C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

11/09 - Stage 19 - Medina del Campo to Ávila - 185.8 km

This is another very good stage for a break to make it all the way. It’s not very difficult but a long climb towards the end will make it hard for the sprinters to stay within contention. From the start in Medina del Campo, the first 65 km are more or less flat. Many riders will be eager to attack but the headwind that they will be battling for most of the day will make it extra difficult to hit the right break.

With just under 100 km to go, the riders enter Ávila and cross the finishing line for the first time. This will give them an opportunity to study the tricky finish for when it counts later on. After the feed zone, it’s time for the first categorized climb of the day. Alto de Valdavia is 13 km long and has an average gradient of 2.7 %. From the top, a 35 km long descent with several short counter hills awaits the riders. Afterwards, the route takes them west towards El Tiemblo and later back north, meaning a tailwind will now be accompanying them when they start on the final long climb.

In the road book, Alto de la Paramera is only set to be 8.7 km long with an average gradient of 4.5 %. It seems to start right after the intermediate sprint in El Barraco. However, in fact, it has already been uphill for a long time. Therefore, the actual climb is more like 17 km long with an average gradient of 4-5 %. It gets a bit steeper towards the top but on the big N-403 road, it’s not really terrain for attacking in the peloton. Those who are good at keeping a steady rhythm won’t have any problems staying with the pack.

After crowning the top, there are just under 20 km left to go. Staying on the same big road, enjoying the tailwind, the riders will be flying down towards Ávila. The descent ends with 5.5 km to go. The next 3 km include several roundabouts before the riders turn right onto the bridge to cross the water once again. Here, the road starts to kick up around the old city wall for a bit more than a kilometer with gradients of around 6 %. Most of this uphill section takes place on city cobblestones, which will drain the riders of energy even faster. The incline evens out as the riders approach the last kilometer and soon after passing under la flamme rouge, the city cobblestones end as well. The next part is flat before the road slightly kicks up the last few hundred meters towards the finishing line.

C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

Even though Astana, Katusha and Movistar may want to try something like they did on stage 18, it will be extremely difficult for them to drop Tom Dumoulin on the final climb today. As explained, the gradients are not high. It takes place on a big road and even with a tailwind, it seems highly unlikely any one of the top GC riders can solo away. After Thursday’s stage, Dumoulin said that he was never in trouble on the last climb and that “right after Aru’s first attack, I knew I would keep the jersey”. Of course, the Dutchman says this to demotivate his rivals but judging from his performances, it seems to be true as well. The uphill run-in in Ávila does invite to attacks but at the moment, it seems like Dumoulin himself would be the best pick amongst the GC riders. Therefore, I very much doubt that Astana will try to control this stage. They simply can’t afford that Dumoulin takes any bonus seconds on the line.

Movistar may want to take responsibility early on, trying to set up Alejandro Valverde for the win. However, without any help, it will be very hard for the Spanish team to pull it off. Instead, they should finally try to put Giovanni Visconti in the early break. The Italian is in great shape right now but so far, he hasn’t been able/allowed to chase his own success. On stage 18, he tried to bridge across to the big break but it was too late and he quickly stopped and returned to the peloton. Visconti is good on the climbs, he’s a strong descender and he’s very fast on the line as well. If he makes it into a winning break, he will be the number one favorite for the win.

For other breakaway candidates, look to in-shape riders out of the GC like Steve Cummings, Nelson Oliveira, Ruben Plaza, Moreno Moser, Miguel Angel Rubiano, Pello Bilbao, Carlos Verona, Riccardo Zoidl and Mikael Cherel who finished 6th in Ávila the last time the Vuelta visited the town, in 2009.

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

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