Up, up and away. This is a short stage at under 130km with a variety of climbs in a short space before the high altitude summit finish in the Sierra Nevada. It’s all live on TV from start to finish.
Stage 14 Review: Rafał Majka won the stage and needed it. It might be his fourth victory this year and he’s not a prolific winner but a stage in a grand tour saves his season and there could be more to come too. Behind amid the GC contenders the steep slopes of La Pandera were a living demonstration of the school physics class where F=ma and so to accelerate requires a lot of force. Even to open up a small gap required a lot of energy and so those launching moves typically paid for their efforts while Chris Froome kept his effort more linear. Miguel Ángel López did so too and wins the physics prize for the day with an attack… on a flatter portion and duly got away. Wilco Kelderman is now up to third place and is an excellent against the clock, he made a name for himself back in 2012 in the Dauphiné were he was fourth in the TT stage and finished 8th overall aged just 21.
The Route: after a start in Alcalá la Real which featured in yesterday’s stage the race heads directly to Granada and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. There’s enough time for a breakaway to try and get a lead but they’ll struggle to hold onto after the first hour.
Things start climbing before the climb starts with the valley road up to Güéjar Sierra but it’s gentle for the most part, just 8% along the way which is nothing compared to what is aroumd the corner. It’s in the village that they start the Alto de Hazallanas proper.
If the name is familiar is because it’s featured in races like the Ruta del Sol and the Vuelta in 2013 when Chris Horner rode away with the Vuelta in 2013 and where the twisting road and the irregular, steep ramps make for a hard start and the upper section. It’s followed by a long and fast descent to the edge of Granada.
The race loops back to climb to Monachil, the scene of Cadel Evans’ undoing in 2009 when he flatted and had to wait a long time for a neutral service vehicle to supply a wheel which took an age to change. Even without those woes it’s a hard climb, 8.5km at 8% and with some steep moments, 12% says the roadbook but steeper out on the road.
The Finish: a 19km climb. It’s 6-7% for a lot of the time and on the kind of wide road you could drive a bus up but the altitude and duration of the climb can cause plenty of damage. If a rider is dropped from the lead group then they’ll find it hard all alone to limit their losses compared to a group of riders able to share the work. It’s 7% for the final kilometre to the finish.
The Contenders: the same names as usual but in what order? Chris Froome is looking the most consistent and so the safe pick. Alberto Contador wasn’t as sharp yesterday but could bounce back but Vincenzo Nibali is improving and his small sprint for the time bonuses after some attacks was a small gain but that’s all he needs again to take a stage win. Miguel Ángel López is riding well too, with his head and his legs and could take another stage win while the main names mark each other. Wilco Kelderman is doing more than tracking his rivals, he was impressive yesterday and the reduced gradient of the final climb could suit him.
|Miguel Ángel López, Vincenzo Nibali
|Contador, Kelderman, Poels
Weather: warm and sunny but not as hot as yesterday, a top temperature of 31°C in Grenada and cooler in the mountains.
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 start is at 1.50pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST.
Daily Díaz: Today’s stage visits some of the most valued heritage sites in Spain. There are 46 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (3rd country in the world, some shared with Portugal and France), and the Alhambra (“the red one”) is one of them (in Granada, km 45). This was the palace of the last Muslim kings in Spain, until their final defeat in 1492. Some Christian kings resided there in the 16th century, notably Charles V who commanded a Renaissance palace: a circle inside a square. Sierra Nevada is, of course, Sierra Nevada National Park, the biggest of the 15 national parks of Spain. There are fifteen peaks over 3,000 m, including Mulhacén (the highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula, 3,482 m). No wonder why a capra pyrenaica will probably win today!
- Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel
Map thanks to Wikipedia’s Galjundi7