Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2019 – Stage 1 Preview

By David Hunter

Orihuela – Orihuela 10.3km ITT

Welcome back to European bike racing.

You just can’t beat a Spanish ITT. This looks like a lovely day for the heavy TT riders, right up until the final kilometre. As the riders head back into Orihuela they are faced with a wall. I’m not sure where they found this little beauty, but I’m glad they did!

 The road begins to rise with around 700m to go, as soon as the riders cross the Río Segura. This section of the climb is on cobbles, but it’s those ones that are commonly used in town centres, not Roubaix cobbles! Once off the cobbles, the road flattens for a moment, before the riders begin the switchbacks to the finishing line. It’s a little tricky getting an exact measurement, but the final 400m rises at around 12%. How very Spanish!

Such a short climb won’t worry the heavy TT riders, they’ll expect to power up and not lose too much time to the puncheurs, but it certainly gives them something to think about.

Weather

Glorious sunshine, what a way to start the season. The wind is light and coming from the South-West, staying relatively consistent for all the riders.

Contenders

Tony Martin – it will be very interesting to see how he goes on his Bianchi bike. The former world champion would love to start off his time at Jumbo-Visma with a big win and this does give him a chance of doing so. With 9km of flat, big Tony should be able to put time into the climbers, but will he be able to hold on when he hits the wall? This is the big story of the day.

Jos Van Emden – see above!

David De La Cruz – won the ITT in Andalucía in 2018, can he produce something similar here? The Sky boys always deliver in TTs, it helps when you have the quality equipment. One of their riders will go very close to winning, I think it could be their Spaniard.

Alejandro Valverde – can he start with a bang? The climb is perfect for him, but how much time will he lose on the flat section?

Edvald Boasson Hagen – I’m excited to see what he can produce on a BMC bike. It’s been a while since he challenged in an ITT, but it’s been a while since he had a good bike. The word on the street is that this BMC bike is fast as hell, fingers crossed the rumours are true.

Luis Leon Sanchez – Astana don’t always go well in TTs, mainly due to their bike. It would take a superhuman effort from Sanchez to win this stage, but it could happen!

José Gonçalves – 4th in the opening TT of the 2018 Giro is certainly a result to remember. He has the power required to challenge for the podium, but he is inconsistent. A good result will set him up for a strong overall performance, but can he eventually take a big win?

Mads Würtz Schmidt – another Katusha hopeful. A few years ago he was the new star of Danish cycling, but it’s gone a little quiet for him. After a couple of seasons of riding as a domestique, he’s about to take on a bigger role for the team. Still just 24, he has time on his side, but I hope to see him challenging and getting some confidence for the year ahead.

Nelson Oliveira – with all eyes on Valverde, we can’t forget their Portuguese TT star. Oliveira enjoyed a fine 2018, with plenty of good results. Going against him is the fact he’s never won an ITT apart from his national championship.

Jan Tratnik – the Slovenian ITT champion is a solid contender for a good result. In 2018 he won the TT in Coppi e Bartali, which also has an uphill section near the end. This is his debut for Bahrain-Merida, he’ll be hoping for a big ride to impress his new DS. We’ll have to see how he gets on with his new Merida bike.

Prediction Time

This is tough to call as the final climb will have a big impact on the outcome. How much time will the pure TT riders gain on the flat? How much will they lose on the climb? I think the TT riders will just hang on and I’ll go with a debut win for Tony Martin.

*Overall preview

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David Hunter

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