Vuelta España 2016 – Stage 4 Preview

By David Hunter

Betanzos – San Andres de Teixido 163.5km

3-VE16-RECORRIDOS-sin cabecera.indd

After today’s fun, it’s going to be another terrific stage.

V4

With 3295m of climbing, this is going to really test the legs of the peloton. A lot of that climbing comes early in the stage, allowing a large peloton to come to the bottom of the final climb together.
V4B

The climb is long, 11.2km at 4.8%, but that average gradient doesn’t do it justice. The final 4km rises at an average of 7.5%, with a particularly steep section at 1km to go. This climb is going to do some damage.

Tactics

Another summit finish early in the race continues to increase the chances of another “lesser” rider taking a stage. For any real climber, the opening section is quite easy, followed by a descent. Realistically, this is a 4km effort. With most teams confident of having plenty of riders left in the bunch, we should be treated to a very attacking end to the stage. Riders need to take their chances now, as the GC boys will come out to play this weekend.

Bert-Jan Lindeman, Alessandro De Marchi, Nico Roche, Chris Horner and Simon Clarke have all won hilltop finishes in the opening week of the Vuelta. The opening week really does provide chances for riders who wouldn’t normally win a grand tour stage. Just look at today!

Most teams will try the same tactic, send riders on the attack early on the final climb. The big teams will want to have a few domestiques left for the final 4km, just in case any of the big names fancy an attack. The teams without hope of winning the GC can attack when they want, but will they have the quality required?

Breakaway Chances

We had a breakaway success today, this is another wonderful chance for the opportunists. Some of the big breakaway riders must have been saving themselves for the weekend stages, but today’s events might persuade them to try their luck a little earlier. Riders like Omar Fraile, Lluis Mas, Adam Hansen, Tejay Van Garderen, Thomas De Gendt and Marcel Wyss are bound to be excited about this stage. The final climb does open the door to many riders, not just the pure climbers.

Contenders

Alejandro Valverde – the final climb isn’t too hard. Looking at the strength of Movistar, they should be able to hold together for a small sprint. If that happens, Valverde is the favourite by a mile!

Esteban Chaves – looked very smooth today. Seems to have started the race in great form and was only undone by Movistar’s strength in depth. He has an early chance to make time on Contador and Froome, so he should attack and see what happens.

Alberto Contador – lost time today, but this climb is more to his style. We will see if Contador is a real contender for the title.

Chris Froome – did his usually Vuelta climbing today. Take it easy and gradually step up the pace. It worked a treat! The percentage of the climb is very good news for Froome. There is no one better when the gradient is around 7%. Like Chaves, he’ll be keen to distance Contador. Sky will ride an attacking race and see what legs the Spaniard has.

Nairo Quintana – another who impressed today. Yes, he lost a bit at the end, but Quintana will be very pleased with his performance. This climb is much more his style, so watch out!

Gianluca Brambilla – the little Italian is looking really strong. He is not a threat on GC, so freedom will be given. He is an attacking rider, something us fans love. Also a brilliant descender, do not be surprised to see him attack when we descend into the last 4km.

Prediction Time

I think the break will make it. I’ll take a rider from Caja Rural, Lluis Mas. He’s a solid rider and can sniff out a break.

Back in the bunch, expect to see a big fight, but with small gaps. The final climb isn’t hard enough to shake off the main GC riders.

OVERALL PREVIEW

David Hunter

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