Day three at La Vuelta a España takes the peloton on a 176.4km journey from Marín to the brutally steep climb of Mirador de Ézaro, offering up a gruelling finale to lure the puncheurs and general classification contenders into action early on at this race. The opening 100km of racing offer little interest to spectators, though shall prove ideal terrain for the day’s breakaway to form and establish a good rhythm ahead of the Category 1 and Category 2 ascents en route to the finale. The action will be ignited amongst the specialist climbers in the final few kilometres as they ride onto the opening ramps of the Mirador de Ézaro, a 1.8km ascent which averages 13.8% and reaches a leg burning 20% before the finish.
Esteban Chaves is a clear contender for stage honours on day three, the diminutive Colombian rider often flourishing upon these short, sharp climbs which offer no cover for weaker riders to hide. Orica-BikeExchange have not made their intentions at this race clear thus far, but could certainly see today as an opportunity to capture an early stage win.
Alejandro Valverde has made finishes such as these his specialism throughout his career, marking him out as an obvious danger to the hopes of others on Stage 3. Questions are being asked as to his condition right now and this early test could prove to be a baptism of fire for the ageing Spaniard. If however he hits the ground running at this year’s Vuelta a España, then he may prove the man to beat on this testing final ascent.
Alberto Contador finished second on this same stage finish in 2012 and should have arrived at the race in good condition after abandoning the Tour de France last month, gradually increasing fitness through a light race schedule. This is not Contador’s favoured terrain and he will no doubt be focused on the longer plan at hand here, but if he is required to race hard to the line, there is every chance he could take the win.
Chris Froome is hoping to stretch his earlier summer form into this year’s Vuelta a España, looking to join the select club of riders who have won two grand tours in the same year. There is little doubt that Froome is aiming to ride himself into peak condition by the latter part of the race, though will have to follow the wheels of rivals on the Mirador de Ézaro, as a bad day could cost him a lot of time before the general classification fight is really on.
Simon Yates offers another great option for Orica-BikeExchange to challenge for the win on Stage 3, the young British rider suited to these steep gradients which require a strong burst of speed to distance everyone else as their legs begin to falter. This early part of the race may allow him a degree of freedom ahead of the general classification battle truly kicking off, making him a great outside bet for victory atop the Mirador de Ézaro.
Others who could win with a late surge to the line or from an earlier breakaway move include; Gianluca Brambilla, Jose Goncalves, Rein Taaramae, Darwin Atapuma and Daniel Moreno.
1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Alberto Contador