Vuelta a España Stage 9 Preview

The first big summit finish of the Vuelta to the ski station of La Covatilla. It’s live on TV from start to finish.

More siesta than fiesta: even cycling aficionados would have been drowsy until the final five kilometres. The peloton corralled the day’s break of three and the promised bunch sprint saw Alejandro Valverde take his second stage win, ahead of Peter Sagan who is improving but not at peak power yet. It made for a jumbled top-10 with Valverde, Sagan, van Poppel, Simon Yates all in the mix. For Valverde yet another win but crucially another 10 second time bonus.

The Route: 200km and the Puerto del Pico is the launch pad for the day’s breakaway, 15km at 5.5% and the roadbook says the final kilometre is 10-15% steep but the actual pass is more gradual – unless they take the old stone road but that seems out of the question. For some like mountains jersey wearer Luis Angel Mate this is a virtual finish line, a chance to bank points for the day.

With less than 20km to go there’s a cobbled section, or rather rough stones, as they pass through Candelario with 18km to go and it’s a narrow road through the pueblo, little more than a car’s width.

La Covatilla

The Finish: 9.8km at 7.1% and as you can see it’s got a gentle start, then a steep section for six kilometres before easing before the final kilometre, a straight road with a 1-2% gradient. All told it’s a quick climb, done in 25 minutes and this is a ski station access road, it’s wide and well-surfaced. In short it’s a climb for powerful riders rather than mountain goats.

The Contenders: a win from the breakaway or the main GC contenders? The breakaways have had some success in the opening week and the opening 100km suit an early move and to suit them more no one team wants to grab control of the race. Sky have looked ragged so far and Groupama-FDJ may have the race lead but it’s not certain they’ll fight hard to keep it, if they want to support Molard’s bid to stay in red and Pinot’s ambitions they need spare riders for the latter part of the stage too. For the breakaway riders think Pierre Rolland (EF-Drapac), Alessandro de Marchi (BMC Racing) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). All three have a low win rate, still de Marchi did a great opening TT and Mollema likes this kind of climb. Others to watch are Spanish veterans Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Igor Anton (Dimension Data).

Alejandro Valverde has had problems at altitude and if today’s finish is high for the Vuelta it’s still just under 2,000m. The climb isn’t too long and the flat run to the line suits his sprint too.

We’ll see what Michał Kwiatkowski can do, he’s climbed well and indeed first made a name for himself on the climb to Prato di Tivo in the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico where he finished with Froome, Nibali, Contador et al. Kwiakowski’s problem will be repeating and responding to attacks in the coming days and he’s lacking support, if others do attack he doesn’t have a train to pull things back.

Simon Yates could try to go clear on the final steep parts and take more time with a solo flourish, this is his modus operandi now. Nairo Quintana can do the same but the Colombian often only seems to have one gear, sometimes it’s enough as we saw in the Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France this summer but often he’s deterred by sharp changes in pace.

Miguel Angel Lopez took two summit finish stage wins last year and here’s terrain to suit him again. He was dropped in last Sunday’s finish but today’s longer climb ought to suit him but still that hiccup doesn’t make him a reassuring pick.

What can Emmanuel Buchmann do? The Bora-Hansgrohe rider has been looking sharp so far and we’ll see what role Rafał Majka plays, the Pole has been on team duties so far.

We’ll see if Tony Gallopin can stay in contention for the sprint, he’s now talking about tilt at the overall so this is a first test. Wilco Kelderman and Thibaut Pinot can make up for lost time but they’re both still too close to their rivals on GC to get any space, the last thing the others want to do is let them back in the contest.

Finally Dan Martin has won here before but seems tired after the Tour while team mate Fabio Aru faces a big test today, the stage win looks a tall order but staying in contention will do his confidence plenty of good.

Alejandro Valverde, Simon Yates
M-A Lopez
Kwiatkowski, Buchmann, Mollema, de Marchi

Weather: warm and sunny, a few clouds and a top temperature of 32°C.

Tune in: live on TV from the start at midday CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.40pm CEST. Be sure to be watching for the final half hour to see the approach and the final ascent.

67 thoughts on “Vuelta a España Stage 9 Preview”

  1. My favourite riding area. Too bad they climb wrong side of the Peña Negra and that they do that silly detour through the north to pass through Guijuelo, instead of taking the southern route through the Puerto de Tremedal or even further east across the Puerto de Honduras and La Garganta to reach Candelario and La Covatilla. A good, interesting route anyway.

