La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

The final day of 2016’s La Vuelta a España is finally here and the red jersey of race leader looks destined to cross the line in Madrid upon the shoulders of Nairo Quintana. Though all the drama in the general classification has been put to bed for another year, there is still plenty of excitement on offer as the race completes its three week adventure with a chance for the sprinters to make their presence felt here. Lasting a brief 104.8km from Las Rozas to Madrid, much of the day will be a leisurely parade for the riders and cameras to enjoy, with a few glasses of champagne making their way around the bunch too. There is not a great deal to analyse of today’s stage, the opening 57.7km building towards the first of eight 5.8km laps which form the finale of Stage 21. The circuits are flat and are primarily based on the same design which has often provided this last day of racing in Madrid, offering an advantage to those riders who have previously ridden La Vuelta’s closing stage. A combination of several u-turns and a couple of 90-degree bends makes this a technical course, but after several laps, it should be plain sailing for teams looking to set their sprinters up for glory in the capital.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

Nikias Arndt should already have a win under his belt at this year’s race, but for several reasons, the Giant-Alpecin rider has failed to do so. He is still the fastest man left in contention for a sprint and has form for managing fatigue well as stage races reach their conclusion. The team are capable of delivering him perfectly into position for victory and proved this fact well when only just missing out on Stage 18 to Magnus Cort. In a simple drag race to the line, Nikias Arndt will be the man to beat and should be confident of being manoeuvred neatly into position by his teammates today.

Gianni Meersman was victim of a very poor leadout by Etixx-QuickStep in the final moments of Stage 18 and failed to even contest the outcome seriously. They shall be extremely motivated to remedy this fact and know how well they can execute a sprint given Meersman’s two victories already at the race. Today’s circuits do not suit his attributes that well, especially given the nature of a short stage and his lesser sprint speed, but the power of his team may be enough to swing fortune in his favour to secure a hat trick of wins.

Magnus Cort has performed incredibly well at his debut grand tour and caught the eye with his convincing victor on Stage 18. Today is the only real opportunity for the pure sprinters to take glory, and given how few of those are in attendance, Cort is a real danger to the hopes of everyone with an eye on today. Most interestingly of all however, the fact this is the finale stage should mean Cort is offered a greater level of support in the final kilometres, a factor which will only further push him into contention.

Jempy Drucker put in much quicker sprints than expected at this year’s La Vuelta and will be in the hunt once again today. With the support of BMC, Drucker will be provided enough protection to prevent him expending any unnecessary energy before the last lap. He copes well with the attritional nature of stage races, levelling the playing field to a degree and subsequently giving him a real chance of making the day’s podium at a minimum.

Rudiger Selig has plenty of raw power to mix it up on Stage 21, let alone the strength of his leadout team which features both Scott Thwaites and Michael Schwarzmann; arguably on par with both Etixx-QuickStep and Giant-Alpecin. Bora-Argon 18 should give Selig the nod to carry their hopes on the final day and should perform convincingly on this power based sprint to the line.

Others expected to feature in the day’s final top ten placings are Daniele BennatiJonas Van GenechtenKristian Sbaragli and Kiel Reijnen.

Outcome:

1st Nikias Arndt 2nd Magnus Cort 3rd Rudiger Selig

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

Chris Froome mustered one of his finest performances ever in an individual time trial, winning Stage 19 by a margin of 44″ to Jonathan Castroviejo and subsequently reducing the lead of Nairo Quintana to 1′ 21″. It still looks to be a difficult task to try and overturn the deficit, but Chris Froome has developed a more aggressive style of racing in recent months and shall be confident of Stage 20 providing him an ideal opportunity to snatch the leader’s jersey at the death. The 193.2km route from Benidorm to Alto de Aitana features four Category 2 ascents, building to the crescendo finish atop the HC finale of Alto de Aitana and one last chance to shake up the general classification. Beginning with the Category 2 Coll de Rates (13km avg 3%), the race then drops down and runs into the base of the Category 2 Alto de Vall de Ebo (8km 5.4%), immediately followed by a third Category 2 in the form Alto de Tollos (4.1km 5.9%). The peloton will then enjoy a break in climbing for a short while, returning to life uphill by conquering the Category 2 Puerto de Tudons (7.1km 5.3%). From here anxieties will begin to bubble to the surface, the road dropping down ahead of reaching the foot of the Alto de Aitana, a 21km long climb which averages 5.9% and stays relatively even from start to finish.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

