By David Hunter
Santillana del Mar – Torrelavega 32km ITT
A very important day in the GC battle.
This is what you call, classic Vuelta. The above route makes it look like an easy TT, but that is far from the truth.
This profile gives a far better impression of the route. We have many short climbs and fast descents, this isn’t a standard TT. The climbs aren’t alpine, but they will still hurt the legs in a TT. The most challenging climb is the one pictured above, which comes halfway through the stage.
The descents are also something to note, many of them are very steep and will allow riders to hit high speeds. The course doesn’t contain many corners, in fact, the riders will barely need their brakes throughout the whole stage.
It’s not the most challenging TT I’ve ever seen, but it certainly helps the GC riders. The climbers will be able to get closer to the pure TT riders and we might even see some of them challenge for the podium. Despite the hills, there is no substitute for pure power, you can bet Rohan Dennis is licking his lips at this route.
We have a five horse race. Yates currently leads by 26s to Valverde, 33s to Quintana, 43s to López and 1:29 to Kruijswijk.
If you check the records, all of these guys can TT on their day, but consistency is a huge problem for some.
Kruijswijk is very strong in a mountain TT, this isn’t one of them. He was 16th in the final TT in the Tour de France, losing 1:45 to Tom Dumoulin.
Yates was 20th in the Giro TT, losing 1:37 to Rohan Dennis. That day he put 1:10 into López, a result he’d love to match.
López was 2nd in a tough Romandie TT back in 2016, but he’s struggled to recapture that form. In last year’s Vuelta, he was 22nd in the 40km TT, losing 2:34 to Chris Froome. The big problem for the Colombian is his Argon bike, it’s a brick!
Quintana’s recent TT form is awful, it’s quite some time since he performed well in this discipline. He will be very worried about this stage.
Valverde looks like the man with the most to gain. He’s a rider who has achieved some good results on his TT bike over the years. 2017 was a very good year against the clock, he finished 2nd in Andalucia, 2nd in the Basque Country and 3rd in the Dauphiné. However, he is also capable of some poor performances, like 17th in last year’s Vuelta. He’ll start with the hope of overhauling Yates and taking control of the red jersey.
We have a sunny day, but the wind is interesting. It is coming from the north-east and gets a little stronger throughout the day. That means a tough headwind to deal with as the riders turn left out of Golbardo.
Rohan Dennis – since winning the opening TT, the Aussie has been allowed to go into hiding. While the rest of his team have been battling to make the breaks, he’s simply rolled through each stage conserving as much energy as possible. This stage is a big target and one that will give him some confidence going into the worlds. He starts as the massive favourite.
Victor Campenaerts – you’ve all read my comments previously made about the Belgian. Put simply, he doesn’t win anywhere near enough. That will continue here.
Jonathan Castroviejo – on home soil, he’ll be looking for a big ride. He’s a rider who can deliver on the big occasion, but he’s another who always seems like a nearly man. A shame he’s always up against Dennis or Dumoulin!
Nelson Oliveira – 4th in last year’s words, the Portuguese rider is one who shines against the clock. After finishing 4th in the opening TT, he’ll be looking to force his way onto the podium. His time will also be used as an important reference point for Valverde and Quintana.
Ion Izagirre – after just about surviving the recent mountains, the Basque rider will be hoping to take time on all his rivals. Currently sitting in 9th, he could potentially end the day in the top 5, if he performs at his very best. Such a performance would also see him make the podium.
Alejandro Valverde – could the old man produce the ride of his life? A place in the top 5 would see him move into red, but the strengthening wind will make it tough.
An easy win for Rohan Dennis. Back in the GC fight, I think we’ll see Simon Yates hang onto red, but it will be tight. I have my fears about Quintana and López.
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