Vuelta a España Stage 3 Preview

Monday, day three, and the Vuelta heads for the Pyrenees and altitude with a stage to Andorra. This is far from the most selective of stages but it should ensure a new overall leader and some late action as the race reaches the microstate principality.

Yves Lampaert

Stage 2 Review: no breakaway could go clear. The peloton was too nervous, not about a move slipping clear, more that the crosswinds had everyone on edge and the pace was high enough not to let anyone clear. Trek-Segafredo tried in the crosswinds but it was only in the finish when things finally split in the closing moments when Quick Step drilled the pace and an air of déjà vu from the Giro with the Belgian team again exploiting the crosswinds on the way to a seaside resort. Julian Alaphilippe took a huge pull and Yves Lampaert powered away for the stage win and the red jersey.

The Route: two first category climbs mean muchos points on offer for the mountains jersey but as ever the rating applied is subjective.

The Col de la Perche is 20km at 5% but has its moments at 7-8% but is a steady climb, the kind a truck can power up.

The ensuing Coll de la Rabassa is a much harder effort, it starts steep with double-digit gradients that bite before easing off to average 13km at 6.8% and a technical descent. There’s a brief valley road before La Comella, 4.2km at over 8% and labelled as a second category climb but arguably the most decisive and intense of the climbs, it is packed with hairpin bends and by now a regular in the Vuelta and it’s appeared in the Tour de France too.

The Finish: they drop into Andorra La Vella, the town/duty free mall and the final kilometre is flat.

The Contenders: hilly but not savage and a flat finish, this is a stage for Julian Alaphilippe given the absence of Alejandro Valverde because of his fast finish and versatility. But this is all obvious and just as we expected Trentin to be Quick Step’s best yesterday only for Lampaert to deliver the win perhaps Bob Jungels can thrive.

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo) has a good sprint, the Yates bros (Orica-Scott) too and the colossus of Rodez, Alex Geniez of Ag2r La Mondiale, has a good finish too. BMC’s Nicolas Roche is a very infrequent winner but years ago as a Cofidis rider he’d win the odd sprint and so today from a group he could be close.

Otherwise it should be a close race among the GC contenders and the story may not be the day’s winner but who lost out. The likes of Chris Froome, Vincenzo Nibali and the rest will be close and if they don’t win look to see how the fare on the final climb.

Julian Alaphilippe
Jungels, Yates², Geniez, Roche, Pantano, Villela, Eiking, Pauwels

Weather: 30°C in the plains and valleys early on before cooler temperatures later but still 25°C in Andorra.

TV: This is one of several stages being shown live from start (12.45 CEST) to finish. It’s on La1 in Spain and Eurosport around much of the world and often on the same broadcaster you watch the Tour de France on. The finish forecast for 5.40pm CEST, tune in for the final hour’s climbing.

Daily Díaz: What do Longwy (The finish of Stage 3 in the Tour de France, where Peter Sagan triumphed) and Villefranche-de-Conflent (near today’s start) have in common? Both places have fortifications designed by Vauban in the 17th century (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Fast forward to km 53 and the race finally arrives to Spain. The border as we know it today was established by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. In the map, the darker area shows the territories lost by the Hispanic crown (the Catalan nationalists refer to them as “Northern Catalonia”). The border hasn’t changed in the last three and a half centuries, but there are occasional issues when French gendarmes arrest irregular migrants on Spanish soil, as explained here.

Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel

43 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 3 Preview”

    • Yates x 2 would be more correct. If a Yates is equal to 1, then Yates^2 = 1. If a Yates is less than 1, then the square of Yates is less than the whole of a single Yates.

      • Well, this will be the first time to test this hypothesis in a Grand Tour – is the quality of Yates additive, or multiplicative? If the latter is true then they will be an unstoppable force, a two-man behemoth to dwarf the Skytrain.

        Stopping being silly – they seem lovely in interviews (there’s a great hour-long one on the cycling podcast from a couple of years ago). Obviously it is very unlikely, but could they dominate cycling like the Brownlee brothers do in triathlon?

        • pretty funny math discussion (sounds like an oxymoron, but I enjoyed it)

          Look, the nature of cycling doesn’t really allow pure dominance, especially by a set of brothers, except in very limited and specific circumstances. The Schlecks had a period where they were very strong, but never dominant. Other individuals who’ve dominated in recent years have either had “help” (ahem, Lance) or maybe “dominated” while still being very beatable in other aspects of the sport (eg. Froome won this year’s TdF while never winning a stage and his win was far from certain for much of the race).

          Besides (and I’m a huge jerk for saying this), can you put “domination” and triathlon in the same sentence. Brownlee brothers “dominate” a sport where they race for under 2 hours in 3 sports with very pedestrian splits! Some cat 3 racers could beat them on the bike, they’d be pack fill in any professional marathon/10,000m race and same goes for the swimming times….

  1. So glad I watched the finale of Sunday’s stage. Quick Step gave a demonstration of how to do it right. A very professional finish to what could so easily have been just another bunch sprint. Brilliant. So often the Vuelta really delivers.

    • They always say it’s 3rd GT but stages like this make it most fun to watch. Can’t much more freedom than in the asphyxiation and pressure of me tour.

