Mondoñedo to Faro de Estaca de Bares – 181.1 km

The route

After the ultra-hard stage 11, everybody in the peloton will welcome an easy day in the saddle. If they get such a day however, that’s an entirely different question. Even though the profile looks flat, there are still over 2000 meters of climbing. The terrain in Galicia offers very few flat meters.

After five kilometers in the neutral zone, the riders starts descending as soon as the official start is given. Soon after, they take on Alto de Cadeira. This category 3 climb is 5.8 km long and have an average gradient of 6.4 %. The morning breakaway will most likely be established here. From the top, the route leads the riders towards the coastline, which they will reach after about 55 km in the saddle.

After the feed-zone in Parroquia de Lago, the hills start to get a little longer and more frequent. The next categorized climb is Alto de San Pedro, which begins with 57 km to go. The 7.7 km towards the top kick up with 5.4 %. The following descent has several technical parts and takes place on a narrow road. Both the GC riders and the sprinters will want to be at the front as they start on this downhill section. Expect a fierce fight for positions.

Soon after the descent ends, the riders start climbing again. These final ascents aren’t categorized but they are still very challenging. Especially the one starting with about 35 km to go. With a final 500 meters of 10 %, this climb will definitely leave its mark in the legs of the riders. Its steep gradients also mean that the peloton will be stretched out significantly as they start descending towards the intermediate sprint in Ortigueira.

On the final 20 km, several short but leg-breaking climbs await the riders. They are only between 1.5 km and 3 km long and have average gradients of 4-5 %. However, they come right after each other, leaving the riders little room to catch their breath and move up within the peloton. These ascents also serve as excellent places to put in a late attack and get away.

The final uphill section ends with about 2.5 km to go. From here on, a fast descent leads the riders towards the last critical point of the stage: a sharp left-hand turn into a narrow road with 1.4 km to go. The first 500 meters are uphill. Afterwards, it’s downhill on the same narrow road before the final 200 meters slightly rise towards the finishing line. In the road book, this may look like a stage for the sprinters. However, many of them will have troubles keeping up with the peloton in this treacherous terrain.

The favorites

If the peloton succeeds in reeling back in all the breakaway attempts, Peter Sagan seems like the prime pick. He’s gradually getting better and better and the hard and undulating finale benefits him greatly compared to his rivals. The tricky run-in also fits him perfectly as he’s amongst the best bike handlers in the peloton. Last, a slightly uphill sprint is right up his alley. BORA-hansgrohe should work hard to control the stage and set up Sagan for the final. Then, it’s up him to deliver.

Given the fact that he’s only one second from the red leader’s jersey, Alejandro Valverde might also fancy this stage. The nature of the final kilometers means that the GC riders will have to be very aware not lose any time. Therefore, they will do all they can to stay near the front. That means that Valverde most likely will arrive in a very good position for the sprint. The final meters are not steep enough for him to get a real advantage over Sagan but if he can make Top3, that will still secure him the overall lead in the Vuelta.

The big question is how Elia Viviani will cope with this undulating profile and hilly final part of the stage. If he manages to stay in the peloton and enter the last kilometers in a good position, he’s the number one favorite for the win due to his fast finish. However, that is also a big if. I wouldn’t be surprised if the course turns out to be just a bit too hard for the Italian champion today.

Regarding the rest of the pure sprinters, the same judgement stands. I think the route will prove too difficult for them. Especially, if the teams of the GC riders decide to make the last 25 km hard.

The outsiders

In a reduced peloton, riders like Eduard Prades, Michal Kwiatkowski and Iván Cortina have very good chances of a big result. All three are fast on the line and shouldn’t have any problems getting over the climbs. Especially Prades will like this finish. However, he needs his teammates to help deliver him in a good position before that crucial turn with 1.4 km to go. If you’re too far down at this point, it’s most likely game over already. The likes of Tony Gallopin, Fabio Felline, Bjorg Lambrecht and Gorka Izagirre also fits the right profile for this type of stage.

If a break ends up making it all the way again, Omar Fraile, Thomas De Gendt, Jonathan Lastra, Ben King, Jetse Bol and Brent Bookwalter seem like good picks.

For a late attack, look to riders who are good at finding the right moment and able to ride away from a charging peloton. Riders such as Lukas Pöstelberger, Lluis Mas and Steve Cummings who soon needs to justify why he occupies a spot on Dimension Data’s team for this Vuelta.

Use your knowledge and win cash prizes!

After having read this preview, I’m sure you have a good idea about which kind of riders will do well today. You may even have your own outsiders in mind. Wouldn’t it be great to use that knowledge to make the stage even more interesting and win cash prizes? I’ve teamed up with the fantasy manager site Zweeler for this year’s Vuelta a España. During the race, they have individual stage competitions with a daily prize pool of 200 Euros for today’s stage!

All you have to do is to pick the riders you think will perform the best on the stage. It’s very simple to participate. Just click here and sign up. The more people who sign up and create teams via this specific link, the more previews will be made during the Vuelta!

For daily live streams of all the stages in Vuelta a España 2018 go to steephill.tv.