    The fact that Froome was the only one inside time limit from Team Sky only makes thing worst. What if Froome helped by his teammates will win this Vuelta??

  13. A very interesting and astute observation. Would the rule have been applied if the makeup of the riders/teams outside the time limit had been different?

    • Nope, regardless of who the riders were the rule would not have been applied. Making this about Sky makes it appear that the desire to introduce the rule comes from the loony brigade and makes it easier to dismiss.

      They should start applying it, making it very very clear that they intend to beforehand and maybe with a slightly more generous cut-off for short mountain stages.

      • @Graham, the time limit is already extended when the stage (or race) is calssified as a mountain stage/race. That should – in theory – give dropped riders sufficient time to make it to the finish line.
        The grupetto of old days were famous for calculating their arrival exactly within the limits. Apparently they forgot how to do the maths now – perhaps time for an add-on to the PMs: ETA

        • I think these new short mountain stages do make it tougher, especially with a group of the strongest riders treating it as a TTT pretty much from the gun. If everyone had tried their best we still could have seen a lot of outside the time limit. I think there could maybe be an argument that the formula used for long mountain stages is tough on the fatboys when applied to shorter mountain stages. I could be wrong.

          But clearly the groupetto took the p*ss yesterday knowing the rule wouldn’t be applied. I would rather the “exceptional circumstances” rule be tightened or removed so this doesn’t happen again rather than see a race ruined by the setting of an example.

          • They rode fast from scratch, but didn’t ride *especially* fast on the whole… it was a 14-men breakaway, after all. And the whole time is what eventually matters for the time cut. It would have been no terrible feat to come in on time – except for those guys who had to wear themselves off in order to chase hard during the first hour, both in the 2nd and 3rd group.
            After all, the athletes who did make it… still had some 12′ of margin!!! (Devenyns had 10′, Villella 7′). Not like it was a very close save ^__^

      • Wrong interpretation.
        I’m not sure if it was mainly a Sky thing or more of a Sky-Bora-Direct pact (several LottoNL riders would have been able to make the cut without major difficulties). However, it’s quite clear who’s got the most persuasive arguments among them.
        If a sort of collective strategy hadn’t been enforced within the gruppetto, we wouldn’t have had ninety some riders soft-pedalling at feeble MAMIL pace during most of the stage, hence the situation would have been way different and… the rule could have been applied.
        Sky would have lost between two and four gregari, and everyone of them would have been very worn out.

        You write as if what happened was a consequence of the hardships of the stage. But they needed to average some 34 km/h to comply with the rule, that is, less than the slowest possible speed scheduled by the organisation.
        As if the problem was that the cut-off isn’t generous enough…

        The Jury normally speaks with the late riders to call for a decent pace, sometimes “promising”, so to say, some minutes of tolerance. Not more than twenty.

        In Italy several juvenile races have disappeared because of the troubles involving the time limit. More serious rules need to be worked out. The 2011 Tour, for example, showed an apparently more acceptable case (few minutes) which had huge and unfair consequences on the final result. And Sky wasn’t involved!
        It’s not about Sky. It’s about the options which the most powerful teams do have to bend the rules. Something which always happened in cycling and which can’t be eliminated from the sport, but which might hopefully be limited.

      • @Graham So you think 32 minutes aren’t generous enough for a 118km short stage and it should be more like 60 minutes? Sorry, that would be ridiculous.

    • For those above who think that the 90+ riders soft-pedalled in on Stage 15 – what makes you think they were soft pedalling in? They weren’t soft pedalling at all.

      ~ 2014 TdF – 124km stage 17 to Pla d’Adet – the autobus rides in just over 4 hours at 30/31kph
      ~ 2016 Vuelta – 118km stage 15 – autobus rides in at 3:48, 31kph

      Therefore, these guys are riding a serious mountain stage at the exact same pace, but the only difference is that the leaders in this Vuelta stage went 40 minutes faster. If the autobus were to have survived, they would’ve had to ride faster THAN THE WINNER OF 2014 TDF STAGE 17! Can a sprinter do a climbing stage faster than Rafal Majka?!? That’s ridiculous and the readers of this blog should know this – we’re supposed to be educated or enlightened by Inrng’s education!

        • Go back for the past decade to when the leaders were juiced to the gills – even shorter climbing stages, the fastest guys would do it in 35-36kph. The autobus would roll in at 31kph.