        • Springtime…geez, whooda thunk it? Spring used to be when they held the Vuelta until some morons decided it would be better held under these desert-like conditions at the end of summer. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

          • Yeah, it does seem like the giro and vuelta would be better swapped in the calendar. Less snow in the Italian mountains and less heat suffocating the action in Spain. I’m sure there are other factors in play though.

          • No, no, no Patrick! They tried to get RCS to move the Giro to this stupid period on the calendar and they refused, while for some unknown reason the Vuelta folks caved in. The idea was such a success that ASO eventually had to step in to rescue the thing.
            My question (same s–t, different day) was what was wrong with the way it was before with La Vuelta the first of the GT’s each year?

          • Basically, when the the Vuelta was the first GT of the year, outside of Spain, absolutely nobody cared. You’ve been around this long enough to remember that. We now talk/write of a few memorable stages, but overall it was a race below the stature of the short warmups for the Giro. In fact, for most of its history, was was not even a 3 week Tour. As a long time cycling fan, who grew up riding/racing in Italy, I disliked the change. Honestly, now I like the new position. It gives the fans a more balanced season. It gives GT riders who have underperformed a makeup test date. Now, the idea of the Giro in August is ridiculous. For all that cycling gets wrong, this was a good move.

          • I’m of a similar curmudgeonly age as Larry T, but as I recall, when the Vuelta moved , part of the rational was that the uci moved the worlds from august to late September or early October so the season didn’t effectively end after the tdf, with the worlds as a consolation prize. As Joe saroni said, the Vuelta has always been a distant 3rd in the Grand tour hierarchy. Now it’s a last chance saloon for out of contract riders and a training race for the worlds, instead of just a showcase for riders from the Iberian peninsula.

          • I guess the difference is that I don’t see any of what you wrote as real improvement, just change. Don’t forget the “success” of La Vuelta in this new slot led to …selling out to ASO. Anyone want to lay odds on whether it’s a money-loser for ASO or not?
            Further, I would be surprised to hear any of the winners of the Vuelta when it was the first GT of the year instead of the last downgrade the challenge and the value of their victories in comparison.
            Again, what was so wrong about the World’s coming soon after LeTour and then Paris-Tours and then the race of the falling leaves when they were actually falling instead of laying frozen on the ground?
            I was reminded of this as I leafed through the pages of my old “Fabulous World of Cycling” books before they were put up for sale on ebay.
            I wonder if many years from now the history books will show the decline and fall of pro cycling began in 1991 when “Mr. Mars” came to power?

          • In this instance, as Joe Saroni mentions, “It gives GT riders who have underperformed a makeup test date.”

            Uran who pulled out of the TdF, has an opportunity to race… Yates a chance to show He can and will learn from mistakes…

            I don’t have enough experience feeling the difference and change the Vuelta made from 1st to last but I’m happy there is more after the Grand Debacle. The Giro / Vuelta double is respectable with less circus, more business, heart and indicative of real bike racing. The future may hold riders wishing to avoid the Tour depending on the direction which things are headed. We’ll see.

            As always thanks to the kind INRNG’ers for giving Me room for My lesser knowledge input. Your comments help Me grow.

          • Maybe you never noticed Larry but in the old spot the Vuelta was a runt of a grand tour that was overlooked by most. This likely explains why Rominger, Zulle and Heras won it multiple times, because it had little respect. In its new spot it has been able to bloom into a better, and less wholly Spanish, race.

          • @kim jong clown

            Yeah, Vuelta is only great an not overlooked since Froome and Grandpa Horner won it.
            Who were Merkcxx, Gimondi, Ocana, Anquetil, Poulidor, Hinault or Zoetemelk. All overlooked riders, and these losers they never beat Froome in a direct duell. #Sad

  2. The whole race so far seems to be in siesta mode though perhaps it just seems like that as I have been on holiday, only watching a couple of the finishes. There does seem a sense of anti climax, no Chris Froome or Tom Dumoulin, those that are here seem a bit short of top form. Maybe the race will come alive today. I fancy Simon Yates to use the lessons learned in May to push on for the win, maybe not here today (thought that is a real possibility) but for the overall.

