By David Hunter
Castellón – Camins del Penyagolosa 177.5km
Back to the mountains.
There is very good chance of another crazy day. The start of the race features some steep slopes, but will any team have the stomach for another “full gas” day?
The opening climb is 7.3km at 5.1%, but does feature some steep sections. The riders will not be pleased with another difficult start to a stage. After the descent, we have a short uncategorised climb, that will hurt. Then it’s a long false flat until 14.5km at 3.6%.
After the descent, a long cat 3 climb, 11.2km at 3%. Then comes the easy bit of the stage, before the punishing finale.
A cat 1 climb that is 3.8km long, is a novelty. Typical Vuelta though, it averages 12.5%, with a maximum of 21%. Yet again, the organisers are going to treat the fans with a savage finale.
After what happened on Sunday, I’m almost scared to write this section! Movistar have a commanding lead and a strong team. Even if Sky wanted to try a “Contador” move, I don’t think they have the man power required. Although, Astana might! They are the only other team with a lot of strong climbers. Just because Sky are down, doesn’t mean we’re in for an easy race.
Alberto Contador will sniff the chance of moving onto the podium. That should strike fear into the other riders, as he’s bound to try another daring move. Whatever you think about the Spaniard, cycling is a much brighter place with him around. Expect to see early moves from Tinkoff and Astana, who knows what else will happen!
Should be a good chance, unless it goes crazy at the start. The opening cat 2 climb, will certainly make it a difficult break to join. We might not even see it form until the long drag up to the cat 3 climb. It should be a good day for the break, I can’t see any team really wanting to hold the race together.
Omar Fraile – the KOM battle lives on. Fraile can beat Elissonde in the sprints, but not on the big climbs. The great news is the length of the final climb. Fraile will fancy his chances of taking back the KOM jersey and winning a stage.
Kenny Elissonde – saying that, wee Kenny is looking mighty strong. He really does deserve a stage win.
Alejandro Valverde – will he be allowed to go for the break? If he does, get ready for a stage win. I’m not so sure though, Movistar will be wary of a Froome attack.
Leo Konig – what a terrible day on Sunday, moving him from 5th to 31st. It was all going so well for him too. Can he salvage something from the race with a stage win?
Ben Hermans – been great in the breaks so far. Has another couple of chances to pick up a stage win before the end of the race.
LL Sanchez – with Astana very keen to work, the Spaniard has a chance of taking a win. The final climb looks a little steep for him, but it depends on who else is in the break.
Fabio Felline – another that really deserves a stage win. The final climb does suit him well. A win would also move him close to the green jersey, Valverde would not be pleased.
Pieter Serry – 5th place on La Camperona, but could he do better here?
Louis Meintjes – eventually seems interested in the breaks. He’s bound to be tired but if he makes the move, the final climb is great for him.
Romain Hardy – one of the unsung heroes of the race. The Frenchman has been very consistent, a stage win would round off an excellent race for him.
Hugh Carthy – slowly starting to find his feet. The big man from England might just fancy testing himself in the break, especially with the early climb making it a selective move.
Jan Bakelants – another rider that will be immensely proud and frustrated with his race. So close to a stage win, he’s sure to give it another crack. Winner of the Giro dell’Emilia, the final climb will not scare him.
George Bennett – the Kiwi has had a solid race. His 4th place on the Aubisque was overshadowed by his teammate, Gesink, but it was a great ride. Sitting 12th on GC, he might find he’s not allowed any freedom.
Egor Silin – in exactly the same position as Bakelants! A great race, but frustrating too. Was strong on Covadonga and 3rd on the Aubisque. Is the big win just round the corner?
Break wins. I’ll go Bakelants, he’s been very impressive in this race. In the GC battle, expect Quintana to make more time on his rivals and Contador to move onto the podium.
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