La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 13 Preview

Course:

A day without horrendous mountains to crack the peloton, Stage 13 is an 198.4km ride from Coín to Tomares, though it does start by immediately sending the riders uphill once again. A rare chance for the sprinters to return to the spotlight during this attritional Vuelta a España, the only significant challenge for the fast men to overcome is the early Category 3 ascent of Alto de Ardales (7.2 km, avg. 4.3%.) Once over the summit of this sole recognised climb on Stage 13, the bunch will ride for around 80km on rolling terrain, before then beginning to drop downwards to the flat roads which shape the second half of the day and last almost right the way to the line. The fly in the ointment for the sprinters will be the final 3km of the day, a series of ramps and slopes which will disrupt the rhythm of the leadout trains late on. Though the gradients might not be immense compared to recent days, at such a late point in a sprint, they shall prove significant at around 6% and finally drop to 2% for the final hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 13 Preview

Contenders:

Matteo Trentin has been enjoying some fantastic form during this year’s race and the Italian will have high expectations of performing strongly once again today. It is his climbing ability which has really impressed so many during the Vuelta so far, which combined with his speed, makes him the clear favourite to take the honours on Stage 13. Normally, it might be more plausible to back those who have a better pedigree for winning uphill finishes, yet the difficult final 3km may well see such rivals fail to make the cut for the sprint entirely.

Magnus Cort will have circled this stage out of interest sometime ago, but since the general classification woes of Orica – Scott took hold, there is now an even greater likelihood that he shall receive the support required to compete strongly today. No doubt one of the fastest sprinters present here, the gradients during the finale will play into his hands and he shall be confident of guiding himself into position if lacking teammates. The greatest question however regards how tough he has found the recent big mountain stages, as any glimpse of fatigue will be magnified greatly in the stressful deciding kilometres on Stage 13.

Juan José Lobato is one of the best riders in the professional ranks for winning uphill sprints and could prove to be the man to beat here today. If this was a single one day race, then Lobato would find his odds of winning diminished somewhat, but after nearly two weeks of racing that is not the case. He will hope for a driven tail end to proceedings and aim to jettison as many of the purer sprinters as possible before the final push to the line. Lobato’s current form is very encouraging and it is likely that a flurry of draining attacks late on will only strengthen his hand yet further still.

Edward Theuns started the race in blistering condition, though it is unlikely he will be able to muster quite the same performance at this point in a grand tour. Regardless, on this type of terrain, the Trek – Segafredo rider remains a strong candidate for stage honours. He dug deep yesterday, which is unlikely to have helped his chances of winning today, but his talent for uphill finishes is so great that this factor could almost be disregarded.

Julian Alaphilippe will be a perfect alternative for Quick – Step if anything should suggest Matteo Trentin will be unable to stick the pace late on in the day. The Frenchman has animated the race on several occasions and has not refrained from reminding the peloton of his form whenever possible during La Vuelta. A really high tempo towards the end of the stage would make the deciding ramps much tougher, subsequently improving the odds of Alaphilippe becoming the Quick – Step rider to watch for in the concluding sprint. A man with a gift for the Ardennes classics, this is well within his capabilities to win.

Outcome:

1st Juan José Lobato 2nd Matteo Trentin 3rd Magnus Cort

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La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

Another day with starts with relatively little to speak about, the short 160.1km Stage 12 route from Motril to Antequera should be another contest with plenty of aggressive riding late on in order to entertain. After 80km of almost perfectly flat racing, the peloton will begin the first of two ascents on Stage 12, the Category 1 Puerto de Leon. A 17.4km long climb which averages a modest 4.9% gradient overall, though the reality is that of a mountain which reaches double figures in the first third, before dipping downwards and kicking up once again for the final kilometres. The summit will signal the beginning of a gradual descent towards the concluding climb of the day, the Category 2 Puerto del Torcal, a 7% average gradient climb which lasts for 7.6km. A rapid charge from the top will then signal the final 20km rush to the line, which is a simplistic finale with only a slight incline in the final few hundred metres.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 12 Preview

Contenders:

José Joaquín Rojas has been looking particularly strong as of late and should have another chance at getting into the day’s key breakaway move. His strength should allow him to work alongside more powerful riders on the opening flat section, but once they hit the mountains, then Rojas will be able to contribute towards helping to thin the ranks of contenders down. There is no question that he is one of the fastest riders present who could win from a small sprint after a day like this, making him a standout candidate for the win on Stage 12.