    • There have been some good stages, Friday’s was much better than Saturday’s. I can see why they don’t want two hard stages in a row as it’s only the first weekend but also TV audiences soar on weekends so they need something good for both days if possible.

      • I’ve quite enjoyed the Vuelta so far, it has been low key compared to the Giro and Tour, and it’s obviously lacking the biggest names in peak form, but for the more obsessive fans – like readers of this blog – surely that adds something different? Yesterday’s stage was a bit of a non-event though, especially for a weekend stage. But if there’s a great GC battle in the final week all of the above will be forgotten anyway.

  3. Valverde seems super strong this week. He came from pretty far back and outclassed Sagan in the sprint. If he can hang with the climbers today it will be an easy finish for him to win. I expect Yates to power away on the last steep slopes though.

    • Valverde deserved the win yesterday, for sure. It wasn’t really mentioned by the commentators but I thought Sagan changed his line significantly and Valverde did well not to touch his brakes as he would’ve lost if he had.

      • When I first saw the sprint, from the head-on shot, it looked like Sagan obstructed Valverde. From the aerial shot, one can see that there was plenty of space.

        I have a feeling that had Sagan made up a 1 minute gap in less than 4 minutes following his puncture, he would have had the legs to win.

        Great finish by Valverde though! Not so sure he can repeat it today, but but good training for Innsbruck.

        Thanks as ever for the write up Inrng.

  4. The profile plays out like two stages. 1st half for the KoM battle. Followed by 50 km of regrouping before final assault. Anyone with a serious shot at catching Mate need to go the distance for the Especial KoM points.

    This is not the most selective of stages for the GC battle, but the attrition process begins.

  5. So far, this race has been been putting me to sleep. There is no narrative to it and, dare I say it, the riders here are nothing special and potential stories we might have had (Porte, Nibali) have been dashed by injury and illness.

    Its become so bad I’m reduced to hoping Simon Yates can destroy the field on La Covatilla and I can pretend its May again. I was never a “the Giro is the best grand tour” person until now but now I think I am.

    That said, I’ll probably watch the Tour of Britain instead. Its got Roglic, Thomas and Froome in it, three of the top five stage racers of the year, AND Tejay van Garderen. What more could a cycling fan ask?

    • From the comments in the press Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are there to support Wout Poels and wave to the crowds rather than actually race to win anything.

    • I really don‘t understand how inrng let you voice your vitriol and disrespect unchallenged again and again as you are so obviously trolling (this is the very first time in my life I say that to a person as I am no fan of calling everyone, who disagrees with you a troll, but in your case there is no other word. One thing though: Unlike someone else, who wrote these days, they think you are a troll sitting in the basement of your parents house, I don‘t think you still live with your parents). I even saw people on twitter complain about your posts here (a thing I only witnessed with one other commenter 2 years ago). It is a long time since this blog was about cycling.

      I often wrote inrng, asking them to close down this comment section, as I think it is responsible, like many other sides on the net, for the decline of civility, respect, knowledge and most of all cycling. I also extremely dislike the constant, casual racism in the comments here. Like most things, that were special or good for some time, this blog and the comment section started out with people, who genuinly were respectful and interested in something, but then attracted those, who are not. And after some time those, who were here because of cycling, left frustrated. We all saw this happen many times in our life with music, a pub or other things, when they became better known. And after those, that really care have left, the decline begins. And what was once a constructive force becomes a destructive force.

      Plus I think -no matter how inrng try to oppose it -this site is dumbing cycling down with catering to this idea of stars. Because the people here ignore all the things inrng write and just go on about the same 2 or 3 riders. If you go back through the comments in the last 6 months, you find, that the majority of the comments are exactly the same day in, day out and that it doesn‘t matter what inrng write, people only go on about themselves and 2 or 3 riders (please do go back and check it).

      • Mr Ring, please let comments be limited to registered users only. I will happily sign up. The anonymice are clogging up this previously wonderful discussion blog.

      • Another +1. I have no idea who this particular anonymous is but their writing style is immediately recognisable and it has been nothing but a negative addition to the comments. The person seems to particularly get off on attacking Ronde which, in some quarters, is no doubt popular but, on the other hand, actually responding to the points rather than simply addressing the identity would be much more positive.

        • Look, I would engage in a debate with anyone, who actually has a real opinion, an opinion found on knowledge, on engaging with a subject. Writing: „the riders here are nothing special“ is showing such a disgusting disrespect towards people/riders (indeed, it shows a lack of respect for human beings in general), that I see no basis of any communication. But I surely don‘t let him insult people without calling him out.

