Vuelta Stage 21 Preview

The traditional parade into Madrid to crown the winner and offer a last sprint finish for those who’ve stayed the course. The finish is later than usual.

Stage 20 Wrap: a win for Ag2r La Mondiale’s Pierre Latour. With hindsight the climb suited him, he’s a forceful rider but still said to be a touch too heavy which was why the relatively easier gradients 5-8%, compared to the 15-30% slopes seen along the way, suited him. The team say on the quiet he’s the next Bardet but only in the sense he’s the next brown-shorted stage race hope because the pair are very different, Bardet the perfectionist vs Latour the rough diamond.

Behind Esteban Chaves climbed back on to the podium thanks to an attack on the penultimate climb, some 45km from the finish. Bold? Yes but rational too given Alberto Contador was isolated, his Tinkoff team no where in sight and Chaves proved he was the superior climber supported by a stronger and more enterprising team. Chris Froome tried a flurry of attacks but Quintana remained as stoic as ever, the same patient expression visible whether he’s floundering in July or soaring in September.

The Route: just 104km and they only manage this by riding the “wrong” way out of Las Rozas before eventually turning back to Madrid and then they’ll start the capital’s circuit passing the finish line before the bell rings for the last lap of the last grand tour of the year. It’s a big wide boulevard circuit.

The Contenders: Nikias Arndt might be the fastest in a dragstrip sprint but keeps getting beaten but here is an ideal finish for him. Magnus Cort Nielsen has a stage win to his name but has been a more versatile rider than a pure sprinter and perhaps team mate Jens Keukeleire gets a chance again. Stage winners Gianni Meersman and Jonas Van Genechten are still in the race with the former being a sharper rider and the latter having more power for a finish.

Nikias Arndt
Gianni Meersman, Jonas Van Genechten
Magnus Nielsen, Jens Keukeleire, Selig, Sbaragli

Weather: warm into the evening with a top temperature of 29°C.

TV: the finish is forecast for 8.20pm Euro time. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and for links to feeds and streams.

Madrid Challenge: the Women’s World Tour race the Madrid challenge is on the finishing circuit, an 87km race and finishes at 4.40pm Euro time.

74 thoughts on “Vuelta Stage 21 Preview”

  1. But the wierdest of all to see was how Elissonde rushed headlong and with fiery determination into a trap entirely of his own making and proceeded to lose the polka dot jersey he should have been able to keep “relatively easily”. What was he thinking? What was his DS thinking? Was there ever at any point even a potential method in the madness?

    • I think that he just blamed his own racing attitude on Twitter, “I just love too much to be on the attack”… “I played my game and I lost”.

      (“all alone like the great ones” 😉 )

    • That seems unfair. If he thought he had the legs for that first climb it would have been seen as a daring and brilliant attack. I was cheering him on, his endless suicidal moves were so spirited. Was sad he didn’t get combativity prize.

    • his DS was probably cursing and swearing as according to FDJ their instructions to Elissonde had been just to follow Fraile’s wheel. But he thought he knew better.

  2. Great race today – Pierre LaTOUR, really dug deep to come back. Chaves/OGE with a bold move, and Froome trying hard using his team mates. Nice to see a Kiwi landing in the top 10…. riding as the back up plan.

    As posted previously… why did Astana save Froome’s, Chaves, and Yates’s high placings in GC last Sunday… to assure an 11th place? It has been an enjoyable Vuelta to watch. Also just like that Cannondale – will now be 9/10th in the WT standings – and Iam going out with a bang in individual stages.

    Sorry to see another injury …. it seems that the Vuelta was very strong on safety besides this and the earlier lapse.

    Inrng keep up the good work – and other commenters – thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    One final much less important thought – in the USA – they ‘constructed’ a College football game on Saturday – that had 156,000 people buying tickets to attend…….. it was slightly unconventional, but they didn’t expect to get to watch for free (or park their cars for free). If they all entered the stadium single file the line would have been 100km long…. For a future discussion, not now, creative minds might think of ideas for cycling…. the “show” would likely need to be right.

  3. Memorable race. Quite a good year in fact. Good Flemish classics, vintage Giro, nice Olympics, vintage Vuelta. Too bad the one-week races were so-so, and the Tour was poor (but goofy). Since there’s nothing to expect of the Worlds, if there are no hurricanes, let’s hope we have a great Lombardy. The course is fantastic.

    • ^ This, exactly. This Vurlys was one of the better grand tours of the last few years imho. Three or more classic, epic days. Lots of two-race days (exciting stage battles w/ GC battles behind) and a top field.

      Can’t help but think every race is better with Contador, or at least that Pistolero attitude. He deserved a podium place, but fitting that Chaves pipped him using such daring tactics.

    • The Tour suffers from the fact that one really strong team can control it regardless of who is in the other teams. This is not conducive to great racing. Had Sky picked a better Vuelta team, and I’m critical of them that they didn’t when we see Poels and Stannard doing the non-World Tour Tour of Britain and Thomas and Rowe taking part in Canadian one dayers, this might have been the difference that made the Vuelta more boring too.

    • I’m not sure I agree that the Lombardy course looks ‘fantastic’. I like my classics to at least give a chance to the classics specialists (puncheurs, I don’t expect Boonen in the finale here) but this looks too hilly and a bit of a climber fest without Nibali to liven it up. Its a shame that the organisers have fallen into the ‘lets add one more hill’ trap that seems to have befallen every race organiser in recent years.