Adam Yates was highlighted for yesterday’s stage, though it was his brother who was seen animating the racing instead, thus we will point to Adam once again for today’s contest instead. He lost ten minutes during yesterday’s tough finale, though might be able to summon up the energy to contest this more realistic prospect today. A still developing talent, it is difficult know how fatigued he is already, though he remains a danger if able to smuggle himself aboard the breakaway.

Julian Alaphilippe will be top of the list of favourites for many casting their eyes over today’s contenders, the Frenchman riding in imperious form and certainly deserving of another stage victory as a result. He is a canny tactician who is able to gauge his efforts very effectively, especially when riding alongside those many would expect to be either climbing stronger or finishing faster. If he can find himself in a potential winning position once again, then it might be a forgone conclusion as to where the stage victory shall be heading.

Rui Costa has become more proficient at breakaways in recent years, making him a definite name to consider on a course such as this in the second week of a grand tour. Certainly capable of making any selection which forms during the faster flatter section early on in the stage, Costa can climb with the best on his day and a likely sprint finish just plays to his strengths yet further still.

Luis Léon Sanchez has repeatedly failed to strike out for glory when expected, perhaps suffering from the constraints of greater team duties, yet this is another day which should certainly entice him into action if afforded the opportunity. Another ride who possesses the requisite blend of power on the flat and endurance for the climbs, there is little argument to be made against him if featuring in the key move on Stage 12.

Others to watch out for are Pello BilbaoOmar FraileAldemar ReyesEnric MasDaniel Moreno and Lachlan Morton.

Outcome:

1st José Joaquín Rojas 2nd Rui Costa 3rd Julian Alaphilippe

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

Stage 11 promises a spectacular finale at the end of a 187.5km journey from Lorca to Observatorio Astronómico De Calar Alto, as a quick double header of Category 1 ascents are crammed into the second half of the day. Though climbing immediately from the start, this is a short lived feature, as the road settles downwards once again for a considerable period of time. Having begun to rise again after 75km of racing, the serious climbing starts to bubble up once beyond the 100km marker, as an anxious peloton approaches the Category 1 Alto de Velefique. The 13.2km climb does not hesitate to begin testing the day’s contenders, ratcheting up to 11.5% early on and sustaining an average gradient of 8.6% from bottom to top; though a final kick of 15% is present at the summit. A sharp descent immediately follows and offers little in the way of recovery before tasking the bunch with battling their way up the Category 1 Calar Alto. A 15.5km climb which averages 5.9%, though this is somewhat misleading, as much of the steeper climbing is front-loaded during the ascent. Opening with 12% and not dropping below 9% for the opening 5km, it then softens relatively in the middle, before finally reaching 10% in the final kilometre ahead of flattening out at the line. It will require a great effort to survive, let alone win Stage 11.La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 11 Preview

Contenders:

Ilnur Zakarin has proven to be one of the few riders who is improving as these tough mountain stages progress and could now be at the point he begins to establish an advantage over some rivals. He might not have the complete freedom to truly escape the indomitable Team Sky train, but if the race is relatively tight during the final ascent, then the Katusha captain has a great chance of getting the jump on everyone else. There is a possibility of bad weather during Stage 11, something unlikely to undermine his chances, though it may mean he needs to take the descent between the two categorised climbs less aggressively than normal.

Rafal Majka shall be the pick of many pundits on a day expected to be highly attritional late on, even before the possibility of thunderstorms has made any sort of impact. He showed a glimpse of his best form during last week and a rest day since then should only have helped that to crystalise yet further still. Dangerous from either a breakaway or an elite general classification group, the Polish rider has demonstrated his talents for days like these before and could emerge the favourite to romp home to victory.

Romain Bardet may have eyes set upon tougher stages than today’s challenge, but this would prove a greater exercise in establishing whereabouts his form is at the moment. A courageous descender in any weather, he could make an advantage stick after the Alto de Velefique and push hard to sustain it right the way to the summit finish on Stage 11. Given the final steep ramp to the line, it might benefit the Frenchman to be part of a well working group for as long as possible, before then utilising his talent for dominating these wall like inclines to win.

Jan Polanc has previously caught the peloton napping on grand tour stages like this and is certainly capable of repeating this achievement once again given his current form at La Vuleta. Having recently conceded time upon the general classification, there is a good chance he will no have a greater level of freedom to pursue the day’s breakaway moves and will be a tough rider to reel back in if escaping solo late in the day.