          So, you expect the “clean” riders of 2016 to do a mountain stage faster than Lance Armstrong, Marco Pantani, the Chicken (Rasmussen), Floyd Landis, Cadel Evans, etc. That is nuts.

          If your apple had orange ribbles on his skin he would be a juiced sprinter that should’ve won the 2005 tdf, but we’re dealing with real people. I’d love to see guys like Ryan Anderson go back and destroy Jan Ulrich on a mountain climb because that’s what you’re saying. Jan would get dropped at 36kph, but Ryan Anderson should’ve been able to do this pace easily right?

          • The guys are still racing, so clearly you guys might not be right… sorry to say.

            Gabriele also said he could easily have made the time cut… oh and that most of the readers here could have made the time cut… no chance.

            Clearly Gabriele knows all.

          • Ok, I made a mess with two separate question and I’ll make amends.

            One thing is how incredibly slow the gruppetto went. They did. Power figures confirm that, and when I’m thinking about “Sunday riders” going faster, I’m thinking about the gruppetto’s pace.

            A separate question is the time cut. As always, or more than always, it’s generous enough (18%) – and the stage has been fast but not anormally fast. It was only some 3′ faster than the organisation had programmed (imagine that the whole *normal* expected time window is at least 20′ long, even in such a short stage): comparably short stages have recently been 25′ faster than the fastest scheduled time.
            That is, all in all it was a normal stage, in terms of time cut. Essentially, out of previous experiences, only very tired or ill riders might have come home too late: neither the sprinters were too much at risk, given that it was more about rolling terrain than big climbs.
            After all, after the 70 riders who made it, who weren’t all climbers, you still had some 12 minutes available.
            That it wasn’t a high-mountain stage can also be seen from the set of scheduled times itself.

            However, this *normality* also means that the time cut in itself would have been as hard as in any other GT stage to match for an amateur rider – precisely as it was “as easy” or whereabouts for the pros.

            That’s what I get mixed up – and where I wrote a nonsense, both because of the typo and because I made a confusion.
            Yes, amateur riders can ride against a *normal* time cut and make it, but it’s not easy nor common. It’s not like one or two would make it, as Nick says: IMHO, in a well-organised gruppetto which rides to make the cut, several *strong* amateurs would make it, much more than in a cyclosportive context.
            But truth is that most amateurs would indeed spread themselves in the VAST area *between* the farcical march of the giant gruppetto, well short of 4.0 W/kg, and the time fringe around the cut, whose wattage I can’t estimate.
            Which means that I feel I’m right when I say that I myself (and many other readers, I think) would ride *faster* or even *way faster* than the 90 mutinied, but I’m far from sure that it would mean to make the cut.

            Yet, this doesn’t make it harder for the pros. From what we know, the casualties should have been perhaps slightly superior to any middle-mountain stage, but far from the spectacle we ended up seeing on the road.

          • Gabriele – do you actually have Jesus Hernandez’s wattage figures? No, all you really have is an offhand comment from Contador – so really we don’t have any wattage figures to go on to confirm that the grupetto went slower than a sunday bike ride. My strong feeling is that Contador made the exact same offhand comment that millions of guys make everyday to downplay something.

            In reality we have no idea how hard the grupetto went, plus they just finished 15 stages that had categorised climbs in them… they were cooked. So even if they rode as fast as a sunday group ride, the sunday group riders sit in an office making comments on Inner Ring’s website all week. You can’t compare the two situations.

          • @CA
            Read again, we ain’t got only Contador’s declarations. We’ve got, for example, Pellaud’s data on Formigal.
            “No idea”? Stage course and final time is a good start.
            But I’ll acknowledge that you have indeed “no idea”, for example about the enormous chasm between amateurs and pro riders. No week of rest in the office will make for that. A pro will kick your ass after three full weeks of a GT. Or whatever. Unless he decides to have a stroll for some reason… I know they had a stroll on Sunday, I don’t know the exact reason.
            However, I won’t prevent you further from misunderstanding the stage. Perhaps that will even make you more excited if you’ll average 31 km/h on a similar course.

            (PS I admitted being just *wrong*, once or twice 🙂 , and I’ll disclose, four your eyes only, that it feels quite good… hush hush, don’t tell that around on the internet, or it will go broke!)

          • Gabriele – you’re the one who said amateurs could make the time cut and can beat the grupetto on Stage 15 – not me, I clearly understand the huge difference between pro’s and amateurs.

