Vuelta a España Stage 7 Preview

A hilly stage with but with few chances of a bunch sprint remaining several teams will want to set up their sprinters as the race heads inland.

Stage 6 Review: a lively stage but one of those days where if you glanced at the results sheet it wouldn’t tell you much. It took over an hour before a move could barge clear, 11 riders and then the group swelled to 37 and this kept the speed up and the stage would eventually finish 25 minutes ahead of schedule. In due course Maxime Monfort of Lotto-Soudal and Bob Jungels took off from this move, two powerful rouleurs but too much too soon although it allowed Monfort’s team mate Tomasz Marczyński to sit tight. Come the final climb and Marczyński made the winning move and duly won the sprint, the 33 year old’s biggest result.

The action came on El Garbí, the steep slopes saw Alberto Contador attack and Chris Froome follow and only Tejay van Garderen, Carlos Betancur and Jan Polanc could follow the pace, all of Team Sky were blown away and several riders were caught out by bad positioning, notably Romain Bardet. This set up 45 minutes of tension including a fraught crash for Betancur and van Garderen which put the Colombian out of the race. At one point it looked like Contador and Froome could try to ride away from everyone else but eventually the race regrouped and TV viewers got their breath back. It didn’t come to much but shows Contador’s problems in Andorra seemed to have been left behind in Andorra and bodes well for more action this weekend.

The Route: the longest stage in the race, 207km and there’s little to describe along the way, literally given the vast open terrain and sparse population, riding into a town is a feature here. It’ll make for impressive TV if you can watch on a big screen.

The Finish: they ride into Cuenca and out to climb the Alto del Castillo, a hill topped by a small stone tower and bristling with communications masts with views of the river gorge and road back into town below. It’s two kilometres at 7% but bites from the start with 10% for 500m before easing off. After a junction to pick up the descent, a twisting road along a river gorge. It leads to the finish and with two kilometres to go they reach Cuenca and a big boulevard finish for the final kilometre.

The Contenders: Matteo Trentin (Quick Step) is the safe pick. He could go in the breakaway, he could win a bunch sprint and Quick Step will back him on this hilly terrain. Similarly J-J Lobato (Lotto-Jumbo) and Sacha Modolo (UAE Emirates) can cope with the climbs and seem in reasonable shape. Team Sunweb’s Søren Kragh Andersen is an outside pick too, he’s contesting the sprints but is much more than a sprinter. But there’s a good chance for a breakaway.

Matteo Trentin, J-J Lobato
Modolo, SKA

Weather: hot and sunny with a top temperature of 31°C and a light 20km/h breeze from the south.

TV: 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 is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.

Daily Díaz: Say goodbye to the overpopulated coast, and say hello to the underpopulated interior! Valencia province’s population density is 233.1 pop/km2 , while Cuenca province’s is 11.9. As you can see in the map, the distribution of the Spanish population is quite uneven. Roughly speaking, 72 % of the population live in 26% of the space (the coast, the archipelagos, Madrid), which means 28 % of the population live in 74% of the space (the rest). One part of Spain is Connecticut, and the other is Minnesota. Differences in the environment and the economic structure explain this, as well as the migrations inside the territory. It is not an exclusively Spanish feature, and I am sure that in many other countries similar inequalities appear.

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

50 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 7 Preview”

  1. Keep up the great updates!

    I do have to say the Vuelta seems much more interesting/picturesque than what I have seen from Connecticut and Minnesota – unless you like trees and lakes, and mansions of hedge fund managers that have egos that rival those of leading politicians.

  2. An additional note, the inaugural UCI Oetztaller 5500 is Friday, I suspect the viewing could be much more interesting than the Vuelta sprint stage and apparently on Sky (or feeds). A brutal 5500m of climbing over 240km – just like the public Fondo/Marathon run in past years. My legs hurt for some of the sprinters/ power riders sent by the teams and anyone that tries to go for the win from far out.

    Perhaps Inrng (or others here) – could give it a ride and share some thoughts?

  3. On the final climb yesterday there seemed to be a lot of smoke but not much fire. Whilst Alberto Contador’s efforts were entertaining it was difficult to see what they would bring. Chris Froome clearly decided that he would tag along but given the distance from the finish there was not a realistic possibility of the move staying away from the other contenders (or his team mates) and he did not want to put in any effort in keeping away . We shall have to wait for a more decisive stage to see whether Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru etc were keeping their powder dry or do not have the form (the comments about poor positioning become a bit repetitive). The crashes on the descent were odd, there must have been a pothole, oil slick or similar as riders were going down for no apparent reason. I have not seen any post race comments explaining it. It is also odd that Movistar now dont have a contender it their home race, presumably all thoughts will now be on wins on some of the big stages. Can it only be back luck with TvG? Things happen far to often for it all to be coincidence.

    Did anyone else think some of the moto riding was particularly bad, from what I saw on the last climb there were a number of very close calls between the riders, motos and spectators

    • That’s the point though, isn’t it?
      Contador is going to go out, pistols blazing.
      Froome has to go with his moves, he has the Formigal scars as a reminder.
      (Personally I have always thought that move last year was pre-planned, but things can develop ‘on the fly’ quite readily).

