Vuelta España 2020 – Stage 1 Preview

By David Hunter

Irun > Arrate 173km

The racing kicks off with a familiar climb.

Those who watch the Tour of the Basque Country, will know this finish. The climb of Arrate is a regular in this race, which makes my life a little easier!

The Climbs

The penultimate climb shouldn’t be underestimated, it is around 4km at 7.5%, the above graphic shows the opening 3.4km which averages 7.9%. This will be done hard to warm the legs before the final climb.

The Arrate climb is around 4km at 9%. As you will remember, the finishing line isn’t at the crest, but after around 2km of false flat and descent. To win the stage, you need to be first into the final corner.

Weather

The forecasts don’t all say the same thing, which is annoying. Some are saying the wind will only be around 15km/h, others have it at 40km/h. As the vast majority of the route is well protected from the elements, it won’t really matter. There is a chance of rain for most of the day, and with the wind coming from the south it’s a tailwind on the final climb, but even that is well sheltered.

Breakaway Hopes

When the opening stage of any race features a lot of mountains, the breakaway riders know they have a chance. They will hope that there is a Mexican standoff back in the bunch, with teams refusing to commit to the chase. If we see some peloton poker, the breakaway stand a chance of fighting for the stage and red jersey. In reality, with Ineos and Jumbo-Visma here, this chance is very small. Both teams are control freaks!

Tactics

No fancy tactics for this stage. Make the penultimate climb hard, then hit the Arrate climb with everything you’ve got. Jumbo-Visma should be the team to set pace on the climbs, they have the strength in depth to do so. Quite a few teams will be happy so see a reduced sprint finish, but if the pace isn’t high enough, we’ll get attacks near the end of the climb. This is a great chance to win a grand tour stage and wear the red jersey.

Contenders

Alejandro Valverde – won here back in 2017, it’s a finish he knows well. It’s very hard to predict him these days, he’s not been at his best throughout this whole season. We all know that he’s never been the best trainer, he uses races to get himself into condition. After a considerable amount of race days, he should now be nearing top form, but will that be good enough these days? If it ends in a sprint with ten riders, he’ll be challenging for the win.

Primož Roglič – I’m still shocked he didn’t win the Tour de France. What I do love is his response to this massive setback. Instead of disappearing, not to be seen until 2021, he went and finished sixth in the worlds and won Liège. That is how you respond to a disappointment! I’m told his current level is still very high, and given his sprinting speed, he’ll be happy if we get a sprint finish. Jumbo-Visma also have Dumoulin and Kuss as two other options to play in the closing stages.

Ion Izagirre – he’s been close here in the past, riding on home soil always gets the best out of him. Astana also have Vlasov, but I prefer Izagirre for this type of finish.

Richard Carapaz – after finishing the Tour with good legs, I’m looking forward to seeing him challenge for the red jersey. Carapaz is a rider who can time his attacks to perfection. He doesn’t have the sprinting speed to win against Roglič, but he can surprise with a late attack.

Thibaut Pinot – another rider who’ll be confident in their sprint. This climb is one he would normally do well on, but what is his current level like? I don’t have the answer to this question, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Dan Martin – he struggled through the Tour, still trying to recover from injury. His subsequent performances in Flèche and Liège showed that he left France with good legs. This is a finish I think suits him well, he is very good at attacking on steep slopes and getting a gap. As he’s not perceived as a threat to the main GC riders, he might even get a little freedom.

Hugh Carthy – EF have a strong climbing unit for a stage like this. Carthy isn’t going to win the sprint, he must attack on the climb. The team have Woods and Martínez as sprint options, having multiple cards to play puts them in a strong position.

Prediction Time

Jumbo-Visma to control the final climbs and set up a sprint finish, which will be won by Primož Roglič.

David Hunter

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2 thoughts on “Vuelta España 2020 – Stage 1 Preview

  1. Remember when Woods didn’t sprint against Mollema in the 2019 Japan Cup because Mollmea told him that there was still another lap?

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