  4. Fantastic racing from Orica, they smashed themselves from 50km out to isolate Contador, then had Howsen up the road to kill himself for Chaves when he attacked, all the while Yates was attacking the remnants of the Peloton which Contador was forced to lead.
    They seem to really enjoy their work and it’s a pleasure to watch.
    Great showing from the young Kiwi, if he gets some TT speed who knows?

  5. I respect Froome’s efforts of trying to win but can’t stop to think that his way of doing so was a bit naive and limited. Did he really think he could beat Quintana 1-on-1 on that final climb? He must’ve known that he needed a different plan. He can learn a thing or two from Chaves and Contador. I’m not saying he would have won with different tactics but this only would’ve worked when Quintana would have had a jour sans (in which case attacking earlier in the stage would’ve worked as well).

      • Yes I guess you might be right and my comment was just me wishing there would be more fireworks on the final day when Froome realised after the tt that he had a fighting chance.

    • I find myself wishing that Froome was Chaves because doing what Chaves did yesterday was the only way to unsettle Quintana. The top two were well matched on the mountains. Yesterday and on the Aubisque they matched each other. When Quintana attacked Froome defended and when Froome attacked Quintana defended. It needed to be a long range attack to really see how deep both men could go. Smart racing (not least on stage 15) meant Quintana never had to do that and Froome (together with Team Sky) just don’t seem capable of it. So, for me, it was a bit of a tame end to the race from a GC perspective. Froome seems fated never to win the Vuelta although this year he has been tantalisingly close to the glory of winning two grand tours in one season. I’m sure it will hurt for a while that he’s failed (not least because of the circumstances). All praise to Quintana though. He is no mug and will be getting better for at least the next 5 years. He is at the point where he will surpass Froome albeit that Sky will keep sending their A Team to France which will give Froome the maximum opportunity to add to his grand tour tally. In the next 2 years I predict that either Froome or Quintana will do the Tour/Vuelta double. They are head and shoulders above the rest over 3 weeks.

        • Maybe for the next two years. Quintana wants to beat Froome in the Tour I’m sure. The Tour remains Froome’s best chance for a grand tour as well. I see them both targeting Tour/Vuelta the next couple of years. After that Froome will start to fade as Contador has now and Quintana will become the single dominant rider. I’m sure Froome would be happy to win another couple of Tours though. Its the race he really cares about. I wouldn’t expect to see either in the Giro though. Maybe that will be Aru, Nibali and maybe Contador/Chaves. The top two value the Tour too much and so the Giro is out for now. You can’t win the Tour if you do the Giro and this means the Giro will carry on being the grand tour with the worst field because the very best don’t compete there.

          • As the effect of the presence of a diminished Contador showed quite well during this Vuelta, sometimes *having the best field* doesn’t correspond to merely have the strongest couple of riders. Contador wasn’t clearly on top level, physically speaking, but his presence made the race way more significant.

            I wonder if it’s more qualifying to have the best couple of riders fighting against each other amidst the absolute void, because everyone else renounces from scratch to tackle the top of the GC, or if it’s more challenging – and therefore technically probing – to have a top 5 or even top 7 where several riders (of middle-high level, obviously, not third line figures) push the *racing* level up and up while trying to have a go at the leader’s jersey?

            Unluckily, the possibly stellar field which the 2016 TdF could boast before it started, produced, for several reason, poor racing (not even top-level in terms of performance, if one gives a look to whole stages and not only to the last climb) and also a modest final top-ten: besides Nairo and Chris there were just a lot of guys who didn’t even know what’s a GT podium (the only exception… a post-Giro Valverde and a tame, old Purito!).
            Even the Vuelta, with hugely better racing in its second half, didn’t come up with a prestigious top ten, at the end of the day.

            I guess it might be easy to confuse cycling with tennis, sometimes, but they’re very different sports 😉

      • I think that Froome was clearly behind when climbing is involved (as a whole, perhaps even more than in the 2015 TdF), but on the one hand he’s got impressive grit, on the other hand Quintana didn’t take full advantage of his superiority for a couple of reasons, some of them team-related, others depending on sort of an attitude which might be personal of him, or maybe just a pretty much common thing in cycling (the tendence not to deliver further heavy blows once you’re in a commanding position).

        That said, without Contador it would have been a very close match, albeit the difference in the ITT would also have been a little smaller, in that case.

        Stage 15 indeed classifies as a long-range attack, for Quintana it involved relevant efforts without peloton coverage or, from time to time, directly on the very front along several hours, plus the need to face the final climb pulling alone for some 8 kms or so.

        • I like your comments Gabriele. They are knowledgeable and often likely to offer another viewpoint to my own. This is never bad for no one should think that they know it all. We differ on the difficulty of the Giro in terms of the competition. I will always think that the better the contenders, the harder the race. It is harder to beat Chris or Nairo than it is to beat Aru or Chaves. But we can agree that although Contador may not be among the top two GC riders anymore he is still good enough to change the race. He absolutely did so here as you say because his move on stage 15 is, in the final analysis, the real difference between Nairo and Chris. These two riders have different strengths and I’m happy to concede that Nairo is just slightly the better climber but it isn’t by much and we have seen more than once that, on his day, Chris is well capable of putting a minute into him on a mountainside.

