Vuelta a España Stage 14 Preview

A hard day in the Vuelta, what it lacks in high altitude it makes up for with steep roads and a very tough finish.

Stage 13, lucky for some: a win for Óscar Rodríguez of the Euskadi-Murias team who surged past Rafał Majka and Dylan Teuns on the final climb. He would have been a long range pick at the start of the day and even come the start of the final climb surely few outside of his immediate family would have cited him as the winner. But he overhauled Rafał Majka and Dylan Teuns – a specialist climber and of the best riders on sharp uphill finishes in the World Tour – to take a surprise win. Majka and Teuns seemed to ignore him, perhaps not believing he could ride away but with the finish in sight Majka tried to accelerate but Rodriguez was well clear. Behind Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates opened up a gap on the rest and we can look forward to a proper duel between them this Sunday. Jesus Herrada lost time but keeps his red jersey for now while Emmanuel Buchmann, Ion Izaguirre and Fabio Aru all lost more time.

The Route: 171km and if the roadbook says 2,910m of vertical gain today it’s almost a rounding error for the 3,456m that awaits, a mere rounding error given recent differences. There’s an unmarked climb near the start to lift the race away from the valley but it’s a gentle climb and then across to the Puerto San Isidro, a gentle one too followed by a long descent and then into the climb to La Colladona, 5km at 8%. The climb of the Alto de la Mozqueta is hard, 6.5km at 8.7% and all on a twisting mountain road with a matching descent, then straight into La Falle de los Lobos, 5.3km at 6.4%. Then comes a descent into Nava and then they leave the town on a very small and narrow road. The bunch will be shrunk by now but it’s still a small road and climbs up past small farms before dropping down on the same narrow road to the final climb.

The Finish: 4km at 12.5% and it’s all pretty even. If that sounds steep, factor in the difficulty of the road surface, this is one of those concrete paved tracks and the final metres – unless a crew of workers has arrived in the last week – are gravel. This is a very hard finish and if it doesn’t have the wild 20% gradients of yesterday’s finish on La Camperona it’s still very difficult, comparable to the Eibar-Arrate climb of the Tour of the Basque Country.

The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance again and so we look for good climber who is no threat overall and who won’t be retained for team services today. It’s this last criterion that makes picking a name harder, recently more riders have stayed with their leaders, for example Michael Woods accompanying Rigoberto Uran and Omar Fraile helping Miguel Angel Lopez. Still maybe some are let off the leash, think Mark Padun of Bahrain-Merida, Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe) can find mountains more to his liking or maybe Tiesj Benoot goes for it. It’s a lottery to get in the break and then win from it.

Otherwise among the GC contenders both Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates look the most spritely for a steep finish but many will be thinking of tomorrow’s Covadonga summit finish where big gaps can be opened up.

Simon Yates, Nairo Quintana
Woods, Padun, Formolo, Benoot

Weather: sunshine and clouds, a top temperature of 24°C

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

28 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 14 Preview”

  1. Unfortunately I think we’re in for another “let’s wait until tomorrow” stage because the final climb is neither long enough nor steep enough to create big differences on GC.
    Looking back at yesterday (or, more precisely not looking back….) the TV coverage didn’t show Quintana and Yates escaping from their group. Did anyone see what happened? Did Quintana actually attack before the final week or did he follow Yates?

  2. Typo alert: Surely Formolo is with Bora-Hansgrohe?
    Curious to see if the break is larger than the peleton today. Extrapolated from the previous two days it will be. I hope Dylan van Baarle can continue. He said yesterday he was so sore from the stupid after finish crash of Thursday that he was considering not starting anymore.

  3. I think the GC riders will be aiming to put some distance into their rivals both today and tomorrow to set themselves up for the last week. Surely there has to be a selection stage.

    I’m finding this Vuelta a bit difficult to get into because there’s no narrative on the jerseys. Apart from Valverde dominating the points no one seems ready to stake a claim. Great for breakaways, but even then we are not seeing anyone exert a domination on these despite Bauke Mollema wearing his skin suit on stages he ‘fancies’.

    • Team Sky come in for huge criticism but at least they stamp their intentions on a race very clearly.
      Perhaps if Bernal had been fit / ready they could have done so again.

      You suspect that Simon Yates has been put off premature leaders jerseys for life, after his Giro experience.
      And Movistar are playing a very long game with their hand.
      We’ll see what unfolds tomorrow and in the last week.

      • Do Movistar, or maybe more particularly Quintana, play any other kind of game? He’s the cycling equivalent of a really stodgy opening batsman in cricket who gets to tea on the first day 35 not out.

    • It’s superbly balanced at the moment with none of the top riders really willing to go all-in and show themselves too early. Really a breathe of fresh air to see 6-8 guys at the top of GC with just a handful of seconds between them, instead of their being a dominant team or rider who is sweeping every GC day in their stride.

      • Two questions – does anyone know what kind of gear ratio Rodriguez was twiddling on this climb? He seemed to be every bit a “frullatore” without the choppy flailing, elbows out head bobbing of last year’s “winner”. And how do you have a “mechanical” with what seemed to be chain/cogs/chainrings on a climb like this? The only two things I can think of would be a) an overshift off the largest cog and into the spokes, which seems unlikely for a climber like this b) a chain drop off the chainrings to the inside, but that would mean the guy was just then finally putting it into the small ring, which seems even more unlikely.
        Of course we’ve all been told over and over the Big-S’ electronic shifting is foolproof – so what happened?

        • Those are good questions that many of us would like answers to. Rodríguez was surely using 11-32t a la Froome and Lopez’s problem was probably less mechanical more electronic. Not sure what groupset Astana use but the makers wouldn’t be happy with him saying it was their equipment that failed him.

  4. To re-hash what I asked two days ago, Enric Mas? No Mas? The bookies seem to have spotted him though, as he’s fourth in betting at $15 for today. Thought he looked good yesterday.
    No mention INRNG for second favourite Superman Lopez? Did well to minimise losses yesterday after his late mechanical.

  5. Kwiatkowski is just 5 minutes (4mins down that mattered), yet they let him get into the break. Plus two surprise incidents where a breakaway member got gifted the red jersey. This is surely a bit unusual. Whilst Kwiatkowski is not a renounced GC man, he could come back.

    • Convicted of his team not fulling in the paperwork, yes. If you seriously believe that’s as serious as Mr Bloodbag Valverde you have a seriously skewed ideology.

    • Amazing isn’t it? It’s almost like asthma is a pre-requisite to make it as a pro. Salbutamol, Terbutaline and the like seem almost as necessary as air in the tires or oil on the chain these days. If I was the king of pro cycling, the “I can’t breathe when I pedal my bicycle fast” would be the same as “My VO2 max is terrible” and would simply rule out much of a chance to be competitive in this type of competition.
      Instead, all over the world (as long as you have the money) it’s “No problem, we have a drug for that!”

  6. I hadn’t actually realised Euskadi were one of the Spanish wildcard teams

    Burgos have been very obvious, and Caja Rural, but not seen anything of them in the past two weeks.

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