Vuelta Stage 19 Preview

Notionally a crucial time trial, last weekend’s racing saw Nairo Quintana build a big lead over Chris Froome and the Colombian’s margin looks secure. But there’s all to play for with the stage win and Alberto Contador is only handful of seconds off a podium finish this Sunday.

Magnus Cort Nielsen

Stage 18 Wrap: a win for Orica-BikeExchange’s Magnus Cort Nielsen. Once the cream of the European U23 crop but it’s taken him a good while to start winning in the World Tour until he won the sprint ahead of Nikias Arndt. Arndt did his sprint in the saddle once again, it’s his thing and he was close but surely this kind of straight and stable power makes him an invaluable lead-out?

The Route: 37km and 330 metres of vertical gain. Many of the roads will familiar to a lot of the peloton as they visit Calp or Calpe for their pre-season training camps. Not that local knowledge matters too much, most of the course is on wide and regular roads where two cars in opposing directions could pass with plenty of room to spare.

The profile suggests the hardest part of the route the climb away from the coast to Benitatxell but this is a regular and steady road. Instead it’s the coastal roads and small capes as they head to La Fustera that are harder because they’re steeper. Overall it’s a fast course for strong riders rather than one for the technical specialists.

The Contenders: Chris Froome‘s chances of a stage win are a lot higher than his hopes of taking over the race lead but one will follow the other. The course suits the Sky rider and rather than flailing around trying to take back seconds in recent days perhaps he’s been resting in order to try and recover minutes. Having taken a bronze medal in Rio he’s not going to have any of the main rivals around in Calpe.

Next come two specialists. First is Movistar’s Jonathan Castroviejo who’ll be interested in a solid ride for several reasons, first he’s a time trial expert so today is his day but he can also set a pace for his Movistar leader Nairo Quintana – who won’t win but should aim for the top-10 – and then he’s said to be on the jobs market too. The second specialist is Giant-Alpecin’s Tobias Ludvigsson.

Alberto Contador can do well but this course may prove too flat for him but every second counts as he looks to overhaul Esteban Chaves, who is just five seconds ahead on GC, and claim a podium finish in Madrid.

Among the outsiders Luis-Leon Sanchez, Leopold König, Andrew Talansky and Victor Campenaerts could cause a surprise.

Chris Froome
Alberto Contador, Jonathan Castroviejo
L-L Sanchez, König, Ludvigsson

Weather: warm and sunny, a top temperature of 30°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.

48 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 19 Preview”

  1. Here’s hoping that Contador and Froome can make up enough time for tomorrow to be a festival of attacks for the win. But it does seem as if Quintana has done enough to be more than comfortable so well done to him.

    • I’d expect Froome to take 2 mins at the most. Quintana needs to just do an even ride with no handling errors or big mistakes. Not always his strong suit in a TT. If I was Sky I would be telling Konig to take it easy, they need him more for the next stage.

      • If you compare Quintana’s demeanour in post-race interviews to those of TdF, there is a world of difference. He looks much less stressed, and a lot more confident now. He looks in great form and I think he’ll go well today and notionally secure the Vuelta title.
        I admire Froome for his dogged resistance these last few days but he’s got his hands full keeping Contador off his second spot, with more climbing to come tomorrow.

          • And here he is, the Mr.keep quiet since stage 15. Narrative now changes from Froome fatigue and Vuelta is not important to biggest racer in the world again, I guess

          • Mr Vitus, you will search my comments in vain for mentions of “Froome fatigue” or “the Vuelta is not important”. I’ve been away the last couple of days and just got back so can comment again. Stage 15 was, indeed, a huge disappointment to me and Sky, as a whole, got their pants pulled down. A lot of that blame goes to Froome personally as well. He is a major grand tour rider. He should be switched on from the minute the flag flies. But that is all done now. Today’s ITT showed that Froome is not limply disappearing from the race though. He’s still trying to win – in vain I think. If and when he loses it will largely be his fault for this one unforgivable lack of concentration and attentiveness. He could, would and should have won this race and may well regret for a while that he didn’t.

