Vuelta a España Stage 19 Preview

A route for the breakaway to get reeled in but which teams will do the reeling? Very few so it should be a day for the breakaway.

The Route: 150km and after a brief descent they hit the Alto de la Colladona, generously awarded first category status with 7km at 6.8% and a good chance for David Vilella to take more precious points. The next two climbs are comparable in either length or gradient.

The last climb of the day is the Alto de San Martín de Huerce, 4.5km at 7.2% but after a gentle start there’s a solid middle kilometre of 12% average with even steeper moments, an ideal launchpad for any strong climbers with just 15km left.

The Finish: a fast finish down into Gijon and a finish by the beach. It’s big boulevards in town and if there’s a bend to the left within the final kilometre it’s around a large, engineered roundabout, the kind that can be taken at speed.

The Contenders: on paper a sprint as a breakaway goes and gets gradually reeled in. Only who will do the reeling? There were few sprinters to start with in the race and now even fewer given Degenkolb, Debusschere and Van Genechten have gone home. Instead the teams chasing could be those who missed the move given opportunities are fast running out for all. So it all points to a breakaway staying clear.

Who wins? Matteo Trentin can go in the break rather than wait for the sprint but did this yesterday so he could be tired, the same for team mate Julian Alaphilippe. Tomasz Marczyński could try for a third and this kind of terrain could suit team mate Adam Hansen. Otherwise today’s lottery picks are L-L Sanchez (Astana), Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac), Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis) but print your own startlist and throw darts at it and see who you pick.

Trentin, L-L Sanchez

Weather: sunshine and some clouds, a top temperature of 22°C at the finish but cooler inland and over the climbs.

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: Is it a good idea to start a grand tour stage in a natural park? The news coverage might, or might not, compensate the environmental impact (Lutra lutra and Ursus arctos specimens will be happy to watch the race go away). Anyway, ask the cyclists and they won’t be excited to travel over 2h30’ from yesterday’s finish to today’s departure. This is the second longest transfer in this year’s Vuelta a España. Cuenca-Hellín (stages 7-8) cost them over 2h20’, and Angliru-Arroyomolinos (stages 20-21) will go beyond 4h40’. The second rest day (Sierra Nevada-Logroño) meant over 7h50’ on the team bus. The cyclists spend more time travelling from one place to another than actually racing, at least some days. Does this happen more often in Spain than in Italy or France?

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

86 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 19 Preview”

  1. So when it comes to effort to gain ratio it seems to me Chris Froome is not doing so badly. He gains 21 seconds on his nearest rival for an effort over 1km or so whereas that nearest rival works like a dog over 9kms the day before on some inhuman ramps to get 42 seconds. Net loss to Froome? 21 seconds of a 1.58 lead. Would the correct term for that be “manageable”? And its not as if massive efforts come with no penalty either in cycle races. Nibali, at least, seems to have paid a small price. But examining this more closely it is perhaps at the heart of the disparity we see between some viewers of cycle races and others. Froome is a rider who plays the averages. He levels things out and wants to have the fastest time overall (which is what winning is) most of all. Froome is the mathematician cyclist and he utilises his time gap when factoring in what success or failure is on any given day. I can already hear the boos from those who favour the Contador kind of cyclist, the kind who just goes for it and to hell with the consequences. Its exciting to watch, no doubt. I’m not against it except on one count: if it doesn’t win then what was the point of it as a tactic? The aim of any race is to win it, right?

    People can and will make their own minds up which is fine. But whichever style of riding you employ you still need to be the athlete required to do it. Are Nibali, Contador, Froome or any of the other top riders bad athletes? No. But that doesn’t mean they all have the same way to win or utilise the same qualities. In many sports mental qualities, even being something of a professor of your sport, are often noticed or acknowledged and are sometimes part of the make up of the winner. But in a physical sport you still need the physical strength and stamina to survive. In cycling especially you need the ability to suffer. So I tip my cap to all the riders, however they choose to try and win, for making the race an actual competition at all. All champions need worthy opponents and in many ways I think this Vuelta has been the best grand tour of the year. Variety of styles of riding has been no small part of that.

    • You are overanalyzing. Froome had a bad day two days ago, Nibali had a bad day yesterday. If Froome could have followed Nibali two days ago, he would have, and if Nibali could have followed Froome yesterday, he would have too. Neither of them were calculating their efforts on either of those days – they were simply going as hard as their legs allowed.