Nairo Quintana may have conceded more time than some would have anticipated during yesterday’s stage, but the Movistar captain still looks destined to walk away with the red jersey by the end of the weekend. Nobody as truly managed to drop Quintana during the race and he has managed to conserve energy by riding defensively as a result of his considerable lead he gained earlier in the race. Chris Froome has to attack today repeatedly if he is to have any chance of taking the jersey, but Quintana looks strong enough to match him throughout and potentially kick onwards to stage victory.

Chris Froome proved yesterday that he is still riding in magnificent form during 2016, summoning up an impressive time trial performance to eat into the lead of Nairo Quintana. Froome has discovered a much more aggressive style of riding during this season, no doubt needing to call upon this hot streak to try to distance Quintana and possibly sweep up a bonus 10 seconds by winning the stage too. Even if he fails to take the overall lead here, Froome is bound to be the man to beat in terms of winning Stage 20.

Esteban Chaves has proven that he can now compete with the big names as a grand tour reaches its final week, highlighting his increasing ability at cycling’s most testing races. Chaves has resisted the temptation to burn his matches, looking fresher now than expected, marking him out as a genuine threat for stage honours. Given that it seems unlikely that he can return to third on the general classification after losing it to Contador in yesterday’s time trial, Chaves may even be afforded a degree of freedom to attack and will also have a great chance of beating Froome, Quintana and Contador if a sprint is needed to decide the day.

Alberto Contador could exploit the battle between Quintana and Froome to his own advantage, staying in their wheels for the most part in hope of making a stage winning move during the final kilometres. Contador is no threat to the red jersey, and as a result, could be allowed to go clear late in the race if Froome concedes that there is no chance of himself gaining enough time to take the overall win from Quintana.

Given the importance of today’s stage in the overall result of the race, as well as bonus seconds awarded to the winner, there is only a slim chance of the breakaway succeeding atop the Alto de Aitana. Robert Gesink has enjoyed a very successful race thus far and shall be the favourite for many to win from a breakaway move which manages to stay clear of Team Sky’s chase. Kenny Elissonde needs to put the mountains classification to bed and may be tempted into joining the day’s move in order to defend his lead, before then potentially kicking onwards to victory as a result.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Esteban Chaves

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

After almost three weeks of racing, the specialists against the clock shall step into the limelight at last and look to take their sole opportunity of glory in Stage 19’s individual time trial. A relatively simple route from Xàbia to Calp will last 37km and looks the ideal terrain to establish a high speed battle amongst the contenders for stage honours here. However, with many twists and turns on the cards for the riders, there is also a large technical element to the day which will need negotiating en route to victory.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 19 Preview

Contenders:

Jonathan Castroviejo shall view today as his to lose, with few thoroughbred time trialists at La Vuelta, there shall not be many likely to push the Spanish rider to his limits for the win. The Movistar rider has long been closing the gap to the likes of Tony MartinTom Dumoulin and Bradley Wiggins, now finding himself without such a rival to truly test him as the peloton reaches Stage 19. Barring any technical errors or bad weather, Castroviejo is the clear favourite to secure a home win for Spanish fans.

Chris Froome may not be at his imperious best, but there is no doubt that he has been saving energy in anticipation of putting in a monstrous performance today. The gap to leader Nairo Quintana has grown considerably and it is hard to imagine Sky were expecting to chase such a deficit by the time they reached this point. Regardless, Froome’s goal now is to reduce the lead of Quintana as soon as possible, potentially setting himself up for a spectacular final few days at La Vuelta a España.