      And Contador has the entire peloton’s respect so as to be a most able ‘mover and shaker’ if you like to believe in race alliances and conspiracies (I do!).

    • Not on board with any Contador love. His phoney attacks are only so fans can write ‘how we’re gonna miss his cavalier style’ and we all ignore the real elephant in the room on his career.

      Not sure how they did Froome a favour. In all honesty not sure why Froome followed, I assume he was nervous of a Formigal recurrence but Contador is 3mins down and they were 30km out with a descent, it was always likely to come back together. Instead Froome just got a harder ride than anyone and those unable to follow exerted a little less watts to possibly save up for another day…

      I sometimes wonder whether Contador’s motivation these days is go after Froome whether or not they’re in direct competition, Froome yesterday just let him to pretend for a second that he’s still vaguely at that level.

      • (I would happily celebrate the excitement though if Contador was more honest about his previous. For now I can’t wait to see the back of him. Would take a Dan Martin attack, a Bardet grind, some Barguil whimsical flaneur-ing and even endless Froome aggression over a Contador legacy preserving bogus onslaught)

        • I think it’s possible to enjoy contador’s style while remembering that he has a coloured past. same goes for many, many riders. it doesn’t mean you forgive their indiscretions but in the thick of the action it’s still great entertainment. i would class wiggins’ career as more dubious, but again it’s probably no different to many other riders’. you can’t quantify these things.

          • Wiggin’s TUE history was selectively released for political reasons. (Genuine question, I don’t know:) Have we seen any of Contador’s TUE history?

          • I’m dumbfounded anyone could ever class Wiggins as more dubious than Contador.

            One has been banned, raced for teams with a history of organised doping and won in a era of mass doping.
            One so much as we know pushed permitted drug use into a (very) grey area but so much as we know broke no rules.

            Madness. What’s up with people equating stuff that’s clearly separated by orders of magnitude currently?

          • Do you really believe that Wiggins has been more honest about his use of PEDs than Contador has?
            Wiggins’s medical problems were not so bad to stop him coming 3rd in the TdF without them in 2009.
            Wiggins’s corticosteroid injections were taken days before each of the three grand tours he was trying to win in 2011/12/13.
            In 2011 and 2012, those injections were taken after he’d just won the Dauphine. That’s how sick he was.
            And if you look at WADA’s rules at the time, Wiggins’s TUE – although granted (by a doctor with a notorious history) – did not meet those rules.
            You can call it a grey area, but Wiggins was 100% on a PED when he won the TdF. And you have to be quite stunningly credulous to believe that it was medically or morally justified.
            For some people, what the authorities decide is the only thing that matters. But what if the authorities can’t be trusted to apply them?
            (The WADA rules in force on 1st. Feb. 2012 were:-
            46. A TUE will be granted only in strict accordance with the following
            2. The Rider would experience a significant impairment to health if the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method were to be withheld in the course of treating an acute or chronic medical condition.
            – Wiggins was winning the Dauphine.
            3. The therapeutic use of the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method would produce no additional enhancement of performance
            – triamcinolone does.)

          • +Corporate Accounts Nena.

            J Evans – I made no defence of Wiggins.
            I know all the points you’ve listed and they don’t look good.
            I do not disagree.

            I do though feel Contador’s case is worse. Significantly so. That is all I said.
            I’ll go off and eat my clobutinol steak now.

          • Do some digging on clenbuterol contamination. A Uni in Germany tested tourists returning from China and they tested positive for clenbuterol. So there COULD be some truth to his story or a well planned PED session

          • “Tourists” are not required to account for their body chemistry on pain of losing their wins or ruining their professional reputations. Professional sports people are. BIG difference.

          • The Wiggins TUE is a disgrace, and prima facie evidence of at the very least breaking the spirit of doping rules.

            And what was really in the package delivered, when what was claimed to be in it was commercially available at the package delivery location?

            That’s before we get to his remarkable transformation from a climber having to get off and push at the Giro to one who challenged and eventually won Grand Tours. It stinks.

          • Same spit different day:

            – 1991 – EPO really hit the peloton
            – 2001 – EPO/HGH/cortico’s still in use
            – 2011 – Cortico’s/other pharmaceuticals used to peak for TdF
            – 2017 – whatever Froome is doing to stay that skinny/powerful without breaking down is beyond me. It might technically be within the letter of the law, but it feels wrong. As long as the athlete is using techniques that include pills or medications or supplements it’s not clean. It’s clear that Froome et al. are using pharmaceutical means to stay on the bike, and even if legal ones are being used, I don’t want my future kids to use them, therefore it’s doping.

          • Interesting question for you, what about altitude tent? Does that feel wrong for you as well?

            I think your criteria of anything that harms the body is not good and thus be considered doping is very interesting. The “do I want my kids to use it” is a simple and very powerful test. However, this test ignores the fact that to be a world class competitive endurance cyclist itself is an unhealthy pursuit. To adapt yourself to have the low body fats gc riders has harms your health.

