Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 14 Preview

By David Hunter

Urdan-Dantxarinea – Aubisque 196km


The best stage of the Vuelta is here!


After a race full of short climbs, we hit the Pyrenees. The riders face the following climbs:


Col Inharpu – 11.5km at 7.1%


Col du Soudet – 24km at 5.2%


Col de Marie Blanque – 9.2km at 7.5%

Col d’Aubisque – 16.5km at 7.1%

This is a huge day of climbing. The stage begins with 50km of flat, it’s then 146km of mainly climbing and descending. Coming in the middle of an already tough race, this is going to destroy the vast majority of the peloton.

The Col d’Abusique is a popular climb for the Tour de France, but the last summit finish there was back in 2007. Not many will forget that day, with Michael Rasmussen taking an unbelievable win. It is one of those really long climbs, that does suit the climbers that like to settle into a rhythm. The second half of the climb doesn’t dip below 8% too much. After the heat of the opening 13 stages, this climb is going to hurt.


Chris Froome’s win on Pena Carbarga has turned this race upside-down. For the first time, he wasn’t distanced on the early slopes of a big climb, what a difference that makes! Quintana has already spoken about his fear of the TT, where Froome will take between 1 and 2 minutes on him. If the Colombian is going to win this race, he needs to gain time this weekend.

Pena Cabarga might be misleading us. It’s a short climb, with the riders only climbing for 17 minutes. Will Froome be able to stay with Nairo on the longer climbs? It seems ridiculous to even ask that question, but after such a demanding Tour, there is no guarantee Froome will be able to cope.

Movistar have gotten most things right, so far. They go really fast on the early slopes, looking to put Froome into difficulty. I expect them to continue with this tactic, but will also hope that they can drop some of the other Sky riders. Froome was able to limit his losses on Lagos Covadonga, but he was helped up the mountain by David Lopez and Peter Kennaugh. If Froome is forced to pace himself up the mountain, he will find it harder to regain contact with Quintana.

Sky just need to ride a defensive race. Froome has to follow the moves of Quintana, but the presence of Valverde is worrying. He’s just 11 seconds behind Froome, so he is a realistic challenger for the red jersey. Movistar can use the double attack, if Froome stays with them. That will put added pressure on him, but can Valverde hang on? He isn’t usually capable of matching Froome and Quintana.

We are all set for one of the best stages of 2016.

Breakaway Hopes

Who wants to chase? Quintana has a stage, as does Froome. I suspect that the success of the break depends on Contador and Tinkoff. A typical long range attack is expected from Alberto, he has plenty of climbs to do so. It’s a move that Chris Froome will be very pleased with, as it will make Movistar chase. One of the problems for Contador, is his team. He doesn’t have many riders that can go up the road and wait to work for him.Hernandez, Paulinho and Trofimov are the best climbers in the team, Contador will need them all if he wants to pull off the incredible.

Looking at possible breakaway contenders, quite a few riders have already looked good in the mountains. Pierre Rolland, Ben Hermans, Omar Fraile, Alexander Geniez, Thomas De Gendt, Kenny Elissonde, Robert Gesink, Egor Silin, Gianluca Brambilla, Mathias Frank and Louis Meintjes all have the required skill to win this stage. We might even see Pierre Latour and George Bennett attempting to join the morning break. That would annoy some in the top 10, but it would still be a good move.

With 45 KOM points on offer, expect to see a fierce battle for the jersey. Fraile is 1 point behind Quintana and 1 point in front of De Gendt and Geniez. The Spaniard has a very good sprint, something that will be vital to claim maximum points on the climbs. A good day and the KOM jersey will be his for another year.


Chris Froome – before the race started, he would have been looking forward to this stage. He loves a demanding day in the saddle, and this is exactly that. If he gets dropped early on the final climb, I don’t see him able to rejoin Quintana and co. We will have to wait and see what Chris Froome turns up.

Nairo Quintana – has been in outstanding form. Would have liked to have dropped Froome on Pena Cabarga, but he still looked good. If he climbs the way he did on Covadonga, he will drop everyone. He would dearly love to take 1 minute on Froome.

Alberto Contador – will we see a long range attack? You can’t call it unexpected anymore, so the other teams will already have planned their response. After his early crashes, I think Contador is still to come good. I hope he doesn’t attack early, but competes on the Aubisque with Quintana and Froome.

Leo Konig – climbing very well. He is crucial to Team Sky and could also be allowed some freedom.

Tejay Van Garderen – hopefully he’s here to race and not just to holiday! Such a great climber, he needs to start racing.

Pierre Rolland – looks to be getting stronger as we get deeper into the race. As we head into France, Rolland will be getting excited about winning on home soil. He has a terrific chance of doing just that.

Robert Gesink – another that shone on Covadonga. It was good to see him back on form, after a difficult season. If he makes the break, he would be considered the favourite for the stage.

Omar Fraile – really surprised on Covadonga, as he was able to hold onto the wheel of Chris Froome for many kilometres. He might have to use some energy chasing KOM points, making it harder for him to take the stage.

Mathias Frank – will want to make the break and go for a big stage win. Do not forget that he was 8th in the 2015 Tour, but is yet to win a world tour stage. Can he continue the good form of IAM riders?

Prediction Time

The break wins, I don’t see the need for Movistar and Sky to chase. Tinkoff might, but they should concentrate on saving their energy. Looking at the breakaway riders, it’s a battle between solid top 10 riders from the grand tours, but could Fraile spoil their party? I’ll go French and pick Pierre Rolland to win on home soil.

Back in the GC battle, I think we’ll see Quintana taking more time out of Froome, and cementing his place in the red jersey.


David Hunter

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