Vuelta a España Stage 3 Preview

A likely sprint finish but still a stage packed with climbing where a breakaway will barge clear.

The Eternal First: he’s 38 and got his 120th win, this time Alejandro Valverde beat Michał Kwiatkowski. While the likes of Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez have retired, Valverde keeps on going. Kwiatkowski can console himself with the overall lead and we’ll see tomorrow how he can cope with more serious climbing. Having asked a few days ago if Richie Porte “can really be so unlucky for so long” the answer seems to be yes, he lost 13 minutes but before you label him a loser remember he’s a millionaire paid to ride a bike, so he’s doing ok. Porte’s losses were catastrophic but Vincenzo Nibali lost over four minutes, as did his team mate and notional co-leader Gorka Izaguirre. Ilnur Zakarin crashed in the stage and was distanced later on the final climb to lose a minute while Miguel Angel Lopez also lost a handful seconds, the stage was rather selective for the first of four Sundays.

The Route: 178km and 2,530 vertical metres. It’s 20km along the coast and then inland up the Puerto del Madroño, a 20km climb often at 4-5% but with its steeper moments and as a first category climb there’s points galore at the top.

The Finish: the last 4km are practically a straight line interrupted only by roundabouts of which the last comes with 650m to go but it’s taken on one side only so is more of a gentle chicane. It’s flat.

The Contenders: Elia Viviani is arguably the best sprinter of the season, the argument exists because he hasn’t come up against all the big names that often, largely because he rode the Giro and not the Tour de France meaning his programme is different to most of the other fastmen; for example he’s not raced against Dylan Groenewegen since March. Better still he’s got an experienced and efficient lead out train at Quick Step with Fabio Sabatini and Michael Mørkøv.

Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott) is quick but prefers a trickier finish, he’s not the purest sprinter. Nacer Bouhanni is a sprinter but can cope with a hill or two and is in need of a result, so his is Cofidis team who haven’t won a World Tour race since March 2017… when Bouhanni won a sprint in Catalunya.

Peter Sagan looks off the pace but could still try to stay in contention. Team Sunweb’s Max Walscheid is fast but can cope with the climbing along the way or will this blunt the legs? Just asking means he’s far from an obvious pick. Trek-Segafredo’s Giacomo Nizzolo isn’t a regular winner, ditto Lotto-Jumbo’s Danny van Poppel. Finally Groupama-FDJ’s Marc Sarreau has had five wins this but all in France so a long shot.

Elia Viviani
Matteo Trentin, Nacer Bouhanni
Nizzolo, van Poppel, Walscheid, Sarreau

Weather: warm and sunny, 31°C on the coast.

Tune in: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST.

38 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 3 Preview”

  1. Curious, but how does yesterday answer the ‘unlucky’ question about Porte? Not being in good enough form is not a question of luck, surely.

    • Contacting gastroenteritis in the days before the race is the story. On top of having to recover from broken bones at the tour, I guess. Porte is a great rider, with a proper palmares, but something always happens, doesn’t it?!

      Yesterdays stage was selective, for sure, but it’s classic Vuelta in many ways – riders with all manner of form, fitness, and motivation. The playing field isn’t level, which is always one of the entertaining things about the race.

    • I guess you need to have a fantastic constitution / Health in the first place then be an excellent bike rider / bike handler then be lucky……..

      Porte seems to lack this

  2. Must say, I’m bemused by the huge time gaps yesterday given that the climb wasn’t difficult. Porte’s clearly ill still but so many big names lost varying amounts of time – but all significant – and I can’t work out why, although the TV commentary kept mentioning the heat and some may be treating the Vuelta as world championships training. Maybe they’ve all been on a little holiday with Carlos Betancur and eaten the same meals! INRNG or anyone else got any ideas?

    • In the case of A Yates: heat, illness, saving energy to better support his brother later in the race, or simply creating potential for breakaway efforts? Strange.

      • I don’t find it too strange. Only those chasing the stage or gc need be near the front. For the rest, it makes no difference if one minute back or ten. Indeed it helps take them out of contention and frees them to chase stages later.

  3. It looks to me like Porte and Nibali will use the Vuelta to build form ahead of the Worlds, while trying to pick up a stage win later in the race.

      • I agree it’s highly unlikely but given his sickness at the Vuelta what else can he aim for this season? He would obviously have had a better chance at Vuelta GC if it wasn’t for illness but the Worlds is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the likes of Porte or Froome, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give it everything, even if it is a long shot.

        It’s apparently harder than the Rio Olympics course and we saw Rafal Majka come very close to winning that – a rider with no one real day heritage. You’d expect the 2018 Worlds winner to come from one of the LBL type riders but if I was a GC man I’d still think it was a pretty unique opportunity (if the course is as tough as has been intimated).

