Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 12 Preview

By David Hunter

Los Corrales de Buelna – Bilbao 193.2km

V12a

The race enters the Basque Country.

V12

The peloton will be delighted as they “only” have to climb for 2690m, that’s one of the flattest stages in the Vuelta! The race starts with a bang, a lovely cat 1 climb after 39km.

v12b

This will allow a number of climbers to join the morning break, and makes it a good day for claiming valuable KOM points.

Once in Bilbao, the riders have to tackle the Alto el Vivero. This cat 2 climb is 4.2km at 8.5%. This is tackled twice, the final time up crests with just under 13km remaining.

The Finish

v12c

Over the top of the climb, the riders face a fairly long descent, with only a couple of kilometres of flat before the finish. This looks perfect for a lone rider to escape and solo to victory.

Tactics

A climb so close to the finish spells disaster for any team looking to hold this race together. Saying that, some teams might be more than happy to control the morning break, and then attack on the final climb. The morning break might not find it easy to survive, it really depends on what teams miss the move.

Trek & BMC

Felline and Gilbert are the two big favourites for the stage. Both men are climbing well enough to make it over the climb and contest a sprint victory. They are equally well suited to attacking on the climb and making a bold move for victory. The problem for both teams is the presence of Alejandro Valverde. If the break is over, Movistar will hit the final climb very hard. Get rid of Felline and Gilbert and the stage should belong to Bala.

That puts Trek and BMC in a difficult position, which might lead them to join the morning break. Gilbert and Felline are no strangers to breakaways, this will not put them off.

Contenders

Philippe Gilbert – has a great record in Spain, although it’s been three years since he won a stage of the Vuelta. Has been quiet in the last few stages, saving necessary energy for the next two stages. Can win this stage from a sprint or the break, must start as the favourite.

Fabio Felline – 2nd and 3rd already in this race, plus a brave breakaway on Monday. The Italian is very close to a win and has the edge over Gilbert in a sprint. The problem is making a sprint happen! Will he be brave enough to go for the break? To win a race, you must be willing to lose it.

Alejandro Valverde – will sit back all day and wait to see if the others bring the break back. If they do, expect Movistar to go crazy on the final climb. If the group is only 20 riders large, Valverde wins the sprint.

Mathias Frank – it was interesting that he missed today’s break, possibly saving himself for today. He is better suited a short intense climb, rather than a long effort in the mountains. On both occasions he’s made the break, he’s looked strong. I wonder if he can continue the great end to the season by IAM riders.

LL Sanchez – Astana want a stage! The Spaniard, seems to be their best option. As we get further into the race, his experience should start to make a big difference. He has a very fast sprint, compared to most non-sprinters.

Peter Kennaugh – it would be nice to see Kennaugh given a little bit of freedom. He’s already worn the red jersey, but would love some stage success. Given his recent form, a late attack would be hard to bring back. One problem for Kennaugh is Movistar, I doubt they’ll be happy to let him get any closer on GC.

Zdenek Stybar – his terrific work helped Meersman to two stage wins. The Czech star will now be given some freedom to chase his own glory. He really is a sensational rider, watch out everyone else.

Dries Devenyns – very unlucky to lose to De La Cruz, on Sunday. That will not have put him off. He’s had his best ever season, topped off with a move back to Etixx.

Gianluca Brambilla – lost a lot of time today. He now sits 9 minutes back, so can start chasing stage wins. This type of stage is perfect for him, with short climbs and steep descents. The Italian also can TT and sprint. He really is a strong option for Etixx.

Omar Fraile – the early cat 1 climb should be enough to tease Fraile into the morning break. Once there, he has the quality required to take the stage, something he has his heart on.

Prediction Time

The break should be taking this stage, if not, it’s one for Valverde. I would expect the winning move to go on the final climb, or maybe on the descent. I will go with IAM continuing their great form and a win for Mathias Frank.

OVERALL PREVIEW

David Hunter

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