Vuelta a España Stage 14 Preview

The weekend offers two hard mountain stages starting with the major summit finish of La Pandera, a one time military road.

Stage 13 Review: a strong breakaway with the likes of Thomas De Gendt, Alexis Gougeard and Alessandro De Marchi but the inevitable sprint finish arrived. Matteo Trentin won but had little opposition and his team were impressive, no wonder when talents like Bob Jungels and Julian Alaphilippe are working on an uphill finish. The hilly finale meant the top-10 had as many GC contenders as it did sprinters and Chris Froome’s “bodyguard” Gianni Moscon ran Trentin a close second, the two Italians live very close to each other in the Italian Alps. A few time gaps opened up and some GC contenders lost a handful of seconds with David de la Cruz slipping from fourth to sixth overall.

The Route: 175km all leading to the day’s big summit finish. The second category “Alto Valdepeñas de Jaén” is known locally as the Puerto de Locubín and listed as 8.5km at 4.8% and includes some 7% slopes but is mainly a gentle climb followed by a fast and sweeping descent.

The Finish: the Sierra de la Pandera is one of the Vuelta’s modern classics, first used in 2002 and four times in total before today, although there are two approach roads, one to the north and one from the south. It’s listed as 12km at 7.3% which would be a hard climb if it was a steady ascent but as the profile shows this is an irregular climb with several double-digit passages including one kilometre at 12% with 4km to go and sections at 15% and all on a modest road surface. It dips over the top before a final kick up to the line.

The Contenders: Chris Froome and Alberto Contador come to mind. This is a crucial stage for Esteban Chaves too, was his relatively poor performance to Calar Alto down to the cold or has he not got it on the long climbs? We’ll soon see.

Otherwise Miguel Ángel López and Vincenzo Nibali should be close. They seem to be closing the gap to Contador and Froome in terms of climbing speeds with Fabio Aru close but not looking incisive. The steep slopes suit Michael Woods over others like Wilco Kelderman.

The breakaway has a chance here with Romain Bardet, Paweł Poljański, Rafał Majka, Jan Polanc and now Adam Yates are obvious picks.

Chris Froome, Alberto Contador
Miguel Ángel López, Vincenzo Nibali, Esteban Chaves
Woods, Zakarin, Bardet, Poljański, Majka, Polanc, A Yates

Weather: warm sunshine and a few clouds, a top temperature of 35°C.

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 climbing starts at 4.50pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.

Daily Díaz: Who likes Geology? The last couple of years Unipublic (the Vuelta organisers) give an insight on the rocks that will be found each stage. Scroll down to the bottom of the website and you’ll learn what a polje is. Otherwise, check the meaning of river delta (stage 1), anticline (stage 4), karst (stage 6), syncline (stage 17), estuary (stage 17) and orogeny (stage 20). Turning to social sciences, km 19 and the race speeds across Marinaleda, ruled by eccentric mayor Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo. Is this the communist utopia The Guardian talks about? It depends on who you ask. In the last local elections (May 2015) the ruling party got over 70 % of the votes.

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

70 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 14 Preview”

    • Let’s see if the self-appointed anticommunist Chris Froome storms through Marinaleda. Those comments against budget capping were very telling: every time a pro cyclist is asked about changing the rules and setting new limits in order to restore certain qualities of cycling races, they exaggerate it into a laughing matter (“and same porridge for breakfast too, no?”, Chris said). Once I asked one about banning power-metres, and his answer was “yeah, and tubulars across our shoulders too, no?”. This kind of answers are a complete lack of respect towards very pertinent proposals.

      • Perhaps not everyone agrees they are pertinent. If you want equality and a level playing field its very fair to ask where it starts and finishes. Bikes are different, clothing is different, food is different. There are lots of small ways that give advantages or disadvantages. So I think the perhaps flippant comments hide a very fair point.

        • One can have a fair point and express it without necessarily despising the other person’s point in order to put it out of the question. To make your point seriously would mean to acknowledge that there are serious issues with contemporary cycling (as opposed to ‘old school’ cycling), or at the very least that a large sector of the audience thinks there are. And this IS very pertinent.

