Note; due to an error hosting today’s in-depth analysis of La Vuelta a España Stage 2, the following mini-guide replaces the usual format, but normality will return ahead of tomorrow’s stage once all problems have been resolved.
A total of 158.7km links the starting point of Alhaurin de la Torre to the finishing line atop the testing Caminito del Rey climb, which should see an early duel between the general classification contenders. The short day in the saddle is simple enough for the most part, not encountering the first recognised climb of this year’s Vuelta until 113km has been completed. After this the riders will drop down relatively steadily and pass through the day’s intermediate sprint en route to the summit finish which is sure to animate the race in the dying kilometres. The average gradient of 6.5% on this 4.7km long climb is sure to shock the system of some riders early on in this grand tour, but it is the increasing ramps reaching 13% which are sure to hammer home the reality of this finale. Awkwardly, having reached its maximum threshold, there is a momentary lull in gradient as a sudden plateau forces the riders to break whatever rhythm they have mustered thus far. The final kilometres to the line are winding roads which include a couple of hairpin bends and are set average around 7% for the most part on the way to the summit
Alejandro Valverde will be the favourite for many to secure an early win at his home tour and will feel confident upon a finish which seems perfectly suited to his attributes. However, he does arrive here on the back of a Tour de France appearance which did expose some weaknesses in his current condition. If still too tired or lacking race fitness, he might struggle to follow the required wheels late on here.
Dan Martin is of a similar style to that of Valverde and has often found the Spaniard his leading adversary when duking it out on these Ardennes styled finales. Martin is also featuring at the Vuelta on the back of a Tour de France showing which saw him falling marginally short of a win on a couple of occasions. Most beneficial for the Irishman is the likely selective nature of this tougher and longer summit finish compared to those at Le Tour, meaning if in good condition, he has a strong chance of winning.
Joaquim Rodriguez and Daniel Moreno are two great options for Team Katusha and it seems certain that one of the two will certainly feature on the podium by the finish. The former had a great time at Le Tour, but found victory on much more testing finales than this and there is a strong chance that he might instead be utilised in support of his teammate. Moreno has had a relatively quiet season, but his showing at the Vuelta a Burgos proved that he should be peaking perfectly ahead of his home race. The easier inclines, despite the distance, should allow Moreno to exploit his faster finishing abilities compared his teammate Rodriguez and surge to the win.
Chris Froome could certainly feature earlier than expected and it would be no surprise after his performances in the opening week of this year’s Tour de France. However, attention might be better focused upon that of his teammate Sergio Henao, the Colombian rider has a documented penchant for this type of stage finish. Though a win could be slightly beyond him when factoring in the quality of the field also contesting the victory, it seems likely that Henao will aim to animate the race in an attempt to defend Froome’s interests as best as possible.
Fabio Aru is certainly underestimated for this stage finish and could decide to seize the initiative by taking a win and leader’s jersey simultaneously. Though placed alongside his pure climbing contemporaries such as Chris Froome and Alberto Contador, the Italian is the fastest finishing by far of the general classification specialists and has the required skills to win Stage 2 if he choose to target it.
1st Daniel Moreno 2nd Dan Martin 3rd Fabio Aru