A short stage with a summit finish of sorts, selective enough to eject the sprinters but ideal for Alejandro Valverde to go for the time bonus although the breakaway hunters will
Where’s Wallays? A breakaway of three with Jetse Bol, Jelle Wallays and Sven Erik Bystøm who were all evenly matched but it looked like a fruitless move. Kept on a tight rein, they never had much more than two minutes but all three are strong riders and even matched. Bol lost contact in the finish when cornering on a roundabout. The time gaps on TV were out by a few seconds, it looked like the bunch was closing in but they were a bit further away and the panic in the peloton was visible as team mates were flailing at the pedals in vain. Wallays timed his sprint and held off the pack. If you ever wonder why riders go up the road in no-hope breakaways it’s days like this.
The Route: 154km into Andorra. It’s a short stage and a direct approach, there are hardly any foothills to scale as they ride up the Segre valley.
The Finish: the Coll de la Rabassa has featured several times in recent editions of the Vuelta but not as a finish since 2008. It’s a ski station access road meaning it’s wide and if the profile does signal steep slopes at the start it’s taking the inside line on some bends through town and is otherwise more gentle. Still the first 7km – with the exception of the second kilometre – are hard going and selective, the bunch can be thinned down a lot here. Beyond this the slope eases and at times this is a big ring climb. The final kilometre sees the road kick up and it’s 6% to the line.
The Contenders: the default pick is Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) as this is a sprint at the top of a mountain and he will fancy his chances against Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) in order to get the time bonus although Yates has a good chance too. It’s not that they’re certain to win, more that they should if they’re in contention.
Otherwise it’s a good day for the breakaway because many of the big names and teams will be worried about tomorrow’s crucial stage. The likes of Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Gianluca Brambilla and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Pierre Rolland (EF-Drapac) come to mind, although they’ve all tried but not succeeded so far. Alex Geniez (Ag2r La Mondiale), Ben King (Dimension Data) and Michał Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) have proven more succesful could be in the mix. On paper the stage suits Omar Fraile too but he could be on duty for Astana and his leader Lopez. Several riders from BMC like Alessandro de Marchi look strong too.
|Alejandro Valverde, Simon Yates|
|de Marchi, Majka, Rolland, Mollema, Kwiakowski|
Weather: sunshine and a warm 28°C in the plains to start with, you can half the number for the mountainous part later.
Tune in: the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST and they’ll start climbing around 5.10pm.