          • Froome may can pedal fast (not nice to look at, though), but every interview tells me of bike he’s not the brightest candle. Especially this interview. But he’s not paid to be the greatest thinker. Nothings wrong with that, as long as one stick to his core talents.

      • I think a wage cap is nonsense. I’d not accept it in my job – would you? If we are talking hypothetically a minimum wage would be more agreeable.

        • It’s budget capping, not salary. Anyway, not a fan. But I don’t like big leaders buying potential attackers as defensive domestiques. And I seriously expect everybody to actively not like it. And Froome to feel that there’s something not fair about it.

          • I can see all points of view here. However, in American baseball they instituted a plan where if a certain total salary figure is met, say 10 million Euro, then any amount above that will be matched by the team paying it and placed in a pool to be divided by the other teams in reverse order of salary total. I don’t have all the details, but hat is the general idea. In cycling’s case, it would seem that it should be total budget. Since Sky, for example, not only has the highest salary total but also the most extensive infrastructure to assist those riders with, training, exercise physiologists, travel, mattresses, room disinfection, food trucks, nutritionists, etc. This is not an anti-Sky screed, but a relative fairness is sports idea. Why should one team be able to monopolize all of the up and coming talent. It eventually will strangle the sport as others are not able to even compete on the same level. In baseball, the likelihood of a small market team winning the championship has increased markedly, and made for greater “excitement”, if that word can be used in this setting.

          • This works in baseball as all the teams are in the same country (+Canada)
            In cycling is impossible as you have completely different tax regimes and accounting standards.,

      • I also think the relatively meagre prize money needs upping. Look at the prize pot for the TdF compared to Wimbledon in respect to the hours competed to earn it

        • The tennis players are not salaried for 12 months of the year, perhaps they look on jealously at the wages paid in cycling and how teams pay for flights, mechanics, soigneurs rather than having to pay out of their pocket for it ? 😉

          • Ha! I’ll look into this a bit further, but four grand slams with prize money in the millions, the ATP finals and other competitions that they can realistically compete for the title in each one as the exertion required is so much less. I don’t think they do look on enviously (at the top)

          • @BigRinger
            if you look further, look at what a non-GrandSlam winner gets, look a what a number 79 of WTA list makes on money and has to spend on trainer, medics, etc.
            In fact, these people life in debt like an American college student. If you’re a Serena or a Roger, you’re fine, but when you’re go down the ranks, there’s not a lot of money to make, I’m sure in the end lot of domestiques in a WT team earn more on a guaranteed base than a mediocre tennis player.

  1. I doubt Froome will try for a stage win. He is in defensive mode, also being injured and knowing another hard stage awaits tomorrow. Tracking wheels is all he will Care for.
    Chavez and Nibali, both won’t be happy if they can’t gain atleast 20 sec on Froome today.

  2. This is not a profile that any team will want to control the race on. So: breakaway all the way! But, what will happen if Orica sends one or both of the Yates brothers in the breakaway? Will Sky become twitchy, fearing for a link-up with Chaves late on, and therefore prevent the break from taking off?

    The logical pick of the day would be Majka, but I really wonder whether he entirely recovered from his early illness. We shall see…

    Oh, and who *doesn’t* like geology?! Geology rocks!!! Ok, maybe I’m biased, being a professional geologist ‘n all 😉 Anyway, the mother of all “tectonic windows” is the Tauern Window in the Austrian Alps. Of course there’s plenty of climbs there too, with the Grosglockner arguably the most famous one.

  3. Btw, any of you read/hear intwerviews with Majka and Adam Yates on how they’re feeling? Hard to know if their invisibility the past days was due to poor form, or in preparation of attacks today and tomorrow.

    Also, any opinions on Alaphilippe joining the breakaway? Can’t see Jungels trying again, and Mas might have to look after De La Cruz?

  4. Be interested to see if Froome’ crash took anything out of him, although he seemed comfortable yesterday whilst talking on the radio during a sprint! Not entirely convinced about Contador, a lot was made about his attack 2 days ago, but the fact is he was allowed to go. I hope I’m wrong and he wins a stage. I can see Orica chasing the break, but I think after today the whole team will be chasing stage wins the 3rd week.

