By David Hunter
Cistierna – Alto del Naranco 164.5km
The tough weekend continues, with this fascinating stage. There are no big mountains, but it’s still a demanding day in the saddle.
An uncategorised climb kicks the day off, before a long flat section. The first climb of the day is cat 2, but it’s only 11km at 3%, although that includes a downhill section.
A long descent follows before we enter the difficult section of the stage. We have three cat 3 climbs in quick succession. They are 6.2km at 4.7%, 5.1km at 3.9% and 3.6km at 6.9%, We actually have four climbs, but one is uncategorised.
The stage ends with the cat 2 climb, Alto del Naranco. It is 5.7km at 6.1%, so not very demanding compared to today.
The hilly last 50km is great news for the breakaway riders. The end of the stage would be hard for any team to control, just look what happened to Movistar when Simon Yates won. They ran out of men and Orica mugged them! If Movistar can’t control the end of a hilly stage, no one can.
The fight to make this break will be fierce, possibly lasting until the early slopes of the cat 2 climb. The final climb isn’t too hard, so you don’t have to be a mountain goat to take the win. This stage will interest the vast majority of the peloton.
Back In The Bunch
If the break gets away and there are no bonus seconds left, I don’t see anything happening in the peloton. They will ride up the final climb together, although, some will try and attack near the end. This is a transition day, with the big stage to follow on Monday.
Hugh Carthy – decided to save himself today, with one eye on this stage. Hopefully we get to see him make the morning move. He likes the look of the final climb, thanks to it’s steady gradient.
Jose Goncalves – the man who can do it all! Great climber, rouleur and sprinter. He’s been desperate to make recent breaks, but hasn’t been lucky. When he eventually makes a break, the rest should be afraid!
Louis Vervaeke – another of the many impressive youngsters in this race. He’s way out of the GC picture and he’s looking to try and pick up a stage. This one is good for him, but also a few of his teammates.
Omar Fraile – with one eye on the KOM jersey, this is a day for Fraile. He needs to get in the break and hoover up all the points. We saw the other day that he’s climbing well, the short efforts are perfect for him.
Philippe Gilbert – considering how he’s been climbing, I wouldn’t write off Gilbert for this stage. Last year’s Giro win was in a very demanding stage, so he won’t be put off by this final climb. He would have preferred the finish to have been on the flat, but he still has a good chance.
LL Sanchez – another rider showing impressive form. He was very unlucky not to win on Friday and with Astana now lacking a leader, he looks their best chance for a win. I will repeat my stat from the other day, he’s yet to win a stage of the Vuelta!
Mathias Frank – very unlucky the other day, he certainly seems to be in better form than at the Tour. He is an explosive climber, so the final hill is great for him. He has the quality required to take his first grand tour stage win.
Valerio Conti – another who will like the look of the final climb. He’s a rider with an explosive sprint, think of a younger Diego Ulissi!
Fabio Felline – was left very frustrated on Friday, thanks to the Contador crash. If he’s going to win this stage, he needs to make the morning break. Although it’s an uphill finish, it’s not tough enough to remove the puncheurs.
Alejandro Valverde – if it comes back together, Bala is the favourite, yet again! Don’t expect Movistar to control it, but you just never know in cycling.
Samu Sanchez – lives in Oviedo, so knows the area well. Home riders are always super motivated and he’s no exception. For him to win, the break will have to be caught, and he’ll need to attack with a couple of kilometres left. He will not beat Valverde in a sprint.
Break wins. Caja Rural have not had a great race, but a win for Jose Goncalves will save the day!
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