Vuelta a Espana stage 16 preview

Posted: September 8, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , , , , , , ,

If you are only going to watch one stage of this year’s Vuelta then this should be it. The Queen stage has attacking riding written all over it and there is every chance that the winner of the Vuelta will be decided today.

The last couple of stages:

The first two of three big mountain stages in a row have been won by remnants of the breakaway. Firstly it was Ryder Hesjedal who showed perfect judgement on the final climb to outlast his breakaway companions, who filled the first nine positions on the stage. On stage 15 it was Przemyslaw Niemiec who took the honours. He was the sole survivor from the morning breakaway, holding off the fast finishing Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez by a mere five seconds. Had the two of them worked with Contador earlier on the final climb then they may well have been fighting for the win. Contador was only a few seconds behind, with another short gap to Chris Froome and Fabio Aru. Contador was critical of both Valverde and Rodriguez after the stage, believing they had missed a major opportunity to cooperate and distance Froome who struggled on a number of occasions as he yo-yo’ed off the back of the dwindling group.

The current standings:

  1. Alberto Contador 58:31:35 (total time taken so far)
  2. Alejandro Valverde 0:00:31 (so 31 seconds behind)
  3. Chris Froome 0:01:20
  4. Joaquim Rodriguez st (quite amazing but it is true!)
  5. Fabio Aru 0:02:22
  6. Rigoberto Uran 0:02:57
  7. Daniel Martin 0:04:55
  8. Samuel Sanchez 0:05:02
  9. Robert Gesink 0:05:11
  10. Warren Barguil 0:06:36


The route:

It might be short at only 160.5km but make no mistake, this will be a brutal stage. Fortunately for the riders the searing heat of the first week has dissipated, with cooler temperatures and a chance of rain now on the agenda. The stage, with five big mountains, includes more than 4,500 metres of vertical climbing. The final climb alone is 16.5km with an average gradient of 6.2%. That may not seem so bad but given what comes before it and the fact the gradient gets steeper and steeper the further the climb goes on it is a very difficult finish. With almost no valley floor between the final two climbs on the stage there is a chance that one of the major contenders will launch a kamikaze attack on the penultimate climb of the day. If successful they could just write themselves into cycling folklore.

What will happen:

A hard climb so early in the stage means that anyone who wants to be in the breakaway will have to be a good climber. Luis Leon Sanchez is targeting the mountains jersey and he is sure to be in there. Other names to look for include Alessandro de Marchi, Sergio Pardilla, Mikel Landa, Laurens ten Dam and Romain Sicard. The teams of the major favourites are all likely to try and put someone in the breakaway, which could open it up to riders closer to the top of the GC standings.

Who will win:

Unlike the previous stages I think the break will be caught today. In such a short stage the tempo is likely to be high and fatigue will be a big issue, especially in the latter half of the stage. This means the big GC guys are likely to be fighting for the win. At this stage Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez appear to be the strongest climbers in the race. Froome has shown signs that he is getting better but he has been unable to hang with the three Spaniards and it is hard to see that changing on such a difficult stage. This type of finish doesn’t suit Valverde’s punchy riding style and he is likely to ride conservatively and limit his losses. This makes for a duel between Contador and Rodriguez. For Contador to win he has to drop Rodriguez. He has tried multiple times over the last few stages but has never managed to gain a significant advantage. Contador loves to attack but at 80 seconds behind the red jersey and still not on the podium the ball rests with Rodriguez. I think he’ll take back some of that time tonight. Regardless of who wins one thing is for sure, there will be fireworks!

  1. Julian S says:

    Aru doesn’t get a mention. He has been with the big guns almost all the time, a great set of rides for the youngster! Having said that i think Froome will surprise tonight. If the attacks go from far enough out I think he will be able to turn the tables as he did on Saturday.


  2. sportussion says:

    Aru has certainly impressed and shown that his podium in the GIRO was no fluke. I expect him to maintain his position in tonights stage but can’t see him breaking into the top 4.


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