Vuelta a Andalucía 2018 – Stage 2 Preview

By David Hunter

Otura – Alto de las Allanadas 141km

A big day in the battle for the GC.

We have a few bumps along the way, but this stage is all about the final climb, Alto de las Allanadas. We were here in 2015, where Chris Froome put everyone to the sword. The climb is 3.3km at 12% and some of the climb is almost too steep to walk!

The approach to the climb is uphill, expect to see a fast pace set by Team Sky. There is a very steep kicker, just before the start of the classified climb. Make no mistake, just 300m into the climb, the group will be down to around 20 riders. Once we move up the slopes, teammates can be used to attack and force others to respond, but it’s one of those climbs where tactics don’t really matter, it’s about who has the legs on the day.

Weather

A beautiful day in the south of Spain.

Contenders

Team Sky – they have three potential candidates for this stage: Chris Froome, Wout Poels and David De La Cruz. Froome has been working very hard in Africa, putting in some huge rides. Given all the speculation surrounding him, I’m not sure if he’ll be here to try and win. That should leave the door open for Poels. The Dutchman was disappointing in Valenciana, but he usually enjoys steep slopes. I would expect to see Sky seize control on the climb and try to drop as many riders as possible. Once they have finished, it will be over to Poels. We will see if his legs have improved over the last few days.

Mikel Landa – this will be his first race for Movistar, that should mean he is a little behind his rivals who have already started their seasons. When the slope pitches up to near the 20% mark, Landa is one of the finest in the world. I remember fondly his stage win in Pais Vasco, on the steep slopes of Aia. Landa will be keen to take this opportunity and prove to his new team that he can be trusted with team leadership, but will his legs respond? If not, watch out for Marc Soler.

Astana – just like in the early Spanish races, they have two big options for the stage: Jakob Fuglsang and Luis Leon Sanchez. Both riders have started the season very well, but it’s Sanchez that looks the strongest of the two of them. In previous years, I wouldn’t have given him any chance of surviving on this climb, but he seems to be in the form of his life. Despite the strength of Sky, Astana will be confident of putting them under pressure and taking the win. We shall see which of their two stars performs best.

Tim Wellens – this climb is right on his limit. He is good on steep slopes, but it’s the distance that could beat him. At 3.3km, this effort will require all of his strength and skill. Wellens usually favours shorter efforts, but after a good start to the season, he should be able to fight with the main GC riders. Either that, or he takes it easy and goes for breakaway wins later in the race. You just never know with him!

Javier Moreno – a local rider, who has already tasted success this season. Moreno was at Bahrain in 2017, where he finished 10th in this race, but this year he rides for Delko Marseille. After starting the year by winning the Sharjah Tour, Moreno will be full of confidence. Given his form and knowledge of the area, he could surprise in this stage.

Ben Hermans – after a disappointing performance in Valenciana, he’ll be hoping for better in this stage. Hermans enjoyed a very successful 2017, winning the Tour of Oman and finishing 2nd in Valenciana. He decided to move away from the comfort of BMC and take a risk, joining Israel Cycling Academy. No doubt, he’s been rewarded with a big salary, but his team will be expecting much better than the 11th place he achieved in Valenciana. We shall see how he deals with the pressure.

Amaro Antunes – was very active in Valenciana, but he got his tactics wrong and attacked from too far out. The CCC rider is a huge talent, but he needs to be patient when riding at this level. Going into this climb, he should be looking to follow the best riders and see where that takes him. It is not advisable for him to attack until the final kilometre. I know that’s boring, but it should be what he’s doing.

Prediction Time

Sky v Astana v Movistar. Given recent form, I think this should be a win for Luis Leon Sanchez.

*Overall preview

David Hunter

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