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.
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.
|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