  4. Chapeau once again for stage 2 rings!
    …but I do think Kruiswijk is on a mission and had a good look coming up to the finish. Perhaps he’s trying to continue the attack-at-all-costs approach of that day over the Aubisque

    • I must say that the invention, by some rhetoricians, of Kruijswijk as a reincarnation of Alberto Contador is quite amusing. SK’s history to date is of a rider who is not quite good enough.

      • If you mean physically incapable of winning a grand tour, you’re probably wrong as he had the Giro sewn up before crashing a few years back. If you mean staying upright, you may have a point.

  5. Little off topic but a word of gratitude for or host and his efforts to keep us all informed. Sometimes it is too easy to forget the time/effort demands required for such perfect service. Thank you.

  6. If Porte is ill why is he bothering? I wouldn’t have thought racing in those temperatures with a tummy bug would do him any good for the worlds? Why not pull out, rest up and then train properly or even enter a different race?

    • Because in order to do the training at race pace he wants to do he has to suffer like a dog until he gets over his illness. He was clearly never going to win and so all that left is to put the miles in the legs in a competitive situation.

      • I wouldn’t have thought riding with a stomach bug (suggesting dehydration) and riding for 4-5 hours in 40 degree heat would generate great form. I’d say it would lead the you getting steadily worse and then pulling out, but maybe not.

        • Richard S – it generates a lot more form than sitting home on the couch to get better, or than going for solo training rides.

          The plan for Porte likely is to survive the next few days until gets better, then once recovered use the subsequent stages to get racing kilometres for Worlds. Vuelta is possibly the best test of climbing form ahead of a very hilly worlds course. So if Porte can recover and then race into form he’ll be laughing. Clearly he doesn’t care about GC at this point, but he has a serious chance to place at Worlds (or win even).

          • All this (racing is better than training -wait, but if this really would be „the thing“, I wonder why certain riders only race 3 or 4 races a year? Must be the loneliness they crave) would have made sense, had porte not caught an illness. But with that the situation changed and like Richard S. says, it will probably do him more harm than good. Especially as you already are dehydrated with stomach problems. From there it is really easy to push your body too much and over over the edge. Especially in heat.

            But porte is not one of the most decisive people on this planet and he leaves this team, so I think this might combine to them/him not actively deciding to leave this vuelta, but passively pulling through with the plan.

            Of course all this depends on the question, if he really has a stomach bug or not and how bad it is, because with porte you never know. He had broken bones, then no broken bones, then broken bones again – all from the same crash. He praised an opponent publically for giving him a wheel to then find out, that this wasn‘t so smart as it of course is not allowed. This after showing his sky camper to the public in an interview, that is in my top 5 of the worst sport interviews and telling us, that this, his own little kingdom, will be what helps him to win the maillot jaune – in the giro.

            Sorry, don’t want to be mean, just couldn’t help it, it is just too funny (for us, who are not richard porte).

  7. Does anybody else think that Sagan might be bluffing a bit ? I know he is not in great shape but a stage like yesterday would have shown the world that he is ready for the worlds which is actually not a great thing for him. He goes around Spain not looking great and then he just might fly under the radar for the worlds. Come the last lap he is still there and in with a chance.
    It might just be bad form after his crash at the tour.

    • Are you one of these strange people who thinks that Sagan will win in Innsbruck when he plainly won’t? Yesterday I even witnessed a chat in which people seriously argued that Sagan would win grand tours if only he lost 5 kilos.

      I believe the kids write smh at this point.

      • Well GVA won in Rio… Whilst I don’t believe Sagan will win, I can see him giving it a go but for that he will need to be discrete so nobody thinks about him.

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  9. Thanks for previews of a third GT running? What happened to the Vuelta’s little bonus in the form of daily Diaz? (and sorry for asking if I missed it earlier – was out riding myself a lot this w/e).

  10. Look at Viviani’s leadout man in the last 5k. He’s not on the front at all, he just cruises through the madness and delivers his guy on spot where you win the race.

    • That Michael Mørkøv. Hes been outstanding in his lead outs this year! Ever since he joined QS, he has just stepped right in to the level of the rest of the team! Its a shame the lead out men rarely get credit they deserve…

      • At his peak, during post race interviews Cav went to great lengths to thank his teammates when he won and to apologise to them when he felt he let them down.

      • Well, I don’t think that Mørkøv was a level down in the same role at Katusha, either. It’s more that Kristoff , as good as he is, lacks something that for example Viviani has and that has an effect on both how Mørkøv performs and what results his work gives.
        At Saxo Bank/Saxo Tinkoff his role had been quite different, I remember him as a breakaway rider in Vuelta in 2012! And of course as the rider who won the Vuelta stage in 2013 when Tony Martin had made his move after 2 km of the 175 km stage and had a lead of six seconds at the red kite and finished 7th.
        It was not until he joined Katusha at the express request of Alexander Kristoff that he became a lead-out man de luxe.
        PS If you read for instance you would find out that Mørkøv does get credit when credit is due:-) But it is probably true that he would get more credit in English language media if he had another nationality, rode in another team and for another sprinter:-)

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