            I never said I could average 31kph on a similar course.

  14. Well Sky were complacent by not been at the front of the race they were towards the back in the neutral zone chatting and looking relaxed. Talk before the stage was that it would be explosive it was clear it was going to be on from the drop, I mean Tinkov riders were practically surrounding the car waiting for the flag to drop. Froome was also about half way back – which at the time I thought was strange. It also resulted in just having two team mates which were quickly burned up and he was isolated.

    In terms of the crash which caused the split when did this happen? I didn’t see it on highlights I watched; I assume the TV cameras missed it?

    Either way fantastic move and thoroughly enjoyed watching it unfold.

    Obviously Froome is not at his peak with goal for season been the Tour and the Olympics plus he doesn’t have his A-team with him, but does this lay the blueprint? Often there has been talk of teams working together to nullify Sky’s strength and other these two days it resulted in Froome been isolated. When he was he looked extremely panicked – constantly on the radio and I thought he wasted energy dealing with surges from the front of his group.

  15. Cracking couple of stages… Quintana looks odds on to win now, but interesting that it was Contadors aggression that delivered it. Without it we would have likely seen another percentage play with him and Froome getting another +/- 15 seconds in the last 3km.

  16. An amazing 2 days of racing. The short stage yesterday was another advert for shorter stages in general I think.

    I suspect stage 17 will see Froome and Quintana match each other, but clearly Froome needs time back now. Either way stage 20 should be a cracker – Froome will clearly make up time in the TT, which should mean the riders will be pretty close going into stage 20 and the final climb.

    Is it truly 50km of descending today?

    • … An advert which wouldn’t ever have taken place – not the way it did – without the 200 kms long stage, featuring four 1st-category climbs, we had the day before.

      I’m personally favourable to occasional “short” stages – they even belong to cycling history and tradition since decades and decades ago (they had something like that even during the “mythical age”) – but it’s important to understand that they’re a special feature, not the norm.
      And we’re anyway speaking of 110-120 kms long stages, not 60 kms ones as Van Garderen once suggested.
      The fact that an especially short stage can prove itself highly spectacular doesn’t mean that the same can’t happen on a 200 kms long one: both are desirable, and the second is perhaps right away necessary.
      Besides, the fact that a very short stage can deliever shouldn’t imply that we’ll get a better show if we cut down the *average* length of *normal* stages, as if the 150-kms-or-so mountain stages we are becoming used to see in the TdF might produce a better spectacle than a 180 kms one. More often than not, it’s quite the contrary.
      It’s no kind of continuum from “great spectacle” around 100 kms to “no spectacle” over 200 kms (nor the other way around, obviously enough).
      It’s not about any sort of direct correlation between stage length and “show”, it’s more about how the course as a whole is built. And the riders’ attitude – but that goes without saying.

      • I agree. Short stages have a place but this one was aided by the long stage before it. I think it helped that it wasn’t very hard too. If the climbs were super hard then Quintana and Contador wouldn’t have been able to call on as many riders for help as they did.

  17. There is no stage this year that has been so exciting that the resulting arguments haven’t been utterly draining to read. I don’t expect everyone to be sunshine and roses 100% always but polemic flares up with such regularity I’ve started thinking ‘I wonder what controversy will come up this time’ any time a major change happens in GC.
    Granted, the debates would be more interesting if half of these people weren’t using them to come up with conspiracy theories about the riders they don’t like. Bah, I’m taking my own advice and going for a walk instead of expecting that to ever stop.

  18. From cn’s live ticker of today’s stage 16:
    “17:43:55 CEST
    An interesting but perhaps irrelevant statistic posted on Twitter by @Irishpeloton points out that all the top 10 finishers today all finished in the gruppetto that finished well outside the time limit yesterday.

    If they had been part of a smaller group, they could have been ejected from the race and so missed the chance to sprint today.”

    • Bennatti, who launched an attack last 2km, finished within the limit yesterday. And was caught by all these laissez-faire riders.
      That’s the point Bakelants and others were making. And they are right.

    • CN also writes: “the decision had been made and 164 riders made the start in Alcañiz, much to the relief of several teams who would have seen all their riders head home”.
      Am I mistaken or only *one* team would have lost every rider, that is, Direct Energie?
      Or did “several teams” decided that “all their riders” would “head home” in case they remained with too few riders?