      • I believe Wednesday and Thursday can be explained by the fact Froome is a relatieve (!) heavy GC contender. This means an advantage in a power finish and a disadvantage in a steep long climb.

    • Also, worth taking account that this is Contador’s last Vuelta and he is putting on a show as much as anything else. In other words, he is going down swinging. I would imagine if this wasn’t his last GT that we would have seen a slightly more conservative Contador. This year has something of a swansong about it.

      • Agree. Compare the Tour which happened, or at least some of it if we are to believe the reports, before he’d decided to retire. There he was more docile, ineffective, a shadow of the rider we once knew. All those saying Alberto has still got it and please don’t go need to remember that rider as well as the one on Los Machucos. Because that is why he’s retiring isn’t it?

    • Different finishes. There’s no way Froome wanted to lose so much time and, more importantly, look vulnerable. He wasn’t pacing himself, he was struggling badly. I suspect that it was a confluence of factors: the uneven climb with savagely steep ramps, the poor road surface and the weather. All combining with the fact that he’s, relative to the rest, weaker than he was at the beginning of the tour, because of the TdF effort. His hematocrit count is probably pretty low already. I think that more than the time loss, his performance two days ago sets the Angliru up to be a thrilling battle. I don’t think Nibali can do it, but it opens the door, and I for one can’t wait to watch. It’ll be captivating sport.

        • Ron I agree with you on a lotta things but maybe just put down the torch for a day or two? Your posts are just inciting needless quarrelling and kinda weakening your overall point…

          Let’s talk about something else…

          I was wondering if there’s any chance of some fireworks on the first climb… although I suspect the run in to the finish and too many vested interests might prohibit.

          Very excited by the Angliru.

          • Saying there are many ways to win is “needless quarreling”? Pardon me, Dave. Surely I should be winning the Captain Obvious award instead? I’m arguing against the view, which some others seem to have, that you should be “entertaining”, which is only ever defined as being attacking like Contador, otherwise there’s something wrong with you. I think that view is very narrow-minded.

          • Hey I agree, I’m not disagreeing just noting you may have become a little ardent in your ways of arguing and slightly taking over the message board. I genuinely think quite a bit of what you say is right on, just you’re over egging it in the last week or so and opening yourself up to people taking issue with you rather than the arguments. Just saying letting it rest might be for the best… also if Froome loses it on the Angliru you’re setting yourself up for one hell of a fall! And I don’t think we can really say one way or another whether he’ll crush, cruise, grind, crumble as yet…

          • Amusingly for all his criticism of Contador, RonDe is commenting on this race in the same way that Alberto is riding it. He’s going in all guns blazing, and it’ll either come off or he’ll go down in flames. Unfortunately for everyone else though, unlike Contador this isn’t his last race (just kidding).

          • @RichardS
            Apples and Oranges. One is entertaining as hell, the other a ridiculous embarrassment. An I wish I could watch Alberto for a bit longer while the other guy retires.

          • Hear hear.

            I generally like RonDe’s posts as they tend to be (mostly) fair and evidence based.

            But lately they have been spilling over into naked barracking and confirmation bias. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this off-putting.

          • of course it was only coincidental. if you’re fanboydom forbid to accept your hero (greatest cyclist walking on earth, we all know, yadda yadda) had a bad day and was struggling, instead claiming it was part of strategic masterclass, you don’t have a point, you have a problem.

          • Bit harsh. Folks come here to give opinions. What, we can do that, as long as we agree to disagree at a certain point? RonDe should continue posting and enjoying himself.

  2. “The next two climbs…” <– text missing!

    Anyway, today is a far more difficult to control stage than yesterday's. That opening climb will see good climbers join the break (with some fallen GC riders possibly involved), and many helpers be shed right away. Those helpers could get back before the 2nd climb, but will then lose contact again and not be able to return to the bunch after the 3rd hill. Between the 3rd and final climb, there's also a bump up to the intermediate sprint which is way tougher than you may think!
    After that it's a quick downhill to the last climb, which is another point at which the race can explode.

    Yesterday, Froome halted and even reversed the momentum Nibali had built, but it's anybody's guess what might happen today. And with rain and chilly conditions forecast for tomorrow, anything can still happen!

