Another day of rolling terrain awaits the peloton on Stage 6 as they tackle the 163.2km route from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra. Opening with an 86.6km circuit which loops back to the day’s starting city, the riders will have plenty of time to get their legs up to speed while rattling over the relatively tame terrain. The greatest pressure shall come from the battle for the breakaway, many teams aware of how unpredictable this year’s race appears to be and are already eager to make this count before opportunities dry up. The peloton will then begin facing their first serious ascending roads, culminating with the Category 2 Alto Alenz which lasts for 10.9km and sustains an average of 5.1% throughout. The following descent leads the pack to the foot of an uncategorised climb, a 13.3km ascent which has an average gradient of 3.4% and eventually flattens out with 20km remaining. From here follows a 1.8km drag (avg 6%) which finishes at the 3km to go banner, after which the final uphill section shall be the last 300m to the line with an average gradient of 3.5%.
Alejandro Valverde will be one of the favourites to take victory if the peloton bring back the day’s breakaway in the final kilometres. He is an extremely opportunistic rider who does not hesitate to seize upon the chance for bonus time or stage wins, though the day does appear to favour a breakaway more than a sprint finish. The natural momentum of the peloton may unintentionally sweep up the escapees during the final drags into the finish and this scenario would likely make Valverde the man to beat in Luintra.
Fabio Felline came extremely close to picking up the stage win yesterday and would surely have got the better of Gianni Meersman had the Belgian’s teammate Zdeněk Štybar not contributed such a brilliant effort to secure Etixx another victory. Felline has proven that his form is strong enough to challenge in the sprints and has previously joined late moves on courses similar to this, arriving at the line as the group’s fastest finisher.
Simon Clarke offers a great chance for Orica-BikeExchange to make the day’s move and thus reduce the pressure on them to chase down the leaders. The Australian looks to be in good form at La Vuelta a España and is the type of rider who is equally dangerous sprinting for the win from either a long distance breakaway or last minute move.
Samuel Sanchez and Philippe Gilbert are BMC’s best cards to play on Stage 6, both riders eager to take grand tour stage victories late in their careers now. Sanchez has been riding at the level of some of the biggest general classification contenders at this year’s edition and can clearly deliver a strong attack when required, though he may find his ambitions hamstrung by the team’s need to protect the red jersey of Darwin Atapuma instead. The fact that Gilbert suits this course so well should provide him with a greater level of freedom to attack in the final kilometres, and if the race develops favourably for him, then it is difficult to see many beating him in a head to head slog up to the line.
Zdeněk Štybar buried himself for Gianni Meersman yesterday as his teammate took Etixx’s second stage win of this year’s Vuelta a España. Today’s offering may prove an ideal chance to swap the previous day’s roles around and instead support Štybar in a finale which could provide an ideal launchpad in the final kilometres for him to attack upon and solo to victory; a talent which has already secured high profile victories for him on several occasions.
There is a great chance that the day’s early breakaway will in fact make it to the finish first, riders who could all make the cut and subsequently steal stage honours on Stage 6 include; José Gonçalves, Enrico Battaglin, Thomas De Gendt, Dries Devenyns, Hugh Carthy, Robert Gesink, Alberto Losada and Rein Taaramäe
Sprint: 1st Fabio Felline 2nd Philippe Gilbert 3rd Simon Clarke
Breakaway: 1st Thomas De Gendt 2nd Alberto Losada 3rd Samuel Sanchez