          There’s not much point going into “what ifs” though on either side. Stage 15 happened and history shows that once Chris or Nairo gets a 3 minute gap over their rival then the other one isn’t coming back from it. They are, in general, too closely matched. Of course, you are right that cycling isn’t tennis. But the number 1 in either sport should expect to be getting to the final, if not to lift the trophy. This race has the right top two because there is no GC rider better than Quintana or Froome. Its because I think they are the best, and because I’m pretty sure neither will be doing the Giro anytime soon, that I think your home race suffers. We both know the organisers would love either if not both riders to grace the great Italian race. I would too. What a Giro that would be! It just seems so much better to me than Vincenzo beating some riders who just aren’t good enough to stand on the top step yet and might never be. This is why, unlike most others it seems, this year’s Giro did nothing for me. “Nibali beats some riders who aren’t as good as him” is not as good a narrative as “the best two riders in the world fight head to head”. But I appreciate others will take a different view.

          • The difference with tennis is that a race – esp. a 3-weeks-long one – is not necessarily a one-to-one match, it’s a complex system, and in a complex system the “secundary”, so to say, elements and their interaction do matter a lot more.
            And that’s what you need to take into account when defining “a field”.

            (to be more exact cycling is one-against-one to a *lesser* point – cycling can indeed happen to be like that, sometimes, and in tennis previous matches can affect a later one’s result)

            Then one may start to think about what does “being the best” mean. Froome, for whatever reason, isn’t clearly the same beast at the Vuelta as at the Tour (even when he hasn’t ridden the Tour before), albeit he’s very strong, sure. Nibali is clearly stronger both at the Giro and at the Tour than at the Vuelta. If you go as far as starting to consider other (shorter) stage races, it’s far from clear who the best GC riders might be – Froome’s prevalence looks pretty much shrinked.
            Such discourse becomes even more impacting when you look at the rest of the field. You notice that it’s not like that any GC riders improves his result when he passes from targeting the Giro to targeting the Tour, even at one year’s distance.

            Just a specific example: Froome’s climbing skills look at their best when an under 20′ effort – a finishing one, on top of that – is produced in the over 6.0 W/kg range. That’s way harder to obtain, as a context, in the Giro than in most Vuelta’s stages… and the last Tours have often gone down the Vuelta way (merit to Team Sky for building up the best conditions, blame to the others for not doing so).

            Hence, the field is always pretty much relative to the kind of race you’re having.

          • PS
            “Nairo is slightly better … on his day, Chris is well capable of putting a minute into him on a mountainside”.
            How many such *days of him* has been having Froome since Quintana isn’t an under 23 rider anymore?
            Two? Three?
            I’ll graciously include LPSM even if most of the difference was made by Froome on the false flat. And Ax3 Domaines, where Quintana had attacked alone some 30 kms before, on the penultimate climb. And I struggle to remember much more than that.

            Truth is that I remember Froome climbing any faster than Quintana on a same stage some ten times or so in all the races they tackled together since 2013 included, while Quintana beat him 7-8 times… this year only.
            I’m going by memory – and I’m clearly more of a Quintana’s fan 😉 – hence I could be *dead wrong*, but I’d dare to say that the proportion is about of 2:1 on Quintana’s favour when climbing duels (with any time difference) are involved.

          • 7-8 times this year only? Name them. I’ll be interested to see how many were direct head to heads in which both had a motive to win. Most times in their careers where Quintana has beaten Froome Froome was already leading the race and so didn’t need to beat him. La Camperona and Lagos da Covadonga in this race I’ll give you but the latter was only 25 seconds and so equal to something like Mont Ventoux where Froome beat Quintana by 27 seconds in 2013. Froome only did Catalunya (where he’s never good as he hates the rain and cold in that race), Romandie, which he was out of on day 2 due to a mechanical at the wrong time, the Dauphine, which Quintana didn’t do, the Tour (which was a mountain stalemate) and the Vuelta. So if you are going to list a lot of Catalunya and Romandie stages I say so what? I’ve already conceded Quintana is the better climber anyway. And the reason Quintana has more wins is because he’s usually behind Froome in GC standings and needs to win anyway. Put simply, in many of their battles Froome could afford to lose.

          • Incidentally, the “Froome could afford to lose” reasoning applied in this race too – at least until the disaster of stage 15. After the climb up the Aubisque on stage 14, in which Nairo tried 6 times to drop Froome but couldn’t, pretty much everyone was imagining this would go to the last day due to the time trial in which everyone knew Froome would take the lead. Of course, Alberto ruined all that. Had the gap still been 54 second at the start of stage 19 then Froome would have started yesterday with a lead of 1.22. Would Nairo have got away from Froome and won the race. Even being charitable it is doubtful. Froome is not as good a climber as Nairo but the truth is he doesn’t need to be.

          • RonDe, it could have been an interesting debate, but I said to myself previously that if I had to read again this “Romandie, which he was out of on day 2 due to a mechanical at the wrong time” utter BS, I’d just leave the place as far as I could.

            You havent’s seen most races or you’re being a bit too much of a fanboy, here (Froome “affording to lose” in Le Semnoz? Sure, a pity he had just tried to go for the stage win – a pretty silly move, by the way, but it was a less mature Froome, admittedly… And the Alpe desperation that same year? And some different Vueltas first week stages, in editions when he had no advantage yet and was going for the final GC?).

            It looks like that Froome’s always got a excuse for you. Whatever, man.

