2022 Vuelta a España – Stage 19 Preview
Stage 18 was an all-out GC day, with a lot of action throughout the final two hours of racing as João Almeida set off the front to put the GC riders under pressure, and the main attacks coming from the penultimate climb with López on the offensive aswell. In the final climb Evenepoel and Mas entered a battle alongside many others with constant attacks, but in the end the Belgian managed to control all moves and beat Mas in the final sprint – after just managing to catch Robert Gesink who rode into third spot.
Positive: Evenepoel ticking off another crucial day, and managing to even extend his lead in the GC.
Negative: Jay Vine abandoned due to a heavy crash. Carlos Rodriguez lost a minute to his rivals, however taking into consideration the state in which he was after crashing, it can be considered an incredible performance.
With 139 kilometers on the menu, stage 19 will be the shortest road stage of the Vuelta a Espana until now, a tricky day which can be to the liking of many riders and promises exciting racing. The day will revolve around a loop close to the city of Talavera de la Reina which will host the finale of the stage.
After 12 kilometers of racing the riders will face the ascent to Puerto del Piélago. A 19-kilometer climb in total, however split into three different sections, each with an average of around 6%. There will be two small descent sections in the ascent, but the last 9.8 kilometers average 5.9% and will be the place to make the decisive splits. The climb will first summit with 108 kilometers to go, and then with 42 in it’s final passage. It allows for big gaps, aswell as tactical play between the GC riders.
The descent that follows features some little hilltops, however is mostly a fast and non-technical descent, which will take the riders down to the finish quickly. The last 15 kilometers of the stage will be flat, giving the opportunity for the race to stabilize before reaching the finale.
There will be a small western breeze, but this shouldn’t affect the race too much, it will be a crosswind in the flat sections, and the ascent should feature crosswinds too if the wind is felt – although the mountain will be covering it. The temperatures will soar into the 30 degrees again however, perhaps the most important detail.
Breakaway chances: 90%
The only question that lies is if the GC battle will implode, which it may. If it does it will hamper the breakaways chances of taking the win, but nevertheless this is one perfectly designed for a victory to the escapees.
The main question may perhaps be, will the GC fight erupt? Ordinarily, this is not a day where you can make the difference, specially as it comes before the final mountain. But this Vuelta is delivering a lot of spectacle exactly because the leaders lack the teams to easily control the race, and the leaders aren’t timing their every move with cold calculation. Whilst the climb is not overly hard, 9Km at 6% – after some more kilometers climbing – is enough to make a difference, but it most importantly is not hard enough to prevent some more rouleurs and puncheurs from being in the mix aswell. This, the short distance of the stage, and the similar level between all riders in the Top10 can make it a thrilling stage, as this is the kind of day where a lucky move can earn minutes.
Remco Evenepoel and Enric Mas have been very equal so far, and I think the Belgian must only cover Mas. Mas on the other hand doesn’t have favourable terrain, but he may play the fatigue card and try to attack once again to perhaps force a bonk. As we’ve seen today UAE is keen on using their 2 cards and it is expected that they will try something again in this terrain, having Soler as a strong card to help – if the tactics play out like that – and João Almeida and Juan Ayuso both in great form.
Ayuso has the podium currently, and with Carlos Rodríguez shedding more time today, it feels more secure. Miguel Angel Lopez is the rider who is the most threatening, but he is no longer in a position to attack, and in the final week has had to race more defensively. Ben O’Connor, Thymen Arensman and Rigoberto Uran have all shown tremendous form over this week and absolutely have the legs to go on the attack. The same can be said of Jai Hindley, who sits 10th but may have more freedom as he sits some minutes behind the previous trio, but is also carrying great form into the final week. Alliances can be created and exciting racing can take place, but it will take someone to kick off the fight.
Nevertheless I believe the win should be for the breakaway. Even if a GC fight breaks out, the terrain is favourable to any escapee group. That, combined with a large amount of riders who will be able to contest the win on such a profile, will make it very open. On the climbers side – who will be forced to attack early – you have the likes of Robert Gesink, David De la Cruz, Mikel Landa, Gino Mäder, Sergio Higuita, Jesús Herrada, Mark Padun, Thibaut Pinot, Sébastien Reichenbach, Richard Carapaz, Louis Meintjes, Marco Brenner and José Manuel Diaz.
From the puncheurs and roulers, who may perhaps have better chances of taking the win seeing the favourable terrain towards the end and the not-so-complicated ascent, you have riders such as Clément Champoussin, Fred Wright, Luis León Sánchez, Daryl Impey, Lawson Craddock, Xandro Meurisse, Mads Pedersen and Jesús Ezquerra capable of fighting for the win.
Inside The Bus
This morning I talk to…
#134 Remco Evenepoel – You have 2 days of racing left. To cover Enric is the maximum and only priority for this one. You have 5 minutes over the rest of the field and usually you can outclimb them, so even if the GC race goes wild, I urge you to stay calm and make sure only Enric doesn’t get away. We’ll try to have some guys in the break to help late in the day if the battle goes off, don’t worry about loosing time on the rest, make sure you don’t loose on Mas and save as much as possible for Saturday.
#91 Jan Bakelants – Let’s try to get in front, it’s only three of you so you can all coordinate and try to get in the break. It’s our best chance to go for a stage win and also to possibly have Louis go up the GC. It won’t be an easy one, but getting in front is the priority, and the rest will be going for common sense.
#224 Simon Gugliemi – You’ve shown good legs on the 17th stage, so I expect to see you once again driving it in front. It’s a day for the breakaway, so I expect you to try to make it to the front. Then your best chance will be to go off early and try to take advantage of some deorganization.
⭐⭐⭐ Je.Herrada, Wright
⭐⭐ M.Pedersen, Higuita, Pinot, Craddock
⭐ Evenepoel, Almeida, Arensman, O’Connor, Uran, Gesink, Mäder, Carapaz, Champoussin, LL.Sanchez, Impey, Meurisse
It is a very difficult day to predict, a lot can happen. I will go with a scenario that has been close to succeeding, I am very keen on Lawson Craddock’s form and this kind of terrain seems very good for a big solo move from a big engine.
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