Luis León Sánchez Gil has previously performed very well during individual time trials which come late in a grand tour, marking himself out as a definite contender, especially given his strength during the last couple of weeks. He might not be the fastest against the clock, but once an attritional race takes its toll on his rivals, there is no reason he cannot better the time of any rider.

Victor Campenaerts is reigning Belgian time trial champion, contesting his first career grand tour in the shape of La Vuelta and clearly has an eye on performing well here after finishing last yesterday in hope of conserving energy. Had this come during the first week of racing, Campenaerts would have been high on the list of contenders, but the effects of a draining debut grand tour may now limit his chances on Stage 19.

Vegard Stake Laengen took a surprising third place during this year’s Giro d’Italia on Stage 9, reminding people of his decent ability in an individual time trial as a result. Given the distance and terrain on offer, the Norwegian has a great chance of featuring in the mix once again and should be worth watching.

Others deserving of consideration are Tobias LudvigssonFabio FellineAlberto ContadorSilvan Dillier and Thomas De Gendt.

Outcome:

1st Jonathan Castroviejo 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Luis León Sánchez Gil

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 18 Preview

Course:

The second longest day in the saddle of 2016’s La Vuelta a España, the 200.6km route from Requena to Gandia forms Stage 18 and has the potential to offer a seldom victory for the fastest riders remaining at the race. A hectic scramble to make the day’s breakaway looks certain, with opportunistic riders hoping that the peloton shall struggle to muster a strong enough chase to bring them back before the finish in Gandia. After a lumpy beginning to proceedings, the pack will begin to climb the 13.3km long Category 2 Puerto de Casa del Alto, averaging a modest 3.8% from bottom to top. Though sustaining its rolling profile, the stage actually descends continually down to the finish after they have passed over the day’s sole categorised climb. Eventually returning to flat terrain with only 5km or so remaining, the peloton will once again have to thread their way through several roundabouts and keep a tight leash on any escapees looking to make a late move, as they hit a small incline 4km from the line.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Gianni Meersman has performed far beyond expectations during the race and shall definitely be marked as the favourite to take stage honours if the day ends in a bunch kick once again. His Etixx-QuickStep team still appear strong, providing enough grunt work to control the race and still set Meersman up for the win. The tricky finale will magnify the advantage of possessing a good leadout and there is every chance that no other team will be able to match them in this tiring final week.

Zdeněk Štybar will be the perfect alternative for Etixx-QuickStep if Meersman is not convinced that his efforts are worth investing in a potential sprint finish in Gandia. Despite being the crucial cog in the Meersman train, Štybar might be allowed to join the day’s breakaway and take the pressure off his teammates. The terrain is favourable for the Czech rider and he may even choose to make a late move upon the small incline 4km from the finish if the opportunity appears.

Nikias Arndt is still considered the fastest man still present at this year’s Vuelta, but has been plagued by poor leadouts and recent knee issues as well. With such little form to go on, it is hard to create a strong case for Arndt, yet the potential of a neat run into home clearly places him in contention should the day end in a sprint.

Jempy Drucker turned in a great performance a couple of days ago and will hope to build upon that in pursuit of a stage victory. The BMC rider is talented at looking after himself, relying less so on his teammates than other rivals here and shall hope for a hard race which reduces the size of any potential group contesting the finish.

Kiel Reijnen should be given the chance of taking over from teammate Fabio Felline, hoping he can seize upon the chance to battle it out for the win at his first ever grand tour. The lumpy terrain will potentially improve his odds of winning, drawing similarities with previous professional wins, though the distance could be an issue.

Rudiger Selig caught the eye on Stage 16 and shall be hoping for a repeat performance of his second place at the very least. With a strong team ready to support him, Bora-Argon 18 will definitely be convinced that a stage victory is with their grasp at this edition of La Vuelta.