          • A question to Gabriele, though I’m not sure the blogging software will insert this in the correct place in the thread. Anyway — in reaction to your comment of 7:14pm — what do you believe actually happened on stage 2 of Romandie this year? The Cycling News report said:

            “things began to unravel for the British squad when Chris Froome suffered a puncture just before the foot of the Les Champs climb. He picked up a wheel from a teammate Mikel Nieve but it was a slow change and Froome had a big gap to close on his own …

            Just to make Froome’s attempt at bridging back [presumably there is a word like “hard” missing here], the action began to pick up in the group of favourites. With the break almost within touching distance, Cannondale teammates Joe Dombrowski and Pierre Rolland made a bid for freedom. With 17 kilometres to go, it looked like Froome might make it back but with FDJ taking up the pace he was soon distanced again and had to resolve himself to losing any chance in the overall classification.”

            This doesn’t sound implausible, nor does it imply any shortcoming on CF’s part, apart from normal bad luck. Do you think the story is different?

          • I always love the naive miscalculations. ” Froome would have started yesterday with a lead of 1.22.” Who could tell that? Nobody.
            No one can tell if Quintana and Froome would have the same time on Formagal, no one could know, if so, what the outcome of the other stages would look like. Maybe Q would have ridden stage 17 another way, without a comfortable lead at that time. Or Froome. You can’t just substract single stages from time calculation and claim that the outcome in the end would be just the same as it is now. Thats reading the tea leaves, nothing else.

          • “Reading tea leaves” is exactly what it is Vitus. Its pure and utter speculation. But that’s what everyone does and a week ago most people thought the time trial would make the difference. So shoot me.

    • Hey from India!

      Lot of FvsQ debating going on here – my two rupee’s worth –

      >>> Froome didn’t have the legs to attack similar to Chaves, and it wouldn’t have had the same affect, instead Q+Valverde would have jumped on and merked him on the climb. Don’t jump on the Sky is boring band wagon, they’ve raced interestingly repeatedly in the post-Wiggins era even if defending sometimes makes them look more boring than they are. But rather than Froome being boring yesterday, it’s more likely (and Gabriele is right they tried stuff early on) he didn’t have the legs to make the explosive attack necessary. We should praise what we got, rather than what we didn’t get in this post-heavy-doping era where (hopefully) the riders actually getting tried is a sign of true racing.

      >>> I too expected Quintana to go beyond Froome in climbing ability but it’s impossible to conclusively prove this has come to pass either way due to illness/formissues/climbtypes – hence the continued debates in these comments – is it sacrilege to posit that they’re fairly closely matched?? Maybe even absolutely equal? And with each having their strengths and weaknesses it’s possible we’ll never know who’s a better climber once Froome inevitable old age decline comes and losses similar to Contador’s in recent years will be blamed on bad legs – maybe let’s all agree they’re around about equal in climbing ability? That is kind of what the results vaguely say when you take into account importance of race/stage/illness/triedness/formissues?

      >>> From this Vuelta – despite the loss it felt like Froome only (and I speak as Nibali fan) increased his reputation as the best stage racer of the generation, often closing gaps impressively despite being the only post-Olympics GC rider and would have likely been the eventual winner were in not for the nightmare-of-Formigal. His TT was incredible. I sometimes wonder if Sky had reacted sooner (although it’s hard to really blame them) in ’11 Vuelta, whether he might now be a far more decorated champion than a 3time tour winner, maybe even avoiding his nervous ’14 crash to be a five time Tour champion and 1 time Vuelta winner – as I think even though Shark & Pisterlero fans amongst us have to admit he’d have crushed the opposition in ’14 had he not crashed.

      >>> With the above in mind – I had thought Quintana had more TT ability *(I realise it’s dependent on courses) until these last few years, but now I think anyone must be very hard pushed to argue Quintana is superior or really even on the same level as Froome, strong team or not, as a GC racer and I doubt he ever will be. Froome is likely superior in TT’s (and by extension ITT’s), on the flat, on the cobbles, and if worse on the hill’s it’s by a fraction, that no one can even come to a vague agreement on (so hard to prove it is when taking all the variables into account ie importance of the race/stage/illness etc – he may actually even be a better climber)

      Still – I hope to see Nibali arise refreshed and dominant next year and Froome to ride off a cliff and give the opposition a chance at the TDF.

      • I cannot possibly add to the brilliant analysis this blog fosters. I’m a mental midget in comparison but appreciate the dissection (and civil tone).
        That said, I do have some peloton experience and can’t help think that Nairo holds back too much. Maybe he’s just too sane. But for me he’s frustrating to watch wondering when he’s going to unleash the Furies and go “all Lance” on everyone (but in a pure, unadulterated manner). He’s too stoic. But it’s that tension that keeps me the closest I’ll come to being a fanboy.

      • Well, Jayesh, I’ve got the conclusive prove you’re looking for about Quintana being a better climber than Froome beyond any doubt.

        Have a look above! RonDe conceding that Quintana is a better climber – you won’t find anything more conclusive than that.

        As a side note, I’ll disclose that Froomey wouldn’t have *ever* won the 2014 Tour, not even with a motorised bicycle. He just hadn’t got what was needed – and Sky knew (but the latter is just personal opinion).
        He’s been the best GT racer this season (not “stage racer”, perhaps) and the best stage racer, as you read it, of the last couple of years, taken as an overall.
        Still far from being “a generation”… but he’s got four years of top career ahead of him, or twelve (if he’s sort of a Horner), to bridge the historical gap.
        Hugely matured as a rider, not only since, say, 2010, but also since 2011 or even 2013; if his growth curve goes on like this, we’ll sure have more fun in the future.
        You forgot to name the most important aspect which still constitutes an advantage for Quintana, at least on paper: *racing skills* (pick the moment, be creative, be strategically open and flexible, winning when you’re not the strongest physically). Glimpse of that in the crosswinds, and little more in a whole career. But he’s learnt lots of thing, he can improve this, too.