  5. The next three days will go a long way to deciding the destination of this race. If Chris Froome comes out of this weekend with a lead similar to the one this morning and then adds to it during the TT he will be very happy. I am not convinced he is in a defensive mindset along the lines of his TdF rides but there comes a point when the attraction of simply ensuring Vincezo Nibali doesnt get away becomes overwhelming. There is the weather, back to the really hot conditions normal for southern Spain at this time of year. CF is well known for being happy riding in hot conditions but it will affect some of the riders. Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are both probably comfortable with hot weather but it is likely a good number of the top 10 will struggle.

    I guess it is possible a break may stay away, both Bora and Movistar are stage hunting and have riders capable of winning a stage like this. However the pattern of this race has been very fast stages. If repeated it may simply be too hard for the break to get a big enough gap before the GC fight kicks off.

  6. The DNA of Quick Step really shows on a day like yesterday. They were all in for Trentin’s stage win giving him an incredibly strong lead out of Lampaert, Terpstra, Jungels and Alaphilippe, any one of whom could be contenders for the stage and will be marked men at the Worlds, and poor old De la Cruz ends up on his dropping from 4th to 6th. Similar to when they helped out Kittel at the Tour and Martin ended up losing time. You can see why GC men don’t hang around there! You can’t question how successful the have been at stage hunting in the big Tours this year though.

    • Lefevere seems to favour number of races won over winning a grand tour. Note that recently he remarked he never even spoke to Dan Martin regarding a new contract. He just let him walk. De la Cruz has similarly been allowed to walk. Its hard to criticise when they win so many but is it a lack of GC ambition?

      • Lefevere had a go at the GC in the past with Uran for instance, but he quickly realized that to win a grand tour, you need to invest in a large contingent of expensive helpers, and that only first place counts. (Who do you think raised more publicity in the Tour, Kittel and Barguil or Uran and Bardet?) If you see how much publicity QS gets from their wins on a fairly modest budget, I’m inclined to agree with Lefevere.

        Also, about De La Cruz: can you imagine being better supported than having Lampaert, Terpstra, Jungels, Alaphilippe and Trentin riding in front of you? That was the situation leading into the final km, and all he had to do was follow them. The fact that he didn’t manage this was just an indication of how brutal that finale was, and that he doesn’t have the punch power of Froome, Nibali, and the other GC riders ahead of him. Btw, look at the result: aside from Moscon who went his own way, there wasn’t a helper in sight – so the others were also “not supported” – at the end, each favourite had to fend for themselves!

        • Another theory: the gap to the first group fell in front of Poels. Could it be that he eased off a bit on purpose to allow Froome taking some seconds back on the people behind? 🙂

      • It will never be a lack of ambition to focus on the classics.. throw in a sprinter and you also do well in grand tours, perfect. I’d take a classic or a few stage wins over a 5th place at the tour at any time. A win at any level is better than taking a gc top ten in a grand tour if accomplished by sitting in the wheels. Etixx QS are the most fun team in our time.

        • I think Lefevre wants a GC man so that they can be seen at the sharp end of that too for his sponsors, but is not willing to invest in a Sky-esque mountain train or sacrifice stage hunting. And obviously they are primarily a classic ms team. He will invest in 4 or 5 options for April so he can throw all of them at it and get one to stick. That has also worked a treat. They have pretty much every base covered bar winning the big Tours. Some teams throw all their budget at Grand Tour GC and don’t do any better than QS, and aren’t a feature at all in the clsssics. Team of the year this year would be nice pretty tight between Sky abd Quick Step?

          • Outside of the insular cycling world I’m not sure who really cares how many stages of a race someone won. Or who could name any of their winners who doesn’t follow cycling closely. But ask people who Chris Froome is and you’re sure to get a better response. There is a reason Sky have primarily chased grand tours.

          • @ Free Landa

            Sky’s strategy is brilliant when they can win the Tour. However, they have only 1.5 chance every year. Should Froome fail, their season would look terrible. Take 2014 for an example.

            Quickstep’ strategy gives them less return per win in terms of publicity (though in Belgium, Classics win may well count as much as a GT podium), but they will have a dozen opportunities every year. On of those will stick and it’s better than putting all your eggs on winning the Tour and coke off empty handed.