    • “And with rain and chilly conditions forecast for tomorrow, anything can still happen!”

      Which seems very undermining of several loud and long arguments extending back several days now that racing is boring and predictable. The truth is somewhat different. For whilst one team may choose one tactic it doesn’t bind anyone else to do anything but find a way to combat it. The “how” is up to them.

  3. First comment of the day and the argument has already been reopened, counter argued and closed! Nothing to see here, move on 😉

    Comment tactics and dynamics rivalling the race!

  4. Whilst I dont think the time loss on Los Machucos was planned by Chris Froome, he simply had a bad day for some reason, I do agree that he has come out of the past three days in pretty good shape. Yesterday he looked strong and Vincenzo Nibali looked to be struggling.

    Today really should be about the break but this Vuelta has been a constant run of surprises so perhaps a GC contender will try to sneak away on the final descent.More likely they will all want to save energy for the following day.

    • For sake of clarity I don’t think it was “planned” either. I think he got there, realised he only had so much to give and then decided that rather than go deep giving everything to stay with them (which he surely would of had this been stage 20) he would ride his own pace and manage it as well as possible.

      • Good clarification, Ron, with that I can agree. Froome will always be the TT-ist at heart, and from there decides whether or not he can go into the red on any particular day.

      • I’m not sure he ‘decided’ anything. I think he was at his limit on that climb, and he couldn’t give a half watt of extra power. I guess in one sense, he did the sensible thing and paced himself as best he could, but I also believe that that’s not unusual in cycling. It’s pretty much what they all do in that situation. It’s rare to see a rider who hasn’t, Kwiatkovsky style, given it all to pace a team leader, or who isn’t trying desperately to stay with a breakaway with nothing to lose, completely crumble after putting in too much effort.

        • I disagree, you often see riders trying to keep pace when they can’t and explode later: Alaphillipe yesterday was just one example, Adam Yates during Lopez’ second stage win, most riders on La-Pierre Saint Martin TDF 2015 and so on.
          In fact, I would say Froome is the only rider that I have never seen try to hold on and explode. He always seems to take it at his own pace.

          • Indeed, that’s why I said, “with nothing to lose”. Sure, if you’re Adam Yates, and Lopez comes screaming up on the inside, you _have_ to try to go with him. What would be the point of pacing yourself? There are a couple of Ks left, so you’re not going to pace back, and it’s the stage win or nothing, basically. However, if he was defending time, which Froome is, do you really think that he would have tried to go with Lopez? Is Froome so unusually, and so particularly calculating and intelligent for pacing himself near his limit on the day?

          • I think most riders try and stay in their group hoping that it will slow down but Froome is happy to pace himself as he did successfully at last year’s Vuelta. I think he tried to do the same two days ago but clearly his pace was slower than the rest.
            But I do think it is unusual for somebody to dare let the group ahead of them go. That is because the tactic works both ways. Froome pacing himself meant that he conserved energy and didn’t implode by following a pace that was too high. But because Nibali had a gap, he knew he could give 100%. If Froome had made the effort to stay with Nibali maybe the Nibali group would have gone slower because there was no reason to ride and therefore Froome would have lost less time. It is impossible to say what is the best tactic but Froome is the type of rider who will drop back whilst, I believe, most other GC men prefer to try and stay in the group.
            I’m just glad Contador is around (and Lopez) because if not maybe nothing would have happened and Froome maybe would have lost nothing despite being clearly weaker.

          • I thought of an example. I remember the Tour that Riis won, and on one mountain stage, he was doing his usual thing of drifting to the back and then attacking from miles away (I guess you can do anything when you’ve got a red blood cell count over 60%). Anyway, I remember the commentators talking about how Rominger had been dropped earlier, but later in the stage, I think he scorched past Indurain and got back up to the chasing group of Virenque, et al. It’s very much what Froome did on the Colombian-commentary video INRNG posted yesterday, and an example of how pacing for GC racers doesn’t really set Froome apart: unless there’s no point in pacing (stage win or bust, or working for a team leader), I would suggest that most riders do that when they’ve been dropped.

          • Yes, they do that when dropped but Froome has a tendency to not even try to hold on and just go at his own pace. I’m not saying he invented the idea but he is different. When Froome was dropped most comments were not about him cracking but how ha was pacing himself. If Nibali or Contador are dropped they are actually dropped and nobody is expecting them to come back.