  19. Oh the cut off time. They could have ridden the stage on BMX’s , come in another 3 hours later and still been able to ride today’s stage. The race organisers need to make a stand at some point,especially now Fabian “THE DADDY” Cancellara’s not controlling the bus. Sponsors and the public deserve good racing, this is just like the fat kid on sports day walking round the track in the 1500m(sorry to offend fat kids).

    Rant Over.
    Good to see the final week could see a different a very talented Grand tour rider possibly win,but i do feel it’s one race too many for Froome/Sky/Murdoch to control.

    • I think this should mark the end of the trend towards leniency. If there is one thing cycling is absolutely not, that is lenient. And that is its greatness. And it is the organiser’s role to make sure severity is the norm.

  20. Perhaps a way for the riders collectively to stick-it to the UCI and ASO as a group?

    As they find themselves in a position of diminishing power.

  21. Today

    1 Jean-Pierre DRUCKER (yesterday 53min)
    2 Rudiger SELIG (53min)
    3 Nikias ARNDT ( 53min)
    4 Gianni MEERSMAN ( 53min)
    5 Lorenzo MANZIN ( 53min)
    6 Jonas VANGENECHTEN ( 53min)
    7 Kristian SBARAGLI ( 53min)
    8 Kiel REIJNEN ( 53min)
    9 Tosh VAN DER SANDE ( 53min
    10 Jhonatan RESTREPO ( 53min)
    11 Matthieu LADAGNOUS( 53min)
    12 Sergey LAGUTIN ( 53min))

    • So your basically saying that the riders competing for the win in a flat sprint, are the same who finish in the bottom half in a mountain stage. Pretty sure the stage result would have been similar if the grupetto finished at 30 mins the day before.

      • He’s basically saying that Keukeleire, Rojas, Bakelants, Hardy… Bennati… might have had more of a chance if they had been gifted an extra rest day the stage before as the guys above.

        On a playful note: if you take away the riders who didn’t deserve to continue the racing on Sunday, yesterday we’d have had a Chaves, Froome, Quintana podium ^__^
        I think those 3 are the only one in the stage’s top-20 not to have rested on Sunday. Which means nothing – they were trying to avoid splits – but at the same time says much about the importance of remaining energies, recovery and so on. Despite the *true* rest day, we might maybe observe a medium-term impact on the teams.

  22. Peniscola, lovely place out of season, spent several nappy days parked up in the camper park and whizzing around the seafront on our de blasi folding bikes. Probably my idea of hell in season though. Lovely restaurant up by the castle, and fun watching the fishing boats come in.

  23. @Ecky Thump, you say: “Let’s not talk of non-GT’s. Froome acted as a super domestique in the recent Ride Surrey Classic but so what?”.
    I think this is becoming laughable. Is it sort of a quiz show? Harder and harder? Or is it a Von Trier-style “obstructions” thing?
    Ok, I like Von Trier’s movies, let’s take up the challenge.

    Yet, remember that the debate started because you and RQS considered that it was *atypical* for Quintana to be adventurous. RQS later even said: “I cannot think of a single pro-team race where Quintana has done anything but attack on the final climb”.
    That’s not about GC or GT, it’s about your attitude, if you show that or not along your career. Meanwhile we’ve gone from generical “pro-team races” to GTs.

    And when I noted that he used to be quite the attacking type, thus it suddenly was all about: “sure no GC involved”.

    Hence I named some 7 or 8 cases – and there are more – in which he was on the attack before the last climb, eventually winning the stage *and* the GC more often than not (or being 2nd, especially, in the TdF’s case – but you can’t say that GC isn’t involved, sure).

    Now for you only GTs matter, and you even name some Surrey Classic when Froome supposedly acted as a gregario (so what? I don’t get the point). As if the Surrey Classic had anything to do with Burgos or Emilia, let alone Romandie or Tirreno.

    But that’s fine. Let’s play the game.

    Quintana has been riding 8 GTs until now, and he’s been on attacks which started *TENS* of kms from the finish line in *FIVE* of them. About two thirds of the times, he finds himself in a long-range move during the GTs he races.
    Not all the moves were prompted by him, sure (neither Sunday’s was), but it’s not like you ride alone, you know?
    Vuelta 2012: ~60 kms to go (along with other riders, decisive for Valverde’s GC – note that it was his first GT ever) / TdF 2013 ~30 kms to go (alone, finally 2nd in GC) / Giro 2014 ~70 kms to go (with others, won stage and final GC) / Vuelta 2015 ~50 kms to go (with others) + ~30 kms to go (prompting a two-men move, gaining 1 minute and 1 place in final GC – 4th) / Vuelta 2016… you remember it, don’t you?