  2. what about Brambilla and Felline? they had some decent results in ITTs in the past and given the lack of specialists in this year’s Vuelta, they might be in contention for a Top5 place

        • At least they have a role in the GT scheme, I’m still trying to figure out how Peter Kennaugh fits into Sky’s stage racing setup. It wasn’t clear at the Tour in 2013 and still isn’t now. Successful track racer yes, with some one day wins on the road, but as a GT domestique, roleur bodyguard or stage hunter?? Am I missing something?

  3. Last time Quintana went into a vuelta TT in the race lead (2014) he crashed and went home. Hopefully he avoids that today but if the contest for the win could be narrowed so that tomorrow’s 21km finish climb becomes more than a procession that would be great.

    Could Talansky jump past Yates? I think he has a shot at the top 5 in GC.

  4. So Froome beats Quintana by 2:16 to leave a gap of 1:21 between the two. That’s just about doable if Froome rides out of his skin and Movistar fall apart. It at least guarantees we go into the last day not quite being sure who will emerge in red at the end. If stage 15 had never happened (haha!) Froome would have led by 1:22 now.

    Quintana will win of course.

    • Froome put about 1:10 into Quintana at La Pierre St Martin last year, didn’t he? So a 1:20 gap is more or less the best he could hope for in a straight fight. Could be quite exciting.

      Though Quintana should be fine, I’d have thought.

      • I think Froome beat him on the road by 1.04. Porte was second and Quintana 3rd so Froome got a 6 second bonus as well. Froome beat Quintana by 2.02 at Ax 3 Domaines on stage 8 of the 2013 Tour but thats the only time I know of that he’s done him for such a large amount of time on a MTF. So 1.21 is at the upper limit of what could be possible. But I note that Aitana is not hard in terms of gradient. Its the length that is the test. I believe Froome needs Movistar to blow to make it man against man. If the Spanish team are clever they will be conservative to backstop Quintana to the win.

    • Looks like right now, Quintana’s going better than Froome in the mountains.

      Plus, we can speculate about what might have happened if Stage 15 didn’t happen, but the thing is, Stage 15 did happen, Quintana and Contador beat Froome badly that day. Obviously there are a handful of reasons why and how Stage 15 happened, but one main reason is that Froome wasn’t as good as the others on that day. So, if Quintana wins purely because of Stage 15, it’s still a completely legitimate win.

        • And that’s the beauty of our sport! The races are very rarely clear cut.

          Seriously though, nobody can argue that Froome was the best stage racer of 2016 – purely because in the one race that matters above all others, Froome showed up better than the rest. As a fan you can be slightly disappointed at how this Vuelta went, but in reality how Froome does before and after the Tour doesn’t really matter.

          • Let’s say they finish as they are now. Froome was over 4 mins better than Quintana in the Tour and is 81 seconds worse now, almost entirely due to going missing in action in the first 10 minutes of stage 15. Thats a net advantage of 2.50 in Froome’s favour and he got an Olympic medal in between. Of course, he will know he should have won 2 of 3 grand tours this year and in all likelyhood history will show Froome 1 Quintana 1.

            Don’t be backing Nairo next July though.

          • Exactly, Froome won the better GT, the one where everyone has to be at his best form. Yes, you put it Quintana 1, Froome 1, but in reality it is Froome “ONE”, Quintana “one”.

            But, with that being said, I think this Vuelta isn’t just down that 10-minutes on Stage 15. We have no idea how Quintana would have gone today if his gap was only 2 or 3 minutes. It feels like Quintana held back a bit today. Plus on Stage 15, Froome lost ground on the final climb as well, 40 seconds from the base to the top. Plus, he lost over 50 seconds earlier in the race. It’s impossible to say a race was won or lost in 10-minutes, but obviously that 10-minutes seems to be the nail in the coffin.

          • Froome’s ITT advantage over Quintana today is entirely consistent with his Tour ITT performance advantage over Quintana too. I believe Nairo was doing the best he could in the circumstances. Its very hard to soft pedal a time trial.

          • Meh, Nairo once lost only 34 seconds to Froome on a Tour ITT – and on this summer’s slightly longer ITT when Nairo was in worse form than Froome, he lost less time than today – so in theory Nairo could done a bit better.