            Sky’s strategy only works because they stmbled upon a multiple Tour winner in Froome. Yes they are much better at stage racing than anybody else but If Wiggins is all they had to work with, they’d be no better than BMC or Astana.

  7. At the risk of angering “non-Anglophiles” I shall continue to doubt the Contador miracle until he actually does win a stage as INRNG keeps suggesting he might. Some seconds gained on a breakaway and a punchy demeanour does not necessarily equate to a mountain win on an especial mountain top finish and he did lose time to Nibali, Kelderman and (whisper the name) Froome on Calar Alto. Please note that this is not me saying Contador is rubbish. Its me saying he was a long way off in France and I find it hard to believe he is suddenly and consistently at the level of the top two or three in this race. We should not watch this race as if the last two years of top steps missed and declining returns did not happen. I have a hunch he may drop at some point. It might not be today but we will see if my hunch is right in due course.

    Of course we have now entered the hardest section of the race. Two hard days this weekend followed by the ITT and another killer climb the day after. No doubt the GC will be shaken loose once more and we will know thereafter who can still fight for the win and who can’t with only the Angliru as a hard mountain finish after that. I’ve found it quite hard to gauge where the riders are respective to one another but in one sense we are in somewhat familiar territory for followers of the Tour de France in recent years in that Froome leads and is in defensive mode. Thus, I think he will be quite happy simply to keep a stalemate, from his point of view, today and tomorrow to just neutralise the days. As we saw in France, he does not need to win every day. He only needs to cross the line with his rivals. This means we will face the same barrage of questions from those on forums about why people “don’t just attack” him and others will question their courage and will to win or maybe say they are happy with 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. Of course, they aren’t. They are trying. But its hard to attack when the peloton is already riding at 95% of its capacity anyway.

    For me the big question is if Vincenzo Nibali really has the ability to make the difference here. It must surely be clear to everyone that he is not going to win by a mixture of downhill escapes, small breakaways and a few Froome mistakes. He will, at some point, have to actually make a gap on a mountain. He tried on Calar Alto and yet ended up losing 2 bonus seconds. Nibali is the only rider I have ever thought would win if Froome did not (because they are the two best all rounders in the race) but the question still remains as to how. It is by making a difference on a stage like today that he does. And yet I note that INRNG gives Contador three chainrings and Nibali only two. Nibali doesn’t need to take time today but if he could it would at least inform him and us that he could. And we haven’t seen proof of that yet, proof that those who disapprove of Anglophile riders I’m sure would like to see.

    • Ron, about Contador. I don’t think anybody is saying he’s back to his best. People just like his style, because he dares to attack even if it means he could lose places in the GC. That willingness to take risks means it’s equally likely for him to win a stage as it is to drop away. The former wouldn’t be a miracle, and neither would the latter come as a surprise to Contador fans.

      About the other contenders: Froome remains the favourite, with Nibali being the main threat, just as expected before the race started. This means that Nibali most of all will not get any leeway from Sky, whereas Contador (and other riders lower in GC) might get *some* freedom in the last km. Hence, I can see why Nibali would be given one chainring less than Contador and the big man himself. But in the end these are just punts. Take them with a grain of salt!

      Btw, the entire “anglophile” vs “non-anglophile” rhetoric is rubbish – I’d wish everybody turned less fanboy and stopped commenting in such a fashion. But all I can do myself is to read around that and neglect it, which I always intend to do, so don’t expect any further comments from me on that account 😉

        • Maybe it’s not Contador’s fans that fail to see that he might not win, but that it’s you who fails to see that he still has a chance of winning? Read my previous comment, then your reply, and think about that for a minute or two before replying again, because otherwise we’re not making any progress 😉

          • I’m firmly on the fence. I’ve done my transfers for my fantasy team for today and left him out…but with enough in the bank to bring him in if he looks the business.

            Whatever happens we can be sure he’ll be good for the viewing today…one way or the other…

          • Anonymouse, I’m not sure we’re here to make progress. We’re here to swap views. I read what you say but its the same old arguments that people have put up for Contador ever since the middle of 2015. “Willingness to take risks” doesn’t equal wins. He may get lucky but so what? To my mind by going for GC he has actually reduced his win chances because he will be chased.