        • Unfortunately – I think the willingness Froome fans are to concede that Quintana *might* be a better climber only underscores they’re confidence in him as an overall superior cyclist – ie they’re happy to say “okay Quintana could be a better climber” because they know he’s so emphatically better at everything else and secretly they think he’s a better climber but for the sake of ease in the argument and to comprehensively win all other debate areas they’ll relax on this one – if they were more closely matched across the board you’d face a sterner argument on this point.

          From what I can see they’re extremely close to being absolutely equal climbers as each victory and loss has mitigating factors except for Froome’s on Pierre St Martin *(I actually disagree with your note above that all the time was made on the false flat, having ridden it and knowing exactly where Froome attacked, the false flat is very small part of that final 6km) – Quintana may look to have all the weapons aside from a devastating kick to be the better climber but he has not proved it as yet, and conversely when it matters most Froome has proved he is Q’s equal if not superior.

          Very happy to see Q get this Vuelta though, comments below as for the best man won are a little dubious as Froome would have won without the Stage15 mishap, but variety is good and sets up a great Tour De France next year.

          RonDe is also (again I expect in confidence) conceding too much to his opposition that Froome’s team win him the tours, Froome would very likely win with weaker teams still, he’s just that much better.

          I straight up disagree on 2014 – you really think he was that different to the 2013model & 2015model? The Vuelta later really doesn’t clarify this debate – there are no definitive answer’s either way, but I even as a Nibali fan (and I was ecstatic to see him win) I doubt the cobbles-won advantage would have held in the mountains.

          I think you’re wrong that Froome has not been the dominant GT cyclist since at least 2013 – history will say different.

          (ps no need to correct on GT racer/Stage racer – we are reading a niche cycling blog, we all know what each other means, but I guess when you overall argument is incorrect you have to fish around for the little victories)

          • Well, Jayesh, I notice that you have sort of a tendence to vary your attitude jumping from one pole to the opposite: so to say, let’s call them overinterpretation and underinterpretation.
            You start a voyage within the human mind to try and explain the simple fact that it’s quite evident for most, including Froome’s fans, that Quintana has generally shown himself as superior at climbing. Quintana climbed faster than Froome in most occasions when they were in the same race, by far, and Quintana showed more often that he can put relevant difference into Froome when climbing. Which doesn’t mean that Froome isn’t a top climber, for sure.
            The “mitigating factors” you speak about end up being a farce if they reduce your sample to one climb, since a sample made of one element wouldn’t prove anything anyway. Besides, it’s another case of overinterpretation because in most circumstances we really can’t know. It’s cold, it’s not the right time, he had fallen, whatever. It’s excuse-making for Froome.
            On the other end, you look to be affected by the simplist videogame syndrome. Cycling is not a list of abilities you can easily measure. For example, staying fit and not falling are very relevant skills. Quintana was going to win the 2014 Vuelta? Well, he fell. what a pity, he lost. Health is a skill, sorry for Quintana’s 2015 Tour. Being able to perform in diverse weather is a skill. If the Giro or the Catalunya are too cold for you and you either don’t start or don’t perform, that’s your problem. That’s what makes the difference between an all-around champion and a more limited rider. Eating when you have to is a skill. It doesn’t exist something like an “abstract ability to climb”. Even more important, Froome has shown consistently during his whole career that his climbing performances can be hugely hindered if he can’t express them along a known script. How does that fits with your model of “climbing skills”? He can switch from top climber to mediocrity or less. Is he a climber or not? Should we calculate an average to give him the points he deserves?
            You’re utterly simplist also when you comment about Stage 15… as Vitus noted above this way to try and make an argument doesn’t make sense when stage race is concerned.

            About LPSM, another case of oversimplification or underinterpretation. I don’t know what your riding skills are, but when a pro (or whoever) climbs at well over 25 km/h, not to speak of 30 km/h or so, pure power tends to prevail over power to weight because of the air resistance, especially if it’s man against man. This is a niche blog, so I supposed you might know ^__^
            Froome attacked on a hard section, and he got indeed a 20″ advantage with the burst of the first 3 and half a minute of his attack, but from – 5 kms to the finish, Froome averaged 30 km/h for 2 kms, then 30,5 km/h for 1 km, then 28,1 and only during the last km he dropped to a *modest* 21,8 km/h (the section when he gained less seconds for minute).
            You maybe call a 4% “a climb”, but for a pro it’s more of a false flat. It’s the speed that counts. A different example: you may call 8% a wall because at your speed there’s no slipstream at all, for the pros the slipstream is relevant on 8%.

            2011 and 2012 aren’t even worth naming. Contador was the best GT racer around in both years, for different reasons (physically or due to his racing skills). History can change the past, but in 2013 you should know that not only Froome won the Tour against relatively weak opposition (Quintana is strong but, man, he was his *first ever* Tour!), but one may also argue that Nibali had a way better season, also beating Froome in the only head to head match they had. Froome was strong, but far from dominant. Also check the Vuelta 2014. In 2014 Froome was a weaker rider, whatever the reasons, perhaps he didn’t like the pressure about the strange TUEs or his body just was not on top form. He was in Catalunya to perform, and just couldn’t. He won Romandie, but Dauphiné, his fetish race, was a mess. The team wasn’t protecting him in the Tour, and he floundered miserably in his desperate attempt to go for Nibali in the last km (it was him, wasn’t he? Not sure ^__^) . He finally lost the Vuelta quite clearly to a not-on-top Contador. He stepped up in mental terms, but he still wasn’t a dominant rider… he wasn’t dominating, indeed.
            You can historically speak of a proper Froome dominance only since June 2015. Whatever happens next won’t change that.