    How many riders have got a comparable record? Contador and Nibali have more of this kind of attacks (some 6-7 perhaps, I didn’t count them) – but they’ve raced 16 GTs each.
    Let alone Froomey.
    Has Froome ever attacked in *any* race, with or without GC intentions, before the 20 kms to go mark? Yes. The Herald Sun Tour. And that morning break in the 2009 Giro which ended with the infamous San Luca climb. Anything else?

    All in all, you’re only speak of the 2014 and 2015 TdF. The only other GT where we couldn’t see a long range attack from Quintana was the 2014 Vuelta, when he fell and retired halfway through, during the 10th stage ITT.

      • No Wiki will help you with this 😉 It’s all about already knowing a rider, then you can check back the archives or primary sources to get the exact numbers.

        However, it’s ridiculous that you change the scope as you’re doing. “Excluding not-GTs”, and “recent”. So what’s the sample? Three races? Four? However, you’re dead wrong all the same, whatever you might believe.
        In fact, during last Vuelta Quintana entered the Astana-prompted move some 50 kms from the line before attacking again he himself 20-some kms from the finish (being marked only by Majka). Is it *less than one year* recent enough for you or what? And that makes 2 out of the last three GTs.

        Anyway, I think you should include the 2016 RdS, if your priority is to have *recent* impressions, although it was a modest race.

        Besides, I wouldn’t underestimate the fact that Quintana often attacks “on the last climb”, literally speaking, but well before than people usually do, for example well before the 5 kms mark. *Recently*, he did that this same year, in the Romandie, and during the 2015 Tour both on La Toussoire and Alpe d’Huez (12 kms to go).
        That might mean a 20′-30′ lone effort, something we rarely see from other riders; to set a benchmark, Bardet’s notable attack in the last TdF lasted indeed about 25′ (Froome on LPSM was just shy of 15′, and it was one of his longest-ranged attacks, few in number, by the way).

        No journalistic narration will make for watching races and following a rider’s career. As I always said, Movistar is without doubt defensive and conservative – Quintana, per se, isn’t at all.

  24. If the riders outside the time-cut had been eliminated, what then? We’d surely be having a long discussion about how the Vuelta was decided by the rule book and not the riders.

    IMHO the riders’ performance was ‘sub-par’ but not ridiculously so- they still averaged 36kph in a mountain stage, and this would also have factored into the decision not to disqualify them. Added into this the stage was an exceptional one, and therefore some leniency was warranted. Perhaps if there was a rule where a team lost half (+1 if an odd number) of their ‘hors delayed’ riders?

    Cracking stage and as always thanks Inrng for your great coverage.

    • @McGillicuddy
      I’ll make is if this was a serious post and let a couple of things straight, since I’m reading again again the same factual mistakes (“they went / they needed go at “36 kph”, “they weren’t soft-pedalling”), and I’m starting to think that some source is spreading this distorted vision (CN has been doing it all the time, for example writing that “several teams would have seen all their riders head home”).

      – “The riders’ performance” (the gruppetto, I guess) *was* worse than “ridiculously sub-par”, since they averaged 31 km/h (not even by far 36 km/h, which would have allowed to make the cut with a good margin!). It’s a performance which a MAMIL can achieve. Now you can also fact check that with power data. 3.8 W/kg on the last climb… and even less before that.

      – The “mountain stage” was really a middle-mountain stage as you can see from the scheduled averages.

      – The stage was exceptional in general terms, but so it wasn’t the finishing time, hence the time cut. The gruppetto isn’t affected by what happens on the front. It often is created pretty soon and makes its own race. No exceptional condition was preventing most riders from making the time cut. Only the riders who had been forced to exceptional exertion by race events wouldn’t have made the cut (essentially 2-5 Sky riders), besides a few very tired or ill riders from other teams.

      * * *

      Things as they are, the Vuelta might be decided by the political power of *some* teams, both within the peloton and, in a less direct fashion, towards the Jury. Which wasn’t uncommon in cycling, especially during some given eras, but which is still disturbing.

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