This year’s La Vuelta a España is running out of opportunities for the teams and their riders to strike it lucky with a win and Stage 19 will no doubt instigate a frantic start as most of the peloton attempt to make their way into the day’s breakaway. Around 90km of ever so slightly rising roads will make it difficult for a move to establish itself once the bunch are on the road, but expect the size of the eventual group to be large, perhaps between 15 – 25 riders as team’s attempt to make their presence here worthwhile.
Medina del Campo will host the riders’ departure point for Stage 19 and set them on their way to the 186.8km journey to the day’s finish in Ávila. Building steadily from the off, it will not be until the 92km marker where the bunch will finally face a significant feature of the day’s profile; the Category 3 Alto de Valdelavía. A simple enough ascent which lasts 13km and averages out with a gradient of 2.7%, it will fail to impact upon the day’s outcome. From the summit, the bunch will drop down into the valley via a gradual descent, before beginning to climb yet again 35km from the finish in Ávila.
Once the intermediate sprint is tackled by 158km, the day’s concluding descent begins immediately, maxing out just shy of 20km from home. The climb of Alto de la Paramera is a total of 8.7km and averages a manageable gradient of 4.5%, an ascent which could act as a springboard for those in the breakaway who will reach this climb first. Though there is still everything to play for in regards to the Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru dynamic, it seems more likely both shall keep their powder dry ahead of what is bound to be the more pivotal Stage 20. This means the escapees should be allowed to maintain their advantage into Ávila, where an uphill finish and cobble roads are set to make this conclusion just a little tougher still.
Alejandro Valverde will be the favourite to win if the breakaway capitulates late on in the day, the Spanish rider suiting this finale well and will certainly jump on the chance to add to his stage haul at this year’s La Vuelta a España. A man who performs well at the Ardennes and possesses a potent turn of pace, it is easy to see him dominating on the cobbled climb which precedes the finish.
Giovanni Visconti was a well backed rider to find success in yesterday’s breakaway, but sadly he struggled to identity the right move and consequently spent the day back in the bunch. Movistar will lean upon him once again today and request he does his utmost to make the cut on this occasion. With a limited amount of climbing and a finish which should favour those with a fair sprint capability, Visconti suits the requirements of Stage 19 well.
Stephen Cummings is still riding strong at the tail-end of this grand tour and he should be watched in the formative moments of the race as the breakaway attempts to establish its composition. Though absent from the previous day’s moves, Cummings will be the best card to play for MTN-Qhubeka and should be considered a danger man on a day which favours the breakaway’s chances of staying away to the line.
Alessandro De Marchi is another such breakaway specialist who has ridden impressively throughout La Vuelta, securing himself a stage win along the way. Today is perhaps not as tough as the terrain which usually draws the Italian out into a successful move, but at this point in the race it comes down more to condition than simply relevant talents; making him an ideal confederate to have amongst the break’s ranks.
Simon Gerrans was highlighted to make himself known on yesterday’s stage as a way of testing his condition ahead of this year’s World Championship Road Race, but this failed to materialise. Stage 19 is the last opportunity he will have to attempt such an exercise and the finale does suit the Australian quite well. The amount of climbing is unlikely to prove problematic for Gerrans, and with the cobbled hill coming a little way before the line, he could definitely challenge for the win.
Geraint Thomas might be tasked with getting into the day’s move, Sky no doubt eager to capitalise once again in the breakaway and avoid having to commit anything to the chase beyond protecting Mikel Nieve’s general classification position. Given their success yesterday however, they might be content with calling it quits at this year’s Vuelta and enter Madrid feeling a little fresher. The Welshman enjoyed an impressive Spring campaign this season and it is easy to see today’s late mixture of ‘hellingen’ and cobbles catching his eye.
José Joaquín Rojas could well feel a bit cooked after his exploits in the previous day’s breakaway, but he has ridden very strongly throughout the race and it is hard to see him call it a day with Stage 19 being such a good fit for him. Rojas will be a tough adversary amongst any group which contests the finale, and with the added drag to the line, it all adds up to a very enticing stage for the Spaniard.
Adam Hansen will be a man fancied to feature today, his reputation for a long breakaway preceding him, while the Australian is also known for utilising his brute strength to power through these final days of a grand tour. Of course, like Rojas, he did work hard on the previous stage and could decide that his hopes of another stage win at La Vuelta a España will have to wait until next year’s edition.
Julien Simon might choose to have one last attempt at picking up a stage win for his team Cofidis at 2015’s La Vuelta during today. The Frenchman has already taken three top ten placings, including a runner up spot on Stage 13 behind Nelson Oliveira and may emerge once again at the final time of asking. The uphill sections into the finish should not discourage him either, factoring in his sprinting ability, Simon actually suits today well if he can join the right move.
Rinaldo Nocentini, Nelson Oliveira, Tosh Van Der Sande and Moreno Moser all warrant a passing mention as those who could bolster the ranks of a decisive breakaway.
The ongoing Tom Dumoulin versus Fabio Aru battle also deserves a few words here, as it is possible that we may witness more activity than we expect between the two on Stage 19. The climbs do not really suit Aru, and given their nature, Dumoulin should not struggle to pace his way up them with the Italian safely in sight. However, the finale which includes a cobbled climb and rising roads in the last 2km, could prove advantageous for Dumoulin to actually take more time from Aru. The Dutchman performs strongly on these short, sharp climbs and could certainly put down the power in order to add a couple of seconds to his current lead.
1st Giovanni Visconti 2nd Adam Hansen 3rd Geraint Thomas
Outsider: Alejandro Valverde