        • Well, of course Froome was on the limit, but Froome always stays at the limit, rather than risk going over it. Other riders go over the limit then blow completely. Froome knows his body well enough to not risk that.

      • Exactly RonDe – I agree, Froome tends to ride that way – if he finds he’s struggling he holds back a bit to ride within himself rather than risk blowing completely. The other day he definitely appeared to be struggling.

        Looking forward to the final stages, Nibali usually is pretty strong in the third week, the same with Contador. Bertie has absolutely zero reason to save anything so he will attack with everything he has.

  5. I think there will be attacks on the first climb. Probably Contador will be attacking.
    So no real breakaway, i think it will be chaos till the end of the stage with GC contenders finishing in front.

    • I can imagine that M.A. Lopez will do his utmost to take the KOM points on the 1st climb – if that’s the case, I expect a small bunch to reach that summit first, and a fairly small breakaway of non-GC riders to be formed afterwards between the 1st and 2nd climbs.

      • As is so often the case of late, the KOM in the Vuelta is barely worth the name. Has Vilella shown himself to be anything like the best climber in this race? No-one else seems to even be trying to win it.

    • There will be those begging Contador not to attack on the first climb today. If he does he could make the day a war with some unexpected casualties. On previous days we’ve seen big GC riders alone. Nibali was one example of that. He can’t afford to ship anymore unnecessary loses like yesterday before the final big test.

      • The weird thing with Nibali is he seems to have riders around in the general vicinity, but misuse them. Pelizzotti has generally been there when it starts to kick off but is either used up on the front in some vain attempt make Sky uncomfortable, or sent off up the road like yesterday. And yesterday they put Visconti in the break. Fair enough if Nibali was 5th or 6th but at 2nd just a minute down he needed his riders around him.

        • You have a point there, Richard. On the opposite side of the equation, other teams sometimes keep their guys in check too much. For instance, if I was Orica, I’d go all-in today for the stage win by sending Jack Haig and the Yates Bros in the breakaway off that first climb. Chaves’s bid for GC is over – who cares if he could still end up inside the top-10? – just go for stage victory glory!

    • No chance. I think that after 18 days of racing, and the Angliru on Saturday the powder will be dry for tomorrow. Expect 10 minute time gaps etc. Any GC contender within 3 minutes of Froome will not want to jeopardise the opportunity to win the Vuelta.

      The only team that might upset that is Astana, if Aru/Lopez can decide which of them tries today, and which of them tries tomorrow, but I can’t see the dynamics within that team happening, especially not since Aru turned his legs to rubber yesterday.

    • As far as I am aware bidons are made from corn starch so that they simply decompose, though not sure if that applies to the tops etc. Wrappers will be some sort of plastic. The riders throwing stuff away always irritates, I know there are rubbish disposal zones but these seem to get ignored towards the end of a stage

      • Are you saying they have special bidons for these races ? The only bidons I’ve ever seen and used are made of polypropylene (plastic) and certainly not biodegradable

        • A lot of the new bidons are biodegradable, Elite sponsor 10 World Tour teams with bottles (and other items I guess) and their Corsa bottles are BPA free and biodegradable; although it doesn’t say how long it takes for the “plastic” to break down?

          • Saw a documentary lately about “biodegradable” thin plastic bags. And the experts in the municipal compost facility told that these things do hardly compost under their normal conditions. They could do in a compost heap with very high temperatures, but these temps aren’t reached in common facilities. So a much thicker bidon plastic wont break down for ages if you throw it in the landscape. It’s just a marketing thing to calm down half informed masses.

          • I keep meaning to get a bidon and leave it outdoors and drop by every few months to see if it has started to break down, maybe take a photo every quarter. I suspect the biodegrable version could be usable still after a year or more, it could take many years to vanish.

          • I can offer you the cornstarch cutlery we used for an event. After sitting in my compost heap for a couple of years we got fed up and manually removed them. They’d got more brittle, but there was no sign of them seriously degrading.

  6. One of the Yates brothers for today? Or someone else from Orica? Haig looks in good nick as well, they have been trying for a few days, but the final climb is a good place for several of their riders….. however that all depends on them being in the mix at the end 🙂

  7. In just reading about the 1982 Tour de France I came across the following statement: “Hinault was accused of riding a boring race.”