            Obviously Nairo wasn’t soft pedalling, but riders control their efforts on ITT’s all the time – whether or not they go 90%, or 95% or 99% depends on a lot of factors. So, definitely I believe that Nairo would have ridden differently if his red jersey was up for grabs or the battle was closer.

          • Seriously though, nobody can argue that Froome was the best stage racer of 2016

            Well, currently, Froome sits second on the UCI rankings (and will likely creep into first regardless of what he does at the Vuelta), so you can certainly make the argument that he was one of the best bike racers in 2016. Granted, a large percentage of those points are due to the TdF win (and stage wins in the TdF), but he’s still obviously had a good year.

          • I said stage racer, not UCI point rankings. Froome won the biggest stage race of the year in pretty decisive fashion. Besides, Peter Sagan is the only man ranked higher than Chris Froome, and Peter Sagan does not race for the general classification in a stage race… therefore, Froome is the best stage racer of 2016 by your measure as well.

        • Also as a fan, unpredictability in the outcome is very refreshing, whether it is the way that Froome won this year’s TdF or how the Vuelta organisers structured this race.

          Both have reinvigorated me as a fan. It was getting pretty repetitive at the Tour and most GTs would follow a pretty set formula. I’ll never forget watching Froome and the Rainbow Jersey attacking on a non-mountain stage and how the 2016 Vuelta’s had climbing every day. I understand it makes conditions brutal for the riders, but then the organisers let the suffering auto bus have a chance to recover – which shows (for seemingly the first time ever, haha) some pragmatic common sense.

          It has been a great season as a cycling fan.

          • Well, if one is a “cycling fan” it’s hard to define as “a great season” one year where “the one race that matters above all others” was the worst of his kind in decades!

            (I’m making as though any *cycling fan* could ever say something like “the one race that matters above all others” – let’s say it’s a poetic license).

            Although Froome did everything he was able to (not much, apparently – still you can’t but appreciate the effort! And way more than any other GC man…) in order to spice it up, it really was a drag, and pretty much low level technically speaking, too.
            Sagan was more or less the only thing worth viewing, but neither him can keep the show up for three weeks.

            All the same, however may it go tomorrow (well, unless Chris falls off of the podium, which doesn’t look the most probable thing at the moment ^__^), Froome is for sure the strongest GT rider this year – as well as this is his best season ever; which is promising for his future, too.
            A pity that the very best racing in GTs didn’t come from him at all – until tomorrow, at least, when he should go hard for it, having little to lose – but what apparently happened this season is that racing and results (or craft and legs if you prefer) split their ways. And perhaps we saw craft precisely because the legs weren’t there.

          • It is quite amusing how small matters of differences in opinion turn into wide chasms and it is as if one overnight one poster loses the ability to read another poster’s comments “sanely” and soon there’s something in *every* post to criticize and attack just because it was written by that poster. Happens all the time and everywhere, also in so called real life. (Sometimes I think it would be better if we didn’t know whose comments we are reading, but I suppose we’d guess anyhow and it would be the same old same old anyway…)

            The topic of what constituted “the very best racing in GTs” in 2016 is probably worth a blog entry of its own by the Inner Ring and an entire discussion devoted to it. (I, too, would be tempted to think it wasn’t Froome – although I have to say that there were moments when I was full of genuine admiration for him this season!)

  5. Excuse my ignorance but, while the last stage is traditionally a procession, does this apply even with tiny time gaps? So, if Froome gained 1:20 on Quintana tomorrow leaving him two seconds behind, would that still be it?

    • a) you wont make more friends or fans if you attack on the procession stage
      b) if something happens in the GC, ASO will just take the finish time somewhere, like they did in the Tour and position changes that occur in first GC result disappear magically

    • I’ve wondered this too. Personally, if I was Froome and 1 or 2 seconds back I’d go to the Movistar bus before the stage and tell them the race is on until the finish line.

      • You are forgetting about the teams that would like to see their sprinter take the win on the final stage of the race. The stage will be a procession ’til the run-in to the finish–from there, the race will be on for the sprinters.

    • Vinokourov raced for bonus seconds then got into a late attack to win in Paris and leapfrog from 6th to 5th in the 2005 Tour. Herculean effort, but it can be done.

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