Vuelta a Espana Week Three Preview: TT, Bumpy Stages, MTF, The End

Vuelta a Espana Week Three Preview: TT, Bumpy Stages, MTF, The End

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Week Two Recap

Fun week! After last Sunday’s Formigal stage where Roglic had rain jacket issues, lost time, and Carapaz seized the red jersey, we had a bunch of interesting stages:

  • Stage 7 was the big break with Michael Woods winning with the GC finishing about a minute later.
  • Stage 8 was up the Alto de Moncalvillo, which was a classic Roglic dominant win, tightening up the GC race.
  • Stage 9 Sam Bennett Memorial Beat Up On Emils Liepins So He Gets Relegated Stage giving Ackers the win.
  • Stage 10 was another Roglic win in Suances that saw him taking over the red jersey that had some controversy attached. We did get to see Chris Froome yelling about this in his longest appearance of this Vuelta at the beginning of the next stage. Hi Chris!
  • Stage 11 was a GC truce as folks were (rightly) scared of the next stage.
  • Stage 12: l’Angrilu. So intense. Great win by Carthy. Carapaz claws back the red jersey as Roglic loses 10 seconds. Cathy is now 32 seconds back with Martin 35. Mas, excellent on the hell mountain 1:50 behind.

We got a race!

75th Tour of Spain 2020 - Stage TwelvePhoto by David Ramos/Getty Images

Weather for week three:

Cool and showers. In old money highs in the upper 40’s to low 50’s. It is gonna wear on the peloton with several long difficult stages that shouldn’t affect the GC and are to hard for sprinters on tap.

Stage 13 Muros – Mirador de Ezaro. Dumbria, 33.7 km: ITT

This should be pretty…and deadly. It will be pretty because the road follows the Gallacian coast which is always beautiful even if it is supposed to be raining. But wait…what is that at the end of the stage?

Ah, you are noticing the cat 3 Muro de Ezaro- just your basic Vuelta wall- 1.8 km long, but with an average climb rate of 14.8, topping out at 16%. Sounds scary- but remember the GC boys were duking it out on the Angry Lou two days before and that climb laughs at stinking flat 16% gradients. What I am saying is that this Wall won’t bother any remaining GC guys. The hard part for most of the GC guys will be the 31km of very flat and non technical road before the little wall.

Since we are now at the business end of this Grand Tour we have to ask who does this favor? The consensus is Primoz Roglic and not by just a little. None of the other GC guys are what you might call good chronomen though Enric Mas isn’t bad. Carthy, Carapaz, and Martin are all looking at this TT with some fear. The real question is by how much will Roglic win? On paper he could seal the deal and the rest of the week will be a long slow process to Madrid or somewhere. Or he could leave a little window of hope open for one or two of his rivals. Then problem then becomes where to make a difference in the last few stages.

On the other hand, what about the whispers saying Roglic is tiring or will tire and he can’t finish GTs? The whispers look at the Tour, at best an imperfect comparison if not downright misleading. They look at the 2019 last TT in the Giro where he only came in 10th on the last stage TT that was half the distance of this TT, where he was also faster by 41 seconds to Carapaz. That’s not a totally encouraging example either since so far Roglic has not shown that he is tiring. Really what needs to happen is one of Carapaz, Martin, or Carthy put in the TT of their lives to stay close. That could happen but again don’t look to the Pogacar example since Pogs had already demonstrated that he was a good TTer before the Tour: Carapaz, Martin, or Carthy are not in Pog’s league.

So we will see if the law firm of Carapaz, Martin, and Carthy can make a game of it. Or maybe Mas, who is showing renewed strength as this GT moves along, pops a great TT and we’ll see a week of Movistar aggression. (What am I saying- we’ll see Movi aggression regardless.)

But it will be pretty!

Stage 14: Lugo – Ourense, 204.7 km

Wow! 204.7km! So un-Vuelta like! Any chance the riders wake up to rain and protest the length like they did in the Giro? Maybe, but there’s no big a) transfer the night before and b) mountain stage the next day. So probably no.

No big mountains and the end looks flat soooooo, sprinter stage? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA no. Too many hills including an uncategorized 1600m ramp of between 4-6% which they do TWICE in the last five of so kms. Basically this amounts to either a breakaway win or a win for the strongest of sprinters/punchers. Who won stage 10? Roglic? Or maybe Cort, Aranburu, Costa, etc. can make the difference.

But really if Roglic is in the lead, no matter how slight, Jumbo will want the break to win today- and the rest of the week also. That puts the onus on the other teams having to break the strongest team in the race. The obvious team is Movistar and at the beginning of this and every stage, watching what they will do will be must see video. Other teams can help of course. EF definitely.

This stage and the next two on paper could provide such a setting for attacking Roglic and Jumbo. The main problem is that the strongest team is, yeah, Jumbo. They are gonna have to work hard. Chance of success? Low. But they gotta try.

Stage 15: Mos – Puebla de Sanabria, 230.8 km

Second verse same as the first! JESUS! 230.8km? WTF. This is the first of the two stages that were supposed to go into Portugal and end in a big bunch sprint in Porto. Now? Noooooooooooo. Take a look below at the profile and you’ll see just way too many little climbs, 4537 meters of climbing in total. So we will look for teams to put pressure on Jumbo. Otherwise in essence this stage just takes the place of a long overnight transfer to get us closer to Madrid- and are we actually going to Madrid?

Stage 16: Salamanca – Ciudad Rodrigo, 162.0 km

Third verse from the Book of Beating Jumbo bible. Breakaway almost undoubtedly. Too hard for the sprinters again so the beginning/middle of this stage will require close examination.

Stage 17: Sequeros – Alto de La Covatilla, 178.2 km

It is closing time and the Alto de la Covatilla is the last chance saloon folks. Depending on what the race does with its Madrid ceremonial stage this could be the last stage, period.

A GC stage on paper, though again Jumbo won’t care if the break wins. But the stage is not as hard as the weekend we just saw with the final mountain being 7.1% over 11.4 km with a brief max of 12%. If we come to this stage essentially tied then we will see fireworks but otherwise a break wins and the GC boys straggle in. Hell the break may win anyway.

Stage 18: Hipodromo de la Zarzuela – Madrid, 124.2 km

Odds of this stage happening as is? Kinda low. I mean who would want a sprinter stage? We will know ahead of time in part because of what happens to the women’s race. But I hope this happens in some form since it is the last race until god knows when since we are hearing of various spring races already applying to happen next fall with the UCI already saying a revised calendar will be released in early January. I will say that I did love this fall and how intense it was. Happy winter!