By David Hunter
Aranda de Duero – Guadalajara 219.6km
The fourth chance for the quick men.
I bet you the whole peloton would love to meet the person who designed a 220km stage at this point in the Vuelta. They are definitely on Santa’s naughty list. The sprinters might be a little concerned about my next section.
Lots and lots of wind. The peloton head south-east for the opening 120km of the stage, and the wind is coming from the north-east, but closer to the north. As we are cutting through the Spanish countryside, we have lots of exposed roads. This is hell for sprinters and GC teams alike. Having long sections of exposed roads, at this point in a grand tour, will be a massive test for all the riders in the bunch.
The peloton make a turn at 120km mark and start heading towards the finishing town. At 150km we have a 20km of cross/tailwind, before a tailwind for the majority of the final 50km. In any normal race the teams wouldn’t attempt the split the race early, but this isn’t a normal day. Strap yourself in for a crazy day of racing.
The roads aren’t particularly difficult in the final 5km, but take a look at the kick up for the last 3km.
3km at 3.1% will certainly test the legs of the quick men, but it also opens the doors to the late attackers. This will be a tough finish to control.
The potential crosswinds are a disaster for the breakaway riders. If the wind does blow, there is no way a break survives.
Sam Bennett – the Bora man copes well in windy conditions, remember he was born in Flanders and raised in Ireland! The problem is that we’re two weeks into a very demanding Vuelta, just how much energy does he have left? If the wind doesn’t cause any problems, he will like the look of the final 3km. Bennett has shown that he can handle himself in testy conditions. One issue is that the team will have to ride for Majka in the wind, which could deny him the chance of chasing a third stage win. Will he be in the front group and able to sprint?
Alejandro Valverde – Movistar will sense a massive opportunity to test Roglič. The Spaniards are normally strong in windy conditions, particularly Erviti. They will look at the skinny climbers on the Jumbo-Visma squad and sense an opportunity to put the red jersey under severe pressure. They know they can’t beat him in the mountains, but the weather Gods have offered them another way of testing him. If Movistar can make the front group very small, Valverde will have a chance of winning the sprint, especially with the grippy final 3km.
Edward Theuns – a master in windy conditions. The Belgian got through Monday’s stage, with a few stops along the route to the toilet! The rest day was a welcome break and he’ll be looking forward to getting involved in echelon action. Trek don’t have a GC rider to protect, which means the likes of Theuns and Degenkolb are free to race for themselves and they’ll look to create splits. The tough finish is also good news for the Looney Theuns.
Jon Aberasturi – the crash denied him the chance of challenging on Saturday, but he’ll like the look of this finish. If the wind blows, he won’t be at the front of the race, which would be a real shame.
QuickStep – Their approach to this finish will be fascinating. They have a team built for echelons, with the likes of Declercq, Gilbert, Štybar, Cavagna, Jakobsen and Richeze. The problem could be the presence of James Knox, who’s now 11th on GC. The little climber will need protecting, but will they still try and work their magic in the wind? One potential solution will be to simply place him in the pocket of big Tim, I heard he fits like a glove! If we get a big sprint, the finish isn’t easy for Jakobsen, particularly at this stage of his first grand tour. Their best chance would be to try and drop Bennett, but that could also put Knox into difficulty.
Making a prediction based on a weather forecast is dangerous, but what the hell! The wind to blow, a combination of QuickStep, Movistar and Trek to have their fun and we’ll get a very selective day. Will Roglič get dropped? If I was Tony Martin I’d make sure I had a big breakfast. When the dust settles, Philippe Gilbert will take the win.
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