            You won’t believe it, but I’ve got very little time due to a deadline, hence I’ll cut the conversation here.

        • Gabriele it must make you so happy every time you can refer back to the time in which your beloved Nibali got to win the Tour thanks to the fact that the two guys who would have both ridden him off their wheels crashed out of the race. Is that really something to be so proud of?

          For some people who you beat makes all the difference.

          • Look who is *tendentious*! It must make you so happy that Froome’s got fellow fanboys in India, too. Sadly I spent all my time to answer him, for today. Now I can only afford Monday’s short 🙂

          • Pardon me for commenting on a commentator, but RonDe could take a lesson or two from Jayesh and Andrew G on how to reply insightfully and entertainingly and convincingly when opinions and interpretations clash.

  6. It seems to me unquestionable that overall the 2016 Vuelta was fixed to the detriment of road race cycling by the commissaire panel’s decision to ignore the time cut on Stage 15. It ruined the race by bending UCI Rule 2.6.032 completely out of shape, and negated the instigation of what would have been one of the greatest, devastating tactical moves of all time by Alberto Contador. If the rule had been properly applied, his breakaway ploy and his success in generating co-operation in it would have taken whole teams out of contention and turned the race on its head. But his brilliant thinking and execution was not allowed to stand. Contador’s assessment of a tired peloton, of the immensity of surprise on that stage profile, of the remaining vested interests around him on the road and of his superior athleticism and leadership in getting it all to work was sheer brilliance and it was a disgusting fix and a disservice to road race cycling not to allow the realization of such conceptual imagination to be fully rewarded. It makes one think “What’s the point?” The guy had broken the race apart and was largely shut down.

    • I do really share some of your points, yet I’d suggest you’re perhaps being a little too much emphatic when final results are concerned.

      Don’t forget that Movistar would have remained in the race with 8 riders, Cannondale with 6, and I’d say that even Orica with 4 men could have obtained similar GC results (they wouldn’t have won the sprints they did, maybe).
      To say the truth, with hindsight we can also say that Froome himself couldn’t really use his team to take any huge advantage in the remaining stages, either, even if, quite obviously, had he remained alone all the rest would have gone for him quite brutally (in addition to the extra effort needed for going to the team cars, being not shielded or shepherded and so on).
      Astana and Lampre were the most penalised teams because of the Jury’s decision, I think.

      All the same, yes, several riders might feel they’ve been stolen options when stage winning is concerned…
      A shameful situation, more than everything because of the gruppetto’s attitude. A protest? Yet, nobody of them raised his voice about the presence of a team car among the riders when Rojas fell, also because of the presence of that same car…
      And reading that some riders (names and teams not available) were blaming and bullying those who wanted to work and make the time cut during that same stage 15th doesn’t make it look any better.

    • ^^ Agreed. He should have had a chance to isolate Froome for 2nd or 3rd place. That was an amazing stage but to have the long-term effects of the race negated like that was BS. I forget how many rider OGE had outside the time cut, but surely Chaves would have been hampered, too. But if Froome had won with 6 guys tearing apart the race for him (who should have been DQ’ed) it would have been a disgrace

    • I get your point CM. And even Froome himself, who would surely have suffered most by their exclusion, said that they should have all been sent home.

      But here’s where I differ. Contador didn’t fall off the podium because the rules were bent. He fell off the podium because Chaves was better than him on the road. Alberto hints at this himself when he said last night that he should have followed Chaves when he went for it. He didn’t and he was left with one team mate and a Movistar team who couldn’t have cared less about Esteban Chaves.

      Certainly bravo to Alberto for the move of this and any other race this year. But he doesn’t deserve to be gifted a podium for it.

      • ^ Agree re: Chaves stronger than Contador and stronger team, too. But perhaps if all of Sky had been DQ’ed except for Froome (as they should have been) surely Tinkoff and Orica could have worked him over and got him out of the podium, no? It wouldn’t have been a “gifted” podium, as Tinkoff and Orica actually worked to avoid the time cut.

    • If you’re going to stick to the rule without any leeway given, then remember none of them would have still been in the race. Only 13 riders made the time cut on stage 13. If the race jury kicks out all those that didn’t make the cut then we may have had Valerio Conti as the champ.

      It is be arguable that once that desicion had been made, the grupetto on stage 15 felt safe and didn’t try to make the cut which they probably could of if the precedent hadn’t been set on stage 13.

        • My mistake then. At under 40kph ave speed and a fairly straight forward stage with nothing more than cat 3 climbs they must have used a generous percentage. Any idea where I can see that information as to each stages percentage? Always easy to find for the TdF but a bit harder at the Vuelta.

          • I wonder why they did not use the 5% timecut. Stage 13 was long, but not that hard, so a difficulty coefficient of 1 could have been used.

            Then, because the average speed was 38.9kph, the timecut is 5%, which means that the timecut would have been 27 minutes.

          • NVM – i just looked again at the profile on my desktop (my phone screen cut off all the repeated climbs) and saw that it had 7-climbs, not the 3 i initially thought.

            10% timecut was 55minutes, which was appropriate.

  7. Definitely worth watching the Orica Backstage Pass from stage 20! Great teamwork and communication with everyone commited to sacrifice himself. Also really interesting to follow the dialogues between the teamcar and the riders.

