C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

09/09 - Stage 17 (ITT) - Burgos - 38.7 km

It’s the moment of truth. Many agree that this is the last chance to shake up the general classification before Madrid. There is only one second between the first two riders but still, it’s the one in fourth place everybody’s eyes will be on. More on that later.

Today’s 38.7 km long time trial is mostly flat but has several short uphill section as well. From the start in Burgos, the riders head southeast on a clockwise loop before returning to the city center. The first 8 km-stretch towards Cardeñajimeno includes a couple of short uphill sections. However, on big roads in a very exposed terrain, it’s not exactly favoring the tiny climbers. The next 5 km down to Carcedo de Burgos, passing by the San Pedro de Cardeña monastery, are also very exposed to the wind. In fact, most of this big loop takes place in open and very rolling terrain with high-speed downhill sections too. The big powerhouses who can cope with short hills will have a significant advantage.

As the riders enter Burgos again, the course gets more technical around the city center. With just over 8 km to go, there is a part of 1.2 km of 4 % - again on a wide road. Soon after, it’s time for the only steep climb of the day. A sharp 90° right-hand corner takes the riders onto Carretera del Castillo. The following kilometer kicks up with 6-7 % on a narrow road with a couple of steep sections. It’s very important to have something left in the tank at this point. The descent is steep and technical. Good bike handlers will be able to gain a few seconds here.

After another short uphill section, the riders turn left in a 180° corner with about 2.5 km to go. From here, a high-speed descent on a big road awaits. On the last kilometer the road narrows significantly as the riders head towards Plaza Rey San Fernando in front of the big Cathedral in Burgos, making the finish of this time trial very similar to the one we had last year in Santiago de Compostela. Hopefully, with much better weather.

C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

Given his past time trial performances and the level he has shown in this Vuelta, Tom Dumoulin has to be the prime pick for the win today. The Dutchman entered this race as a time trial specialist but he has proven to be so much more than that. Had this stage come on day 4, Dumoulin would probably have put 3-5 minutes in to his rivals. Now, however, after more than 2 weeks of hard racing in the mountains and the stress that comes with gunning for the overall win, it’s hard to predict how Dumoulin will do. Today’s course suits him very well, though. He will be able to fly on this rolling parcour. Personally, I think he will beat Fabio Aru and Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez with about two minutes. Before the stage, Dumoulin is 1:51 behind Purito, meaning it will be a very close race for the red jersey! For Dumoulin, the stage win today doesn’t really matter much. He has already won a stage in the race. Now, it’s all about the overall win in Madrid. Still, if he goes as fast as predicted, he will be very difficult to beat.

The biggest rival for the stage win is Vasil Kiryienka. The Belarusian usually does very well in the last week of a grand tour, when his huge engine is fully warmed up. Kiryienka did a good job positioning Mikel Nieve on Monday’s big mountain stage, proving that his shape is good. When his workload was over, he took it easy, probably trying to save some energy for today. In June, Kiryienka won the time trial at the European Games in Baku. Last month, he finished 2nd in the final time trial in Tour of Poland. He knows how to pick his days, which he also proved in the Giro d’Italia earlier this year when he won the long ITT. Team Sky wants to win the team classification. Today is a very important day for that. I’m sure Kiryienka and his teammates will be extremely motivated to do well against the clock in Burgos.

The last of the three top favorites for this time trial is Astana’s Luis León Sanchez. He started this race in great shape and it doesn’t seem like he’s fading at all. He finished 3rd in the ITT in Baku and second in the long time trial in the Giro. For Astana, the main focus is to take back the leader’s jersey with Aru. Therefore, Sanchez’ time checks will be of huge importance for his teammate. In the Giro, Sanchez went full gas in order to give Aru the best split times. I think he will try to do the same thing today. This late in a grand tour, it’s all about who has something left in the legs. Sanchez seems incredibly strong at the moment and it won’t be a surprised if he ends up winning this stage.

For other strong time trialists with a chance of making top5 today, look to Nelson Oliveira, Jerome Coppel, Jurgen van den Broeck, Peter Velits, Niki Terpstra, Steve Cummings and the former U-23 world champion Damien Howson, who will be able to give his team leader Estaban Chaves important split times with a strong performance.

As mentioned, there is only one second between Purito and Aru before this stage. Purito has lost many grand tours due to his poor time trial performances. It could very well happen again today. It’s true that Purito beat Aru with a few seconds in last year’s long time trial in the Vuelta. However, that was the first time ever that young Aru did two grand tours in one season. He’s already much stronger now. Furthermore, this winter, Aru worked hard on his time trial bike in order to improve against the clock. The Astana riders usually perform very well in this discipline. Without any incidents, I would expect Aru to beat Purito with about 15-20 seconds on this course.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv. To see the complete starting order, click here.

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