    • The Quick Steppers, snd Lsmpaert in particular, have been hitting the gym and protein shakes.
      If ever there was an advert for the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of a gym programme, rewind to Spring 2016 and the travails that they endured in getting dropped and failing to go with moves – the Belgian cyclist’s equivalent of having sand kicked in your face by the burly beach bully.
      Look at Lampaert now, tree trunked of thigh and powering away from the peloton.

      • With Boonen retired and Trentin off to Orica I’d imagine he’s going to be one of their main players next spring. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him win a big classic in similar circumstances to how he won DDV.

  2. I suspect there will be a fair sized breakaway probably featuring some good climbers who will not be seen as GC contenders. I cant see QS chasing down the break and I guess the GC folk will be marking each other rather than being too concerned about who is “up the road”. A day for Tom De Gendt?

      • I guess that the one chainring list could be as long as your arm but, like the poster below, I’d add Rohan Dennis’ name to it, if only out of sheer curiosity and expectation of his ability to join the swelling ranks of the ‘power climbers’.

        • I imagine a few of the lesser GC contenders might want to mark Dennis and that would lead the rest to follow too. Considering he will be perhaps the top pick for the later ITT he could possibly bag a top ten in GC that others might prize.

  3. I think the break away will consist of De Gendt (+ 09 ’10), Buchmann(+ 02 ’23), Pauwels(+ 02 ’41), Geniez(+ 08 ’18). If Alaphilippe is there with Jungels at the end then I think it will be another win for QS, a win for Alaphilippe would put him in Red. Roche, TVG and Denis from BMC will also be chasing Red. Nobody has mentioned Majka?

    • Don’t forget Fraile, it’s the kind of stage that better suits him and he will also fight for the king of the mountains points. Also Morton (and Pauwels too as you said) can do the breakaway easily from DD.
      And Enric Mas’ the young talent of Quick-Step, is another good candidate too in my opinion.

  4. I think that BMC may do a multiple pronged attack if they have a few in the finishing group. Maybe Rohan Dennis going from afar and then Nico Roche or Van garderen or another one in the sprint. However, I’m still thinking that Julian alaphillipe will win in a sprint and go into red.

  5. My guess is that Contador will look to cause chaos with an early climb featured with a view to clawing some time back, or simply to have some fun.

  6. Maybe its just me but to my mind this has Vincenzo Nibali stamped all over it. Think Sheffield in the 2014 Tour (stage 2 I think) where he attacked off the steep climb and powered to victory and the jersey. He came in in the lead group yesterday so he’s clearly alert to the need to take even a few seconds if he can.

  7. If I’m not mistaken, during the infamous 1985 Vuelta, the Comella and the downhill finish in Andorra la Vella was where Robert Millar was first attacked and distanced.

  8. That was a fantastic stage and a very enjoyable finish. Yes, you heard me right. I enjoyed a stage won by Vincenzo Nibali. It confirms he is here to race with some form and intent which will be great for the race overall. Sky also raced with intent and clearly wanted to ruin some GC ambitions at a very early stage of the race. Froome was more animated in one ascent of the Comella than the whole TDF. Now the likes of Kelderman, Zakarin, Meintjes, Kruijswijk, Majka and Contador are already more than a minute back (and around 3 minutes by the end of that list).


    • I was a little surprised to see Froome quite so aggressive quite so early. I have a feeling because Froome did the Tour they’ll be calculating now is when his form will be hottest and he may be a little past his peak by the 3 week. Nibali on the other hand didn’t do the Tour and wasn’t flying in Poland so he may the opposite. So nows the time for Froome to make his moves.

      • I concur. Also, notice Nibali didnt really try to match the Froome acceleration. Remember the Mt Etna stage in Giro, when he tried matching Nairo, and burnt out and lost a lot of time. Here, I think he played it smarter, a more linear effort and letting others chase the duo, rather than burn himself out. When they caught the leaders, Nibali could produce ‘a’ massive acceleration, which he might not have, had he atleast tried tracking Froome. Smart riding, I say!

        • Also, notice his performance in Stage 2 here. Making the cut in the crosswinds to gain back 8 sec. Clearly signs of his ‘linear’ power. He should be able to do a good TT.

    • RonDe, I can’t catch my breath and they are rushing me off to the coronary care unit after your comment. I would have never have expected such a sentiment to leap from your keyboard. Agree, Sky really tried, to quote Phil and Paul, “to lay down the foundations of GC win today”. It was terrifying to see them demolish the peloton, but enlightening to see the GC guys hanging in and catching back on, some on the ascent some on the descent. I’m guessing it is not what Sky expected as the result though.

  9. My champagne moment for the TDF was Froome strolling by when Bardet was sitting on the ground with his head covered with a towel, and saying ‘ hi Roman’…… Pretty much did that again today. Oh , goodness , I’ve got the jersey, how nice , what a surprise….

    Plus the fact that he has now proved that he can regain the jersey, that’s hard for everyone else to ignore.

  10. Not a single mention of David de la Cruz in these pages. Whoever emerges as the GC contender for QS will have a super strong team around them. If it DdlC he’ll have a couple of uber domestiques in Jungels and Alaphillipe

    • Good point – he’s 2nd on GC (2 seconds behind Froome) and would definitely be fresher than some other GC riders. That was a really selective stage today so perhaps he’ll be the surprise of the Vuelta.

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