C-Cycling - Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

27/08 - Stage 6 - Córdoba to Sierra de Cazorla - 200.3 km

Today, we can expect another fight between the overall favorites. According to the road book, the riders will have to overcome 2240 meters of climbing. However, as we have seen in the previous days, the actual amount may be much higher. From the start in Córdoba, the peloton heads east towards Sierra de Cazorla. With more than 200 km on bike, almost no wind and high temperatures, this will be another hard day for the riders.

Alto de Baeza - the first categorized climb - starts after 144.5 km. The 11.8 km towards the top have an average gradient of 3.9 % but include a couple of steep parts as well. From the top, the riders take on 20 km of false flat before a descent leads them towards the intermediate sprint in Peal de Becerro with just 14.8 km to go. Once again, the sprint is located late on the stage, meaning that if the morning breakaway has already been caught at this point, the GC riders may fight for the 3-2-1 bonus seconds on the line.

Officially, the final climb of the day doesn’t begin until there are just 3 km left to go. However, in reality, it has already been uphill for more than 10 km before the peloton reaches the bottom of the climb. It comes after a short descent on wide roads. As soon as the riders cross the bridge, the road starts to rise. The first part kicks up with around 5 %. Then, the gradients gradually rise and peak when the peloton turns left onto Avenida del Cronista Lorenzo Polaino with just over 2 km to go. The following 200 meters kick up with over 15 %. After 1.5 km of around 6 %, the gradients rise further as the riders now turn right to take on the last 600 meters of the stage. The average gradient of this last part is around 7 %. A big 180° left-hand bend leads the riders towards the finishing line. In case this ends stage in a sprint, it’s very important to be the first rider out of this corner since there are just under 100 meters to go. You can see the last few kilometers of the stage - starting with the very steep part - on Google Maps below:

C-Cycling.com Vuelta a España 2015 Preview and Favorites

On paper, the favorites today are the same as those for stage 2 to Caminito del Rey. Most likely, Movistar and especially Katusha will be eager not to waste this opportunity. Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez proved to be the best of the top GC riders when he distanced his rivals on the final kilometer on stage 2. However, it was way too late for him to play for the stage win. On stage 4, Katusha hesitated too long once again. Today, they simply can’t afford to wait for the final few hundred meters. If Purito attacks on the extremely steep part with about 2 km to go, I doubt anybody will be able to follow him. Then, it’s up to him to try and keep the gap on the last part of the stage. If it comes back together, Dani Moreno should be there too. He’s very fast on the line and if he can time his sprint correctly, he could easily end up winning this stage.

Alejandro Valverde did everything right on stage 4. He took advantage of Katusha’s hard work and launched his sprint at the perfect moment. Afterwards, Valverde agreed that stage 6 suits him even better. He knows that he’s capable of outsprinting the other GC riders and I’m sure he’s eager to take another win. Nairo Quintana tried to anticipate a sprint on stage 2 but the Colombian suffered in the heat. I won’t be surprised if he tries to attack again today, though. If not to win the stage, at least to make a selection and create an elite front group from where Valverde can focus on the sprint.

With a leading margin of just one second, it won’t be easy for Tom Dumoulin to keep his overall lead if Esteban Chaves proves to be as strong as he was on stage 2. However, the Dutchman too is obviously in great shape and he will do whatever it takes to stay in red. Nicolas Roche is always good in the Vuelta. This year is no exception. He’s not afraid of attacking and I expect him to do it again today. If there is a standstill after the steep part, Roche may take advantage of the situation and try to get away. He knows he can’t outsprint the likes of Valverde and Moreno, but he may take them by surprise with a well-timed attack.

For other interesting outsiders today, pay attention to Daniel Martin, Louis Meintjes, Mikel Landa, Jelle Vanendert, Gianluca Brambilla and Domenico Pozzovivo. If an early breakaway makes it, look riders out of the GC like Natnael Berhane, Amets Txurruka, Thomas Degand and the always-opportunistic Team Colombia riders.

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

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