The Vuelta heads further inland today over the 164.7km route from Mairena del Alcor to Cordoba, a finishing location which has been used a few times before in the tour. With the organisers focused upon creating good TV for when the stage goes live, the majority of the ride will be predominantly flat, though the peloton will have to cope with yet another day in scorching heat. Fabian Cancellera having raised the issue of competing in high temperatures after he finished Stage 3 an astounding 4.5kg lighter.
The peloton do not need to worry much about the terrain until around 35km remain, at which point the 8km long category 2 Alto del Catorce por Ciento (4.7%) appears. Once completed, the riders still have to contest with the resulting jagged pass which leads them down to the relatively flat run into the finale’s finishing circuit. However, there is a slight drag of 1% – 2% in the last kilometre, but a sweeping 500m dash to the line should mean a simplistic gallop is guaranteed.
Michael Matthews delivered on yesterday’s prediction with great ease, even despite being out of the picture with only 600m remaining and it would be unsurprising should he repeat his escapades once again. The difference today being the benefit of nearly half a kilometre of straight road for the pure sprinters to contest the win across, an negative aspect for Matthew’s ambitions of back to back wins. Whereas Orica-GreenEDGE spent the majority of today ensuring the breakaway never got too far ahead on their own, FDJ should be more prolific at the front of affairs on behalf of Nacer Bouhanni. In spite of more testing finish than expected on Stage 3, the little Frenchman still managed an impressive 8th place for someone usually known solely for his turn of pace on the flat.
The big threat to his hopes is John Degenkolb once more, who will look upon today keenly in light of the simple run into town, a factor which lends itself perfectly to the organised lead out train of Giant-Shimano. Degenkolb was understandably absent from the finish on Stage 3, which may have left him fresher than Bouhanni when it comes to the inevitable drag race today. Orica-GreenEDGE are fully aware of this fact and will look to repeat the previous day’s efforts to burn off the German upon the final climb – this may play into the hands of Bouhanni though.
Despite the imperious form which Bouhanni appears to be in, Degenkolb could be the better man to back in the predominately flat finish today. The German took little interest in the previous day’s stage, judging by his 74th place compared to that of Bouhanni’s impressive 8th and it is this which raises the question – How much top end may have been chipped from the FDJ man compared to a possibly fresher Degenkolb? Having a dedicated and well oiled lead out train looks to be an advantage too in the final 1km for the German, especially compared to the support offered to Bouhanni.
1st Degenkolb 2nd Bouhanni 3rd Matthews