Vuelta a España – Stage 8 Preview

By David Hunter

Linares – Almadén 195.1km

Another sprint stage, I wonder if a sprinter will win it?

Nothing much to see during the day, but the final 5km will be fun! This has been designated a sprint stage, but the closing kilometres are difficult.

Finale

We have a rise with 5km remaining, but it’s not very difficult. The final 2km then kicks up at around 4%, with a very technical final kilometre.

Once through the flamme rouge, the riders have to deal with a roundabout, where they do a u-turn. Just after exiting, they head up a very narrow road, which will see an almighty battle for control of the peloton. With around 300m to go, the riders are faced with another big turn, this one is incredibly tight. This will be a very tough finish.

The gradients are relatively easy, but the final switchback will reduce everyone to a walking pace, before the sprint can be launched. It’s a finish the sprinters will be confident of winning, but it does open the door to some of the puncheurs.

Tactics

If you want to win, you must be at the head of the peloton for the final roundabout. This means we’ll see furious action in the final 5km. Once there, you need to be patient and don’t start the sprint until the switchback has been taken care of. Then it’s all about power! One word of warning for the sprinters, the final 500m is perfect for someone to attack and take the win.

Weather

The hottest stage of the race so far. Not great news for some of the riders.

Contenders

Elia Viviani – can he win an uphill sprint? I think he can, he certainly has before. The Italian will be keen to make up for the mess he made of Thursday’s stage. QuickStep have the power to boss the final kilometres and put their man into an ideal position. We’ll then see if he has the power in his legs to take another win.

Peter Sagan – looks like Sagan is starting to find some form. He managed to “win” the sprint today, but it wasn’t against any of the sprinters. He would normally destroy a finish like this, but I was shocked at his poor position on Thursday. Sagan is normally brilliant at getting to the front of the bunch, but when not at 100% he struggles a little.

Giacomo Nizzolo – a rider who has impressed on the Hatta Dam, he’ll be looking forward to this. Nizzolo has the power to contest for the win, but positioning could be a problem. He’ll desperately hope that Felline is okay, as the Italian is an important part of his sprint train. If Nizzolo is going to contend, he needs to be at the front of the bunch for the final kilometre.

Nacer Bouhanni – I was very pleased to see him taking the win on Thursday. After such a horrible season, it was great to see him back on top. Like most sprinters, Bouhanni is a confidence rider, just watch him fly now. Given his lead out, I think he’ll struggle to to get a good position in the finale.

Danny van Poppel – he’s been knocking on the door. The Dutch sprinter has impressed in the race and this is a good stage for him. Van Poppel packs a lot of power, which is perfect for an uphill sprint. His team have done a great job of positioning him in the other sprints, if they do well again he has a big chance of success.

Matteo Trentin – sorry, not a fan of his current form.

Alejandro Valverde – third today and he has another chance of challenging for the podium. Valverde has a very fast sprint, especially on a hill. Movistar will try and control the final kilometres and hope that Valverde can hang tough against the sprinters.

Omar Fraile – will he have to look after Lopez? Given that the Colombian lost cheap seconds in the second stage, I think Fraile will be tasked with guiding him into position. Given the nature of the final kilometre, there is every chance of small gaps at the line. A shame for Fraile, as the finish is good for him.

Prediction Time

Despite the challenging finale, this is one for the sprinters. With Quick-Step eager to gain redemption for their terrible sprint on Thursday, I expect Elia Viviani to take the win. Sorry for being boring!

*Overall Preview

David Hunter

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