  8. I wonder whether Contador’s apparent inability to chase Chavez down might at least in part be due to pride. This is the man who is willing to risk losing in order to win it all. Perhaps he didn’t want to be seen to be trying too hard to save a mere third place.

  9. @Andrew G
    That’s why it’s becoming more and more useless to read CN without other sources (like, watching the race. It’s on Youtube). Like when they wrote that *several* teams would have seen *all* their men heading home in case the Jury didn’t jump the time cut thing last Sunday.

    “…but it was a slow change and Froome had a big gap to close on his own…
    Just to make Froome’s attempt at bridging back [presumably there is a word like “hard” missing here], the action began to pick up in the group of favourites. With the break almost within touching distance, Cannondale teammates Joe Dombrowski and Pierre Rolland made a bid for freedom. With 17 kilometres to go, it looked like Froome might make it back but with FDJ taking up the pace he was soon distanced again and had to resolve himself to losing any chance in the overall classification”.


    No “big gap”, he was *immediately* amidst the team cars. Just after the moment he gets pedalling again, you see he’s got the back of the peloton in sight. The difference FROM THE FRONT of the peloton was exactly 23″. He was pushing, he was even doing his stemspiration show, but despite the slipstream of the cars he always benefitted from (yeah, CN guys… very relatively “on his own”), he struggled to get back to the peloton. The peloton was riding a decent tempo but not deadly fast, as you see ’cause it still included some *eighty* riders or so.
    The Cannondale attack had no effect whatsoever on Froome’s attempt, nor FDJ pulling: the group was going steadily during that phase (helicopter take – you see them wide spread on the full road front, not lined up at all). Indeed Froome was four car back one minute before the Cannondale attack and he comes nearer precisely thanks to this calm phase: he’s practically in the back of the peloton one minute after the Cannondale attacked. They probably attacked exactly because they felt that FDJ had lost momentum.
    “It looked like Froome might make it back”? He had made it back! After SEVEN minutes of effort to get back those 23″… minus the about 10″ which always divided the front and the back of the peloton! Not a huge feat, come on, especially with a slipstream.
    Then a single *Trek* guy goes on the front, the road becomes smaller and precisely with 17 kms to go Froome loses contact again and finds himself pulling alone (and no cars this time, only an Etixx athlete on his wheel).
    It’s the work by Trek’s *single man* which keeps Froome back, not the “action” in the “group of favourites”. That “group of favourites” (or *peloton*) lines up but doesn’t shrink much, either.
    Yet Froome loses 25″ in about 3 minutes. Against a single man pulling. Before the IAM man who was on the attack is reeled back, which calls IAM on the front, another 90″ pass, and Froome’s delay arrives at 38″ as the last reference from the Trek-man-led head of the pack (not the break).

    He went on chasing hard up the whole climb but IAM’s rhythm was making him suffer. Apparently, it was only after not making it back during the descent that he decided to simply quit.

    Just another incredible case in which you see how Froome becomes way weaker when the watts must come when he doesn’t expect it. Since he had to gain some 13″ in a 7′ effort with the help of the cars against an 80-men peloton, he went on to lose 28″ man-against-man in the following 4′-5′. And from then on he looked spent, even if he was still trying hard.

      • Thanks Gabriele, but having reviewed the Romandie stage 2 video (unfortunately with commentary in German and Dutch which I don’t understand) it seems to me that the CN report is not actually misleading (obviously it is not accurate in detail). Your account is very detailed but it doesn’t match what I can see at a couple of points. Seems more like an interpretation than a description.

        E.g. there are shots of Froome among the cars, and clearly he is “on his own” in the only sense that CN intended, as he has no other rider around him. I don’t recall any shots of him actually drafting tight up behind a vehicle, he is mostly to one side of the vehicles waiting for opportunities to get past — alongside the movistar car for quite a while. Seems like the usual struggle to get back on.

        Then I think you miss something. Yes he gets to the back of the peloton at around 17km to go, but just about then (or before) the peloton must have split, because when you next see him he is at the head of a sizeable group — maybe ten riders — who have been gapped. And the main group up ahead is definitely smaller than it had been a little while before. The Etixx rider on his wheel (Maxim Bouet) is _not_ his only companion. My interpretation (!yes) is that CF got to the back of the group to find it had already split, and he was then obliged to pull the straggling group — none of whom gave him any help, unsurprisingly, as they were all pooped and failing to keep up (presumably because of the higher pace from IAM or whoever was pulling).

        Of course, as CF came in 17 minutes down on the stage, at some point he decided to just give up on the Romandie GC. No argument there. If someone wants to scold CF for his attitude here, or to claim it’s an another example of him being “way weaker” when unable to gauge his Watts, well fair enough, that’s your right. Seems to me more like just another of those things that happen in races. It won’t be possible to catch up EVERY time you puncture, and even TdF winners are entitled to say “Naah, f— it” now and again.

        As for all the back and forth about Who is the better climber? CF or NQ? it all seems rather pointless. It depends upon the nature of the climb, the state of the race, the team, who has judged it the best. It’s because WE DON’T KNOW who is going to be the best on the next climb that makes their rivalry exciting. Sometimes.

        But thanks to Gabriele for all your comments, they are always worth reading.

        And congrats to Quintana, he is not only a great cyclist but a particularly dignified and honest sportsman in my view.

        • I agree with this. Watched the stage and can verify everything.

          Unfortunately Gabriele’s on a the war path against CF and has been at least since I’ve been reading this blog, you have to read all his posts with a pinch of salt.