            That is before you start to consider whether you should have a sole say in what’s good for your kids and if that is violating their free will.

          • This is all starting to sound a little too much like cyclingnews for my taste.

            Why don’t you people concentrate on the actuality, like the armada of moto’s which haunt the Vuelta and today up ended yet another rider.

    • I was thinking that Contador’s attack yesterday helped Froome too. Sky are human and clearly must struggle in the heat pulling the peloton day after day. Contador actually relieved them of their duties. And after getting burned last year Froome is not going to let him out of his site this time around.

      • It’s very smart for Froome to cover Contador, whether he considered Contador to be a threat or not.

        On the climb once Poel is spent, he will be expected to set the pace or be attacked. That won’t be any easier riding than going with Contador.

    • Apparently fine after both. For all the TVG hate you get here, he did a great recovery ride yesterday. Really impressive. Think we should give him some praise for once on that.

      • I dont get all the hate for the guy? Though i suppose its really disappointment disguised as hate?

        He said he doesnt know what happened, but there were other riders who crashed at that same spot, so probably some irregularity in the road…

        • I’m not a fan – he, amongst others, trained with Armstrong, which is enough for me to not be a well-wisher – but the invective cast his way is typical social media blustering. A very impressive performance – post-crash – by him yesterday, although I do greatly feel for Betancur who paid for whatever TVG’s mistake was (much like Dan Martin behind Porte when he crashed in the Tour – although having watched Porte go down that hill in the Dauphine, I would never have been on his wheel).

          • Yeah – J Evans has a point – there are certain people who you should not follow.

            Porte – on a descent, he’s dangerous to follow
            TVG – he’s very mistake prone, whether clumsy mistakes like yesterday’s, or being way out of position. I feel awful for Betancur, but he should have been much further up the bunch.

            Not bashing TVG, but he’s misclassified himself – he’s incredibly talented, but not mentally sharp/strong enough to be a top GC leader, which is fine, if you can accept it, but it doesn’t appear he is accepting who he really is as a rider.

    • You could see when he went down, that the AG2R rider was already on his backside – I’m presuming there was an issue with the road if 2 accidents happened in exactly the same place (quite closely timed to each other). Would be interested to know.

    • Plus 1. I want to see the Betancur fulfil his potential. Watching riders like Bardet who might no have the out and out talent make the most of their ability is brilliant but conversely seeing talented riders screw it all up is heart-wrenching.

  4. I love it when a guy like Marczyński gets a GT win – the look on his face says it all – 10yrs of domestique pack fodder all worth it for that moment… he can tell his grandchildren ‘I won a stage on a grand tour’ when they ask if he was any good… fantastic.

  5. 2km at 7% with ramps at 10%, followed by a twisting descent. Sounds a bit much for a sprint finish to me. Sounds ideal for the likes of Gilbert, Kwiatkowski or van Avarmaet if they were there! Maybe Alaphilippe?

  6. On the Betancur / TvG crash it looked like one of them bent down to adjust a shoe and caught their own front wheel? Bizarre incident. Also I agree with JC that there were too many Motos getting in the way on the final climb.

    Overall it’s a good race so far, lots of attacking even if it often comes to nothing. I still struggle with the brown landscape but that’s just personal preference.

  7. I think that for a climb so close to the end to not have a decisive effect on the race it either has to be less than about 1km at 5% the Alto del Castillo is significantly tougher than this. Assuming the break as been caught by this point, the GC contenders will have no choice but to position themselves at the front on the foot of the climb to keep safe. With so many high quality climbers so close on the overall what is the chances of them taking it easy up the climb, the remaining 14km is also perfect for a decent descender to stay away.

    If the break hasn’t been caught by the Castillo then they will definitely take the stage and by then there wont be any sprinters left in the group anyway as they would have had to take the rolling terrain hard to stay away in first place.

  8. After stating to some friends that the race was over after 3 days (or whenever Froome took the Red jersey), I’m still very much enjoying the race. Froome quite clearly (imo…!) will win the race, but for now there are enough riders fighting for something that the race is extremely good. Long may it continue.

  9. Quick note on yesterday’s stage – Cyclists are total beasts.

    Betancur crashes, incurs a broken ankle and facial injuries that require surgery. He still finishes the stage! What an effort.

    Ok, that is all.

    • I’m not sure if it’s heroic or silly. Some injuries are worth fighting through until the end of the stage because scans may reveal them to be only superficial, but it was surely obvious that that wasn’t the case here.
      I feel there’s too much team/sponsor pressure to promulgate the hard-man image sometimes.

      • A bit of both… correction, a lot of both.

        A lot of internal pressure to perform as well and to put on brave face. Polar opposite from footballers or other sports where there is incentive to act hurt.

  10. Marczyński beasted that. Amazing ride. Fair play.

    Another moto incident today, fortunately without serious injury, at 12.5km from the finish. Wherever the blame might be apportioned there, isn’t it concerning that the moto just rode straight off? Wouldn’t it show a more humane concern for the safety and wellbeing of the riders among the moto pack if they had stopped to check the rider was okay? Feels wrong to me.

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