          The same goes for my comments: I stopped commenting here when suddenly so many english people came here a couple of years ago (when inrngs twitter went up a few ten thousand) and after I got tired of always engaging those semi-racist comments, that only centered around 2 or 3 riders and ignored the rest at best, at worst insulted them. And I too was simply tired of seeing respectful, interesting, open minded debate vanish from this blog. It got boring. But now it got so much worse here, that at one point I said: Ok, enough of being silent, now I will say something. That this feels „negative“ for those, who now can‘t zone homely into their 3 talking points about g, cf, itv (whatever these things mean), nationalism and dislike of Europe is no wonder.

          Coinhabiting a space like this comment section only works with respect, with an open mind and with inviting anyone. And with curiosity to what others have to say or think. All this has vanished here. Although this is an open comment section, it has become a closed space. That is not alright with me and I will say that.

        • Agreed. It is funny that the poster thinks that by posted as”Anonymous” that they can hide their identity. I may not always agree with other posters, but to resort to anonymous ad hominem attacks is childish.

    • That’s what you should do. Take jc and others with you, get a room, watch ToB and make an own blog about.
      In the meantime the rest of us can watch and enjoy La Vuelta without fearing the Sky fanclub will hold it’s daily boring meeting under every stage preview.

      • Ronde has been commenting here for a few years. He is not everyone’s cup of tea but at least he tags up who he is so he can be ignored. You, on the other hand, don’t even have the manners to give yourself a name as well as being rude and abusive to other people posting. Look in the mirror, maybe?

  6. I’ve been really enjoying the Vuelta this year on leave for the entire race I’ve had, beer wine missed bits through sleep then watched highlights, it feels like basically anything can happen at pretty much any point!

  7. What a stage. When’s the last time a rider from the US won two stages in a GT? There are so many different and interesting aspects to this Vuelta, count me as another who is really enjoying it.

    • Le Français était bien la “lingua franca” du cyclisme il n’y a pas si longtemps. (D’ailleurs, qualifier le Français de langue franque semble assez tautologique).

    • The only thing stopping the French racists posting is their inability to speak a proper language like English. Its bad enough an anonymous German is ruining the comments in his pigeon English with his personal rants.

      Chacun voit midi à sa porte.

  8. Madrid is six hrs behind where I live and I can only check back results early next morning before I leave home for work. Then Eurosport services is not available in any pay TV channels here. I myself a non-English speaker. Vuelta definitely not covered on a daily basis under sports section. Meaning compared to football/soccer, NBA… cycling sport probably having the least public interests. Yet I LOVE cycling.

    ‘I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ I keep reminding myself on this statement. Voltaire or not debatable.

    Getting very nervous each time I write for fear of being too stupid and obvious to spell out! So please spare me as I am learning as fast as I possibly can.

    Find Vuelta so far very intriguing, a mimic of Yates’ earlier WT results. Ben King having won 2 stages plus the unbelievable American kid Craddock … seeing the General classification results daily genuinely an experience I enjoy so much. Now you see Factor can win, so did BMC and Cannondale… what more next? With King’s winnings I feel obliged to study R5 more than ever. I know I know …. ‘ it’s not about the bike’ and I heard it loud and clear.:)

  9. Also, thoughts on the passing of Ritchie Porte’s career. Inrng has not included him in any of his predictions, not even stage wins. Is this the end? With BMC folding and a spectacularly unsuccessful and very unlucky career as a GC rider where to next. I doubt he will be able to land the generous salary he got at BMC, so will he land a new contract?

      • And he survived in this race beyond Stage 9!!! Now will he get sick on the rest day and bail out tomorrow? I feel sorry for the guy in some ways, while he’s had no trouble cashing the big checks handed to him while rarely (if ever) meeting expectations, how much of the expectation is thrust upon him vs him grabbing it by the neck? Mentally the guy seems a lot like TVG – maxed out as a gregario di lusso, just doesn’t have what it takes to command a team during an entire GT. His chances to prove me wrong are running out, but perhaps with (yet another) change of atmosphere he can finally get up there and really make a run at a GT win?

