By David Hunter
Villalpando – La Camperona 181.5km
This climb featured back in 2014, with Ryder Hesjedal taking a famous victory. I’m delighted to see it back, I’m not so sure about the riders.
A horrible false flat for 173km, then a climb that could make you cry.
Officially it’s 8.5km at 7.4%, but that includes a very easy opening 3km. The final 3km barely comes down under 10% and features ramps that nearly bring the riders to a stop. No matter where you are, you need to watch this climb! Teammates are almost irrelevant here, it’s man versus man. On such a steep slope, drafting is of little use. We will see how can win the Vuelta.
BMC are not going to chase hard. Atapuma is going to lose the red jersey, so his teammates can save some energy and help to protect Samu Sanchez. It will be up to Sky, Movistar and Orica to chase the break.
The parcour is easy to control a break, but teams need to have the will. I’m unsure if the break will win, I think it’s finely balanced. It really does depend on the attitude of the GC teams.
Chris Froome – back in 2014 he was dropped, but maintained his own pace. He eventually caught the others and even finished ahead of them. He adopted a similar climbing style on Monday, and it worked. It really is quite bizarre. He allows the others to attack early on the climb and sticks to a certain number of watts. As the others begin to get tired, Froome gets stronger. It’s a brave tactic, but it certainly seems a good one. If he gets dropped early, don’t worry, he’ll be back!
Alberto Contador – hasn’t looked near his best yet. The others might just sense a chance to put him into difficulty. The really steep slopes don’t seem to suit him anymore. He crashed today, so we’ll have to see if he has recovered
Nairo Quintana – climbed well on Monday, but lost a few seconds at the end. Being small will help a little on this climb, but you still need a lot of power. This will be a real test for the Colombian, I think he’ll pass. I don’t think he’ll win, but he should be able to limit his losses.
Esteban Chaves – this is an enormous moment for the Colombian. He seems in great form and this climb is better suited to him. Once we hit the longer mountains, I would expect to see him lose time to Froome and Quintana. Chaves needs some time, this is a great place to start. Orica will put him into a top position, then it’s over to him.
Alejandro Valverde – a multiple winner of Fleche Wallonne, he does like steep slopes. The problem for Bala is when it starts to hit the 20% mark, for a long period. At this point, he seems to suffer. I also have to consider his busy year and wonder if he’ll ever get tired!
Samu Sanchez – something of a dark horse. He does well on tough climbs and will be looking to move up on GC. Sanchez really is enjoying a good season, a Vuelta win would make it brilliant. He also crashed today, so we’ll have to see if he has recovered.
Tejay Van Garderen – the best climber not in GC contention. Having lost time, the American is free to attack some of the mountain stages. Going in the morning break is not really his style, but he’ll have to, if he wants a stage win. If in the break, he’ll be the favourite.
Dario Cataldo – I remember his 2012 Vuelta stage win well. It was on the slopes of Cuitu Negru, with ramps around 30%. He is a great climber, who can cope with extreme percentages. The Astana riders all have freedom to attack, making them very dangerous.
Egor Silin – solid Russian who would be dangerous in the break.
Adam Hansen – was in the break on this climb in 2014, but had to work for De Clercq. Hansen is looking very strong just now, something that is a strength on this type of climb.
Bartosz Huzarski – not really a pure climber, but he does like the steep stuff. Bora have been good at getting into breaks, he would give them a proper chance of winning the stage.
Hugh Carthy – there has been a lot of questions about Hugh’s start to the race. He was never here to ride for GC, so I am not surprised. He was bitterly disappointed with his TTT, it was not in the plan to lose time. On the day, he just didn’t have the legs. Since then, he has been taking it easy and saving energy for a couple of stages. This stage has caught his eye and he’ll look to test himself. That could mean going in the break, but he might decide to stay with the GC favourites and see how he compares.
Thomas De Gendt – disco De Gendt is not having a TDF hangover. He still looks relatively fresh, despite a hugely demanding July. Winning another mountain top finish would be something! He was 2nd to Cataldo back in 2012.
I think the break will stay away again. I’ll go with Van Garderen, the best climber of the non-GC riders. Back in the bunch, I expect to see Chaves fight against Froome. Both men should make a little time on their rivals. That will set up a fascinating battle for red, I see Chaves taking the jersey today.
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