          Agreed Q is a great cyclist and will deserving victor, I would hesitate before calling any cyclist honest for a least ten years, but both he and Froome really do seem like respectful competitors both of whom’s incredible efforts should be appreciated and congratulated – hopefully their duels last for years to come.

          (I know Gabriele’s going to retort with “I’ve been fair to Froome, congratulated him etc etc” as previously, but we all know if Froome hadn’t won consistently and in particular this years tour Gabriele would have been the first to dance on his grave! I’m definitely bored of this “Froome can’t handle a higher average watts per stage” argument he’s been banging on about this Vuelta!)

          Thanks for you comment Andrew – it’s balanced and closer to the truth.

        • Andrew, it’s precisely when you *interpret* that you probably fail . Take time references: if you only look at the images and try to imagine, when you don’t have images you can fill that with whatever. Sorry if this look rough, not intended to be so, but I’m in a rush and I already spent a lot of time to answer to Jayesh above. A big group doesn’t split when it goes relatively slowly, hence the split happened when the group stretched on a narrow road under the Trek man pressure, not before. And this doesn’t change the fact that getting back to *that* group without blowing up doesn’t look a huge feat for Froome’s supposed level, not to speak of matching that Trek guy (who was he?). Have a look to how many races you want, when a *big* rider is in the convoy, truth is that he’s really already *made it*. It was strange to see and commenters were surprised, too, for how the situation developed from then on, especially since it was not like Froome did as it didn’t matter to him, quite the contrary.

          • @Anon
            On my blog I wouldn’t have all the fun with the post-race polemics, I’d just zap all of the fanboys’ comments in a virtual [roid rage/road race] frenzy ^__^
            But they wouldn’t have any reason to come there, I guess 😛
            Jokes apart, this, too, has been debated in the past. I’ve got long periods with no time to write (like today 0__0), and I’m more of a gregario character. Now I’ll also stop the OTs if I can. Sorry inrng, especially for the flaming above.

          • Well, ANY description is already an interpretation … (as Roland Barthes or some other non-cyclist might have said).

            I can see we won’t agree about Romandie but it’s not worth hashing it out again.

            Sport is great at providing conflicting interpretations. We see and we interpret. An amusing example from Vuelta Stage 20, if you watch the Orica Backstage Pass episode; Chaves (and Howson) up the road, Contador (and Trofimov) have to narrow the gap. Neil Stephens encourages Damo with “It’s you against Trofimov and you’re putting time into him!” — then he talks to Simon Yates — “Any steep bit Yatesy, we can attack, maybe just stop, just to f— Trofimov up a bit” and apparently Yates promptly obliges. Cut to a TV clip and the commentator (Carlton Kirby?) is going “Talansky is being challenged here and he’s being challenged by Simon Yates … Yates is going and this is a bid of course for fifth place!” … then back to Stephens telling Yates “… just enough to do a bit of damage and then pull over”.

            Of course many situations in bike races are far more ambiguous than that one (and not just for the spectators).

            My remark about Quintana being “honest” was nothing to do with doping/non-doping, I was thinking more of how scrupulous he is when answering questions from the media (as far as I can tell) and his respectful attitude to his rivals. It seems some of the Spanish/Colombian commentary has interpreted Froome’s applause as NQ crossed the line on stage 20 as an “ironic” and disrespectful gesture [which seems very implausible to me], but Q is always careful to keep the rivalry on the road and not to fight battles via the media. Didn’t he once lecture an interviewer on the difference between an “enemy” and a “rival”?

    • A change in approach from his team, Movistar, who were much more clever and “crafty” than the others, principally Sky.
      Not for Movistar their usual conservatism and get three finishers high in the stage standings. Nor a Valverde-led Quintana.

      Movistar split their team, on several occasions, with Quintana and 2/3 helpers up front, whilst Valverde and 2/3 more would “man-mark” Froome. Those TdF Froome-darts out of the pack were the responsibility of Valverde to stay alive to and shut down. A great choice, as he’s got the explosive speed to do that.
      The other 1/2 Movistar riders were left with tactical freedom to break or other duties as the situation dictated.

      We saw Quintana inherit the red jersey almost half way through the race. This did not inhibit Movistar from their objective. They were able to, mostly, (relatively) soft pedal and left the breakaways to others to chase down. Such was the continued variety of riders in the daily breakaways that inevitably there was someone in it that conflicted with another team’s interests.

      Whilst this tactic was risky in potentially leaving the leader isolated, what Movistar / Quintana did do brilliantly was choose Contador’s wheel as the catalyst for attack. Sky most definitely did not.

      Of course there were stages where the approach was regulated and the Movistar train was called in to action. It depended on the circumstances. But even this tactic did not wholly suit them; they do not possess the overwhelming strength of the Sky A train.

      So it was Movistar’s flexibility, clever use of Valverde, and finally their trust and selection of Quintana as *sole* leader that saw a new approach. It may not have brought them their usual team award, but it did bring home the red jersey. Chapeau Movistar and Quintana!
      Brilliant and innovative.

    • The best climber won, I’ll give you that. The more attentive rider won too. But Froome has just proved, as he said last night, that winning the Tour and Vuelta is definitely possible. Either him or Quintana might well do it very soon.

      Damn you Alberto!

  10. Thoroughly enjoyable 3 weeks racing, uniquely Vuelta, like no other and nice to see NQ take the win. Would have been different again if Contador had been on his best form but time waits for no man. Once again i enjoy the Vuelta the most.

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