        • It is interesting that his best GT as leader was TDF 2016 when he was co-leader with TJV ! So there does seem to be a potential mental block there. This vuelta he just has bad luck and I do feel sorry for him but this is sport and sometimes you create your own luck. Geraint Thomas was considered unlucky but he has just won the TDF, so it goes to show that it is possible to overcome bad luck.

        • Just remember he’s a millionaire racing his bike. Doesn’t seem that unlucky to me. Sure, he will not be on the lists of greats but we will have plenty to remember his name for.

      • Now that you mention it I think I did read that. Trek’s current stock-in-trade seems to be picking up under performing riders and help them ‘under-perform’.

        Bauke Mollema is probably a great example. You would think having shelves Cancellara and Contador they’d be picking up a real tour contender/classics specialist. Surely a fantastic rider winning on your bikes is a winner?!

        Ritchie may be a nice guy, but his run of luck is making him look like a hapless boob. It’s not even luck. His defeat a year ago in the Dauphine was shockingly naive. Pinned to Froome’s wheel he forgot that he wasn’t riding for the victory and let Fuglsang gain too much time. There was also that other time he was in the Giro and got penalised for taking the wrong bike or wheel which cost him.

        I sort of wish he’d just go stage hunting and then he wouldn’t have to worry about much and he’d stay out of trouble.

    • You can be unlucky once or twice, not all the time. That implies lack of skills or excessive greediness which results in too much risk taking. Reminds me a bit of Jani Brajkovic. Enormous talent but struggled to ever satisfy the expectations. He was rubbing the tarmac more than actually riding his bike. Of course if you ask him it was everything due to lack of luck or someone else’s fault.

      • I don’t think he (Brajkovic) ever claimed that it was always bad luck or the fault of others. He has admitted to problems of riding in closely grouped pelotons with consequential wasted energy and stress. It astonishes me that more are not intimidated by descents at >80km/h, blind bends, immovable objects, poor road surfaces…

        • Fair enough, I was maybe too strict to him (Brajkovic) but then the answer is even easier. He was simply not suitable for it. That’s part of the sport, too. He lacked one important quality you need to have to be able to win the race.

          Porte is not a sole example with 2 lost TdFs in a row due to “lack of luck”, though. You remember still how Valverde’s career started? Two years in a row DNF at TdF due to crashing out. Look at him now, the only who we see less on the tarmac is Sagan. The problem Porte has is, that he became a champion material too late in his career (or let’s rather say life). He is 33 now. Still time but running out.

          Also, focusing on one race in the calendar without a proper team support to isolate you from trouble is always risky. Poor risk spreading. It still fascinates me how Armstrong was able to get through 7 TdFs without a single serious issue. What was the chance for him that everything would go fine in all 7 years? Probably rather low but the team isolating him and himself very often riding in front as the strongest rider managed to help limiting that risk.

          I guess he needs to reconsider his business model. Trying to win TdF will always be the toughest. Also because it is the most hectic race as well. Maybe spreading his risk to 2 GTs a year is not necessarily such a bad idea.

          • I didn’t follow the sport all that closely at the time but to my knowledge Armstrong’s tour wins were not all plain sailing. he just tended to have a huge margin that (a) the odd adverse event was not too costly and (b) that his rivals were so cooked that they couldn’t gain much when things did go wrong.

            when we say porte has had the lion’s share of bad luck, is that really true more than other riders? do we attach more to his moments of luck because that’s the narrative that has sprung up? or perhaps he is no more unlucky than a typical rider, he’s just better known than most.

      • “Luck” is a lay description of probabilities. With most events in life, having a certain random outcome in a prior event has no bearing on future events. It’s unlikely that you’ll flip a coin and get tails 10 times in a row. In fact, it’s very unlikely — 1 in 1024 attempts, on average — but do it in a room with a thousand people flipping coins and it will happen plenty of times). That’s a long winded way of saying that people can and do have long runs of bad luck.

        Certainly some ways of riding can increase one’s chance of crashes and flats, but to be a serious competitor in grand tours, one has to be pushing almost everything to the limit, thereby increasing the probabilities of untoward events.

  10. You can be unlucky once or twice, not all the time. That implies lack of skills or excessive greediness which results in too much risk taking. Reminds me a bit of Jani Brajkovic. Enormous talent but struggled to ever satisfy the expectations. He was rubbing the tarmac more than actually riding his bike. Of course if you ask him it was everything due to lack of luck or someone else’s fault.

Comments are closed.