          • There’s a difference between “good” in results or being a “good rider”. A Texan once had a lot of good results, though in reality he only was a mediocre one day race sprinter.

          • RonDe, if you never try to win you never will, so that’s a few more % chance for cintador as he will try. What % does that end up as? Not sure but keep rolling the dice and it’ll come up in your favour once.

          • It’s not that Contador fans really think he can win this race, but he has the ability to animate things, where else the other GC riders would should sit in the Sky procession train and are happy with their rank.
            RonD don’t take that seriously, he just wants to watch the procession and tell how good Froome is and how bad the rest. he clearly has no sense at all for the legacy of Contador, his wishful narrative of Froome being better rider in the cycling history than Contador or others must be repeated. And he can’t accept when others tell him that will hardly be the case. #Team9

        • I agree with you in general, but stylistically the point is to visibly fight, compete and race. The objective is to win. The victory in the balance is what makes the tactics as well as the attacks of Contador (and others), plus the chaos he often creates, exciting. Winning on its own (i.e. without the drama and tension) can be dull for the observer, which is why I think people often bemoan the sky train and blocks of sprint stages and why people often talk of changing the rules.

        • I don’t think Froome is a better rider historically than Contador. As I wrote in another post a few days ago, I doubt he will ever be. I think he will win less grand tours.

          But don’t let that stop you telling me what I think. You see, this is the problem with assuming you know what people think and why and assuming it instead of reading their posts properly.

  8. Vincenzo Nibali can win by simply hanging around. At the 2016 Giro there were two better riders than he, Steven Kruijswijk made a small mistake (admittedly partly due to pressure from VN) and Esteban Chaves became ill but VN won in the end. So if he sits here trying to take the odd second here and there then just maybe something will happen and he will be in pole position to take advantage

    • I half agree with you. However, Chris Froome is not Kruijswijk or Chaves without any undue respect to them. Chris Froome has won as many grand tours as Nibali. Nibali has also not beaten Froome in a grand tour since 2008 (2014 Tour aside). Old points I’ve oft repeated I know. But they are repeated for context. Nibali can expect to lose time on Tuesday (I’d estimate 1.30) so any gains made now are all to the good. Would he like to be two to two and a half minutes down after the ITT knowing that he has to make up major time on Los Machucos and Angliru which are going to be struggles for survival? Rather him than me!

  9. Since middle of 2015 after defeating Landa plus Aru, Contador’s GT results have been poor for two reasons:

    1. He is older.
    2. He’s crashed a hell of a lot.

    Tour 2015 – He crashed and was going for a third Grand Tour win in a row.

    Tour 2016 – crashed hard and tore his hamstring.

    Vuelta 2016 – came back too soon from torn hamstring

    Tour 2017 – involved in high speed crash with Thomas and Majka. Both Thomas and Majka dnf after crash.

  10. Agree with SArover, the sad truth is that Contador is getting old and now undeniably past his best. But is it not still great fun to watch him go for it? While we may know he won’t win, he still thinks he can and that’s awesome, fair play to AC!

  11. Now, now..

    It will be interesting to see how today plays out. Will they(gc) wait until tomorrow, or will someone launch a full on attack?

    Today should be less prone to wind than tomorrow, so maybe better attack possibilities? Much better than stage 11 I think so gc-guys will have to step up.

    Anyway, I think it will go to a strong breakaway, but gc will be shook up very much. Just hope the Vuelta TV-producers can keep up, because frankly some of the coverage have been ****.

    It seems from race reports both Rui Costa and Majka are in the break. BOT for the win then.

    Matteo Trentin, what to say? Such a nice guy, reflected, smart. Always a big talent, but even without big sprinters here to snatch his wins away you could say he’s one of the big favorites for WC in Bergen this year with this form and the parcours.

    I’m rooting for him and EBH there.

    Very nice Diaz, love that you put him on here.

  12. Come on boys. Get a grip!

    The great thing about this site BTL is the level of informed comment. If this is going to descend into ‘ my boy is better than your boy’ , it’s going to lose a lot of its charm . And it is going to betray the effort and intelligence of the provider. Today, You might as well have been talking about football.

    • It has already descended to that level – that’s why so many people are complaining. The same person posting the same thing lengthily and endlessly.

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