    Everything changes but always stays the same.

    • Beat Breu’s was most entertaining, but Hinault’s was boring, because he could lean on 5 TTs, and he had come after a very difficult Giro he almost lost. Besides, he came unscathed out of the cobbles (where Alberto Fernández lost all the time that prevented him from fighting for the podium). But , by today’s standards, it was a thrilling race: Hinault did poach for time bonuses everywhere, and, although he had a good team, in the mountain he had to fight for himself. It was a boring race by 1970s standards.

      • “It was a boring race by 1970s standards.” And they were boring races by 1960s standards. Which were boring races by 1950s standards. And, of course, even those were frickin’ tedious by 1930s standards. And, really, you should have seen those races in the 1920s. …

        There were a lot of 1970s Grand Tours that were called ‘boring’ by contemporaries.

    • Cycling is one of those sports (see also Test cricket) which is best experienced with hindsight and some romantic exaggeration. When live coverage was sparse or non-existent fans had to imagine the scene, or rely on overblown newspaper reports. Watching all 21 stages live it’s hard to sift out the good bits from the longeurs.

      The true change is in the way we perceive and consume the sport.

      • Exactly, as you say, people always remember the past with rose-coloured glasses, even if they had to rely on black and white images of a newspaper to read about yesterday’s stage… compare this to today’s high-def full-day coverage of all the stages…

        Of course 7-hours of TV can’t all be exciting. But while we’re on that topic, who has time to watch the full stage? Is it actually possible to sit down for 7 hours and watch a full bike race beginning to end?

        Not going to lie, that sounds a little boring, and I’m an accountant! haha

      • There isn’t such a thing as an entertaining sport to watch IMO… it only becomes entertaining when we take sides and our side can win (or when the sport event is an excuse to have a holiday and get plastered).

      • Very true. I can go back to the Giro and find comments from readers saying it sucked big time. Now it’s the best grand tour of the season. etc etc.

        One of the quiet pleasures of cycling is this long term view, of not having to judge a race in the moment in the way you might taste a glass of wine but being able to look back and reflect, with hindsight, on what it all meant and the enjoyment it created.

      • I think there’s often a false equivalence made between exciting and enjoyable. Personally, I often enjoy the longeurs, and they make the more active phases of the race more meaningful by putting it in context. It seems a lot of people just don’t have the asset of investing in something for greater return.

  8. On transit distance, it surprises me that it apparently pays to have Giro stages in distant countries e.g. stages in Jerusalem & Ireland. Logistically it’s impressive they can do it, but cyclists must tolerate it rather than love it(?) On the other hand, Italy’s smaller/narrower so Giro Italian transits should design themselves.

  9. Incomprehensible that one person is being allowed to drag this site down into the mire with so many and such long comments that have nothing to say.
    The same single view over and over.
    And anyone who disagrees just hates Froome.
    People on this site are very keen on saying that they don’t want it to be like cyclingnews. RonDe’s comments are just as bad – they’re just at the opposite end of the spectrum.

    • The good news is that you know exactly what they are going to say after two weeks and can easily scroll past. Sure, you miss a little of other comments, but I’ve given up and specifically ignore those threads. Not worth my time.

      • I don’t mind RonDe at all. If anything a bit of enthusiasm is refreshing after the depressive analysis that often dominates- intelligent but hardly uplifting. If anything the real question is why other teams don’t simply choose a leader and back them all the way- are Sunweb the only team to have learnt the Sky lesson?

        • I’m late to all of this, the stage preview itself was late because of long travel delays and more. And the recent tone of people criticising fellow readers.

          First, the blog comments, they’re just that. Nobody has to convert them into stone tablets. Feel free to disagree and also to understand people have different viewpoints.

          I welcome different views, after all this blog just offers up personal views almost daily. But less interesting is when readers argue among each other. By all means debate but if it helps imagine you are in a cafe or bar with fellow readers…rather than cage fight 😉

      • 6 out of a peloton of 32, with a good chunk of riders not far behind who’d likely decided just to roll home as there was nothing to gain by exerting themselves. It’s hardly as though it was 6 Sky riders among the GC contenders as the sole survivors.

        PS – I’ve just been told “you’re posting comments too quickly – slow down” – is this a new thing, in response to certain, er, recent discussions? Two in about ten minutes didn’t seem that over eager…

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