Having put the time trial bikes away again for another week or so, the peloton return to the joys of Spanish summit finishes on Stage 11. Beginning in the historic town of Pamplona, the riders are given the short distance of 153.4km to traverse, in order to make the summit finish atop Santuario De San Miguel De Aralar in Spain’s Navarra region. Looking at the profile, again we see the ‘made for TV’ style stage which abandons a full day of climbing in the name of two televised climbs – one being the summit finish.
It will take 100km of rolling roads before the race hits a categorised climb in the form of the Cat 3 Puerto de Lizarrega; a long 18.3km pass which averages around 2.6% for the majority. It should not cause any splits amongst the major teams and their riders’, but the following descent should be sufficient for anyone to bridge back across if in trouble on the climb. Similar opportunities will not be offered to anyone struggling on the slopes of the finale’s climb however, with the 9.9km Santuario De San Miguel De Aralar expected to detonate the peloton en route to the finish. Evidently more difficult than previous climbs this year, due to its length and average gradient of 7.5%, this could see some time being gained by a general classification hopeful as it maxes out at 14% with a little over 2km remaining.
A couple of surprises were present at the conclusion of the previous day’s time trial: Alberto Contador is either riding himself into form or has been sandbagging the entire time; and Nairo Quintana crashed most unexpectedly to lose the lead and drop to 3mins 25secs down. On the other hand, Chris Froome under-performed as expected during the time trial, putting his result down to poor pacing, though he appears to have been struggling throughout the Vuelta thus far. This will not be encouraging to Froome ahead of Stage 11, as with the length of the day’s finale, it will be likely that he loses further time to his rivals’. It still remains unclear regarding the possible injuries which Nairo Quintana sustained in his TT when striking the barrier hard on the descent. Rumours mention damage to his knee which became apparent when trying to walk, but riding a bike is a different story altogether, making it plausible that he will ride well enough tomorrow – though accelerating out of the saddle would seem an obvious issue. The duo who are likely to make a serious move in search of time and a stage win from the GC are Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez, both appearing to suit the length and difficulty of the day’s finish. Contador still maintains he is not 100% in terms of fitness, but his performances so far would suggest that he is still strong enough to mount an attack for the overall win. Yet to be seen on the offensive, Contador has not struggled to follow the attacks as of yet, and tomorrow could see him go away to gain time when reacting to a possible Joaquim Rodriguez charge. Katusha have the personnel to set Rodriguez up for the win compared to Contador, though it almost seems that the latter does not even require a particularly powerful line-up around him on occasions. As long as a breakaway does not manage to stay away for the entire day and end up deciding the stage win amongst them, Rodriguez and Contador are the men to watch. As said, Contador would appear more comfortable at the moment to react, rather than instigate attacks, saving his ruthless mountain beating form for the final days. A win here for Rodriguez would not only gain him and Katusha a deserved stage win, but also reenforce his chances of taking another podium finish at the Vuelta a España this year.
A late attack by Joaquim Rodriguez would draw Alberto Contador out of the pack behind them and see the two Spaniards inflict some heavy deficits into the general classification as Rodriguez takes the stage win.
1st Rodriguez 2nd Contador 3rd Pinot