The breakaway has a very strong chance of staying clear if the right composition of riders and teams forms, hopefully nullifying the need to chase from the group behind. Such riders who could benefit from this are Fabio FellineOmar FraileMoreno MoserJan BakelantsLuis Leon SanchezLaurent Didier and Yves Lampaert.

Outcome:

1st Nikias Arndt 2nd Rudiger Selig 3rd Jempy Drucker

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

As the last rest day of 2016’s La Vuelta a España begins to fade rapidly in the memory, Stage 17 signals the beginning of an attritional final week which shall truly test those with an eye upon the general classification. Covering 177.5km from Castellon to the frighteningly steep summit finish of Camins del Penyagolosa, the peloton shall tick off three categorised climbs en route to the day’s gruelling finale. First to be conquered is the Category 2 Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, a 7.3km long climb which averages a gradient of 5.1% and shall immediately give an indication as to how riders feel after their rest day. The longer Category 2 Alto de la Sarratella follows next (14.5km avg 3.6%) and soon leads into the Category 3 Alto de Benasal; lasting 11.2km with a tame average gradient of 3%. Anticipation will begin to boil over as the peloton makes its way downhill and onwards to the foot of the day’s final climb; the Category 1 Alto Mas de la Costa. Lasting for only 3.8km, the ascent possesses an agonising average gradient of 12.5% and secures the title of steepest average climb at this year’s Vuelta a España. The bunch will battle against gradients between 15% – 20% for the most part, but the hardest ramps appear within the final kilometre and shoot skywards to 21%.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 17 Preview

La Vuelta a España - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome will have to find his feet rapidly on the final climb, as several rivals appear to be better suited to this explosive and steep summit finish than he does right now. Froome needs to hit today with everything if he is to have any hope of eating into the current lead of Nairo Quintana, especially as pinning everything on overturning the deficit during the individual time trial now looks unlikely. Historically speaking, Froome does have encouraging form on short battles such as these, but his condition in recent days has not been totally reassuring.

Nairo Quintana seems to finally have begun living up to expectation and finds himself in a favourable position as the race enters its final stages. The Colombian has established a great enough advantage now to ride defensively, meaning he has a great chance to live in the wheels and Froome today, looking to strike out for victory only after his main rival has towed him up to the summit.

Esteban Chaves meets much of the criteria to perform well in the final moments of Stage 17, though has not produced the level of performances required to mark him out as favourite today. The steep slopes in the final kilometres typically prove happy hunting for Chaves and he could definitely push onto victory if given the freedom by the likes of Froome and Quintana.

Alberto Contador is interested in forcing himself onto the podium by the end of the week and is currently only 5 seconds from achieving this ambition while situated behind Chaves on the general classification. Though it is likely he shall attempt a move of some sort, it is less clear whether he truly has the legs to finish it off successfully.

Kenny Elissonde shall be the first on the list of many looking to those outside of the general classification to contest the win on Stage 17. The Frenchman seems to relish horrendously steep finales like the Alto Mas de la Costa and has looked in brilliant form throughout La Vuelta thus far. He knows that his condition deserves a stage win, so there is no doubt that Elissonde will be active throughout the final week’s worth of stages.

Riders who could all strike out from part of a breakaway are; Michele ScarponiOmar FraileRobert GesinkHugh Carthy and Jean Christophe Péraud.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Esteban Chaves

Breakaway: Kenny Elissonde

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

The unexpected alliance on Stage 15 between Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana delivered more drama in a day than some recent grand tours have experienced in their entire three weeks. There is little chance of replicating such drama once again, but today’s 156.4km stage from Alcañiz to Peñiscola should provide an exciting finale as the sprinters attempt to seize upon a rare opportunity to take a win at this year’s Vuelta a España. Ascending gradually from the start, the road builds continually as it approaches the Category 3 Alto Castillo de Morella, a 3.4km ascent which averages a gradient of 5.2%. After this comes a long descent down to within less than 20km of the finish line, the riders required to navigate a series of roundabouts as they approach Peñiscola, followed by the final 1.3km long stretch along the coast which forms the day’s finishing straight.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Fabio Felline was active once again yesterday and appears to be coping well with the high amount fatigue which the La Vuelta dishes out to all of the riders. He is now the best hope of a stage win for his team Trek-Segafredo and could rise to the top of the pile thanks to his freshness, despite not being one of the fastest men in contention for today’s win.

