C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

07/09 - Stage 16 - Luarca to Ermita de Alba. Quirós - 185 km

Today’s stage is the last mountain top finish of the race. It’s quite unusual for the Vuelta to do it like this. It means that this is the last chance for the pure climbers to really gain time. There are seven categorized climbs on the menu and several uncategorized ascents as well, adding up to more than 5000 meters of climbing during the day.

The first climb begins as soon as the official start is given. Alto de Aristébano is 14.6 km long and has an average gradient of 3.4 %. Since this stage will be very difficult to control, a break will have a good chance of making it all the way today. Given the uphill start, it will be easier for the strong climbers to make it into the final break. The first 60 km of this stage are more uphill than downhill. Then, after a long descent, the riders take on Alto de Cabruñana (4.8 km / avg. 6.7 %) and Alto del Tenebredo (3.7 km / avg. 8.9 %) before the last extremely difficult 45 km of the stage.

Alto del Cordal is a very steady climb. The 8.5 km towards the top constantly stay around 6 %. After a treacherous descent, the riders reach the intermediate sprint in Pola de Lena. Here, they begin on the penultimate climb of the day right away. Hopefully for the show, Movistar will try something already on the steep slopes towards the top of Alto de la Cobertoria (9.8 km / avg. 8.7 %). The middle section of this climb is very difficult with constant double-digit gradients before it evens out near the top. The riders who did the Vuelta last year, will recognize these last two climbs as they did both, in the same order, on stage 16. Today, the final climb is very different, though. It’s another new ascent in Vuelta history.

The name is Alto Ermita de Alba. It’s only 6.8 km long but with an average gradient of 11.1 %, it will make for a fantastic show. The first part is steep but regular. Afterwards, the riders will hit ramps of gradients over 20 %. It’s impossible to keep a steady rhythm on this part - and it only gets worse. On the last kilometer, the riders will face gradients up to 30 %! After having climbed more than 4000 meters already, the legs of the riders will be screaming even before starting on this climb. One can only imagine the kind of pain they must be feeling on the final kilometer.

C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

As mentioned, I think a strong break will have a good chance of making it all the way today. Movistar took responsibility on stage 15 hoping Nairo Quintana was strong enough to win the stage. However, despite an early attack, Quintana didn’t have the legs to go for the win. Therefore, I doubt the Spanish team will take control again today. Hopefully, they will put it all on the line on the penultimate climb but to me, Quintana still doesn’t seem to be back at his best level just yet.

Astana has no intention of catching the break. The final kilometer is tailor-made for Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez. It would be foolish of them to give him another 10 bonus seconds and thereby take the overall lead, which gives him the important advantage of starting last in the time trial on Wednesday. Katusha is probably the only team interested in making sure the GC riders end up fighting for the stage win. However, I doubt they will be able to control a strong break all by themselves.

Instead, we should look to great climbers who are out of the GC like the Colombians Rodolfo Torres, Alex Cano, Sergio Henao, Fabio Duarte and Darwin Atapuma. It may also be a good opportunity for riders like Bart de Clercq, Andre Cardoso and Kenny Elissonde to join an early break and take back time to move up in the GC.

Personally, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Mikel Landa will do on this stage. He has already won from an early break in this Vuelta and I won’t be surprised if he tries to do it again today. It would also leave Astana off duty to chase, while giving them a very good chance of another stage win. It’s also important to remember that the last climb is so steep that you can’t really help your team leader much. It’s everybody for themselves on these slopes. Many teams may end up lacking teammates already on Alto de la Cobertoria but that won’t be the case for Astana. They are so strong that, even without Landa, they will have a handful of riders around Aru on this climb.

Tom Dumoulin is now 1:25 min behind Aru in the GC. He knows he may be able to take back as much as two minutes on the Italian in the time trial but he can’t be sure of that. The last climb today doesn’t suit the Dutchman at all. So far, he has been fighting courageously, but if he loses more time than he did on stage 15, it will be very difficult to take the leader’s jersey, despite his great time trial abilities. Had the time trial been on stage 3, Dumoulin may have gained 3-5 minutes on his rivals. This late in the race, however, after working so hard on the climbs, the difference between Dumoulin and Aru won’t be nearly as big.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.

Accept Cookies?
Provided by OpenGlobal E-commerce