Gianni Meersman has been somewhat of a surprise at 2016’s race, already taking a couple of wins and still looking capable of adding to his haul in the final week or so of racing. Etixx-QuickStep are able to support him with a great deal of talent and shall be the strongest team in with a shout of victory by the time they reach Peñiscola. Meersman is the clear favourite for the win and it looks like many of his rivals here shall struggle to match the level of both him and his team.

Nikias Arndt usually emerges as one of the best sprinters towards the tail-end of stage races and is a great threat if his leadout is executed neatly at last. Having tried to conserve some of his energy as of late, Arndt is targeting this for more than simply featuring in the mix and GiantAlpecin are still confident he can win.

Kristian Sbaragli continues to grow in strength as the race’s attritional effect builds day by day, bringing the Dimension-Data rider further into contention on Stage 16. The latter half of today might not be the ideal terrain for Sbaragli to truly compete for victory, but freshness is crucial by this point of the race and he still possesses a good chance.

Magnus CortJonas Van Genechten and Tosh Van Der Sande are all names likely to fill the top ten placings in a bunch kick, though winning may just be beyond their grasp.

Outcome:

1st Fabio Felline 2nd Nikias Arndt 3rd Gianni Meersman

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

There is no rest afforded to the peloton after yesterday’s queen stage, Stage 15 might be short at 118.5km, but the jagged profile and summit finish is certain to catch riders on a bad day. The journey from Sabiñanigo to Sallent de Gallego features the Category 3 Alto de Petralba (6.3km avg 5%), Category 2 Alto de Costefabio (12.5km 4.3%) and the final Category 1 summit finish up to Sallent de Gallego (14.5km 4.6%). Bound to be a chaotic and more intense day due to the shorter nature of the stage, it shall be difficult to predict who exactly will summit Sallent de Gallego first.


La Vuelta a España - Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Gianluca Brambilla conceded a great deal of time several days ago and now looks like one of the strongest placed riders to make it into a breakaway which will contest the day’s stage win. With hardly a stretch of genuine flat terrain to be ridden, Brambilla will relish a day which provides him the perfect springboard to attack solo en route to victory.

Omar Fraile has maintained his presence in the breaks in order to collect further points for the mountains classification and will still believe there is a chance of him picking up a stage win at this year’s race. Given the easier terrain compared to yesterday, Fraile will be a far greater threat to the hopes of others today and should perform well on the final climb.

Davide Formolo has not been as active as previously expected, so today could be an inviting proposition for the young Italian rider to join the action and take the win. His team Cannondale need to make their time here worthwhile, so a stage victory is a growing concern for the American outfit.

Simon Yates is demonstrating a great level of form at the race and should be considered a danger to everyone if he manages to find a place within the breakaway. One of his greatest skills is the ability to time his efforts to perfection and it would come as little surprise to see him secure victory through tactical nous, rather than simply being the freshest rider in the group.

Chris Froome will be the favourite if the race is brought back together on the final climb and it is hard to imagine anyone getting the better of him on the finish today. Nairo Quintana is still on the lookout to gain time on rival Froome ahead of the individual time trial and could potentially try an attack to steal a clutch of seconds. Esteban Chaves looked sharp yesterday and could certainly be interested in a late attempt to get away from the general classification leaders if the race comes back together on the last ascent.

Outcome:

1st Gianluca Brambilla 2nd Davide Formolo 3rd Omar Fraile