Others to consider from long distance breakaways and late attacks are Joe Dombrowski, Adam Yates, Tejay Van GarderenChris FroomeOmar FraileAlberto Contador and Rui Costa.

Outcome:

1st Ilnur Zakarin 2nd Rafal Majka 3rd Jan Polanc

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

After the first rest day, the peloton begin another tough week of racing with a stage which looks to finish with a crescendo once again. The 164.8km day begins in Caravaca Ano Jubila 2017 and concludes at Elpozo Alimentacion, with the final climb being firmly in the spotlight. More than half of the day’s racing is predominantly featureless, taking over 120km to reach the first of two climbs on Stage 10, both of which are tackled in quick succession. Starting with the Category 3 Alto del Morron de Totana, a 5.7 km climb which averages 5.7% gradient and rise to the point of merging with day’s final climb. The Category Collado Bermejo has a steeper average gradient of 6.5% and is also longer at 7.7 km in total. This brace of climbs in such a short period can be seen as a single longer ascent, no doubt forming the key part of how today’s race will be won.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile appears to be on the rise once again and should prove to be a real danger on terrain which plays to his strengths well. Having been anonymous up until now, this shall be a perfect opportunity to catch his rivals napping and aim to surprise them with his return to form. The rest day shall have been a great aid to Fraile, allowing him to start Stage 10 refreshed and poised to follow the key moves when it matters.

Julian Alaphilippe is a diverse rider who is capable of featuring in a broadly contrasting array of stages and shall view today’s challenge with part of that spectrum. He has appeared strong for sometime at the race and deservedly took a stage victory at last, but will not simply wish to stop pushing for another win when already. His prominence might make it hard for him to get away from the other favourites, but given his current form, it could simply prove too difficult for others to stop him.

Luis Leon Sanchez enjoys these days and will be at the forefront of any breakaway which hopes to get a jump on some of the bigger favourites on Stage 10. With gradients which do not get too steep, Sanchez is likely to feature today and has been active enough thus far to demonstrate why he is a serious candidate. He will need to be alert to the moves, as it will be much harder for him to win from a larger group on the day, aiming to solo away from a small break once they begin climbing.

Bob Jungels certainly has the raw power to monster his way up the two climbs on Stage 10, a rider who ticks all the boxes, yet will still be considered a surprise if managing to win. His climbing capabilities have really grown in the last couple of seasons and it is easy for them to become overshadowed by his time trialing prowess and commitment to working for his teammates earlier in mountain stages. Jungels cannot be gifted much of a time advantage on the slopes, as he has often proven to be incredibly hard to reel back in and is certainly skilled enough to descend aggressively to maintain a winning margin.

Giovanni Visconti might be allowed the freedom to join the fray on Stage 10, though he does have greater duties expected of him during this coming week of racing and his team could choose to conserve his energy for protecting Vincenzo Nibali. If given the go ahead to attack today, then Visconti will look upon the tail end of the stage with glee, appearing almost designed by the man himself. There are question marks hanging over his form, especially given the added uncertainty when exiting a rest day, but he will be a threat if yesterday’s recovery has helped him.

Others to watch for are Darwin AtapumaLachlan MortonSerge PauwelsThomas De Gendt and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Luis Leon Sanchez 3rd Giovanni Visconti

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

A 174km task is at hand on Stage 9 of this year’s edition of La Vuelta, sending the riders from Orihuela to Cumbre del Sol and setting the stage for a dramatic finale against a wall like climb. For much of the day, riding will be easy, as nothing truly noteworthy features until over 130km has been raced; that being the Category 2 Alto de Puig Llorenca. The 3.2km long rise averages a gradient of 9.2%, giving some riders an indication as to whether they shall have the legs required to perform in the final kilometres when visiting it again later on. The road then gradually descends, setting itself up for the anticipate melee as the bunch reach the Alto de Puig Llorenca for the second time, though they shall ride a longer 4km passage right the way to the top on this occasion. The irregular steep climb will make it hard for the favourites to settle into a rhythm, especially as ramps swing greatly from 8% to 25%, demanding riders to constantly shift their position and gearing.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Alberto Contador does not wish to exit professional cycling without some glory at his final home grand tour, marking him out as a likely antagonist in the closing moments of Stage 9. His form is certainly improving as the race develops, while today’s far steeper terrain plays to his strengths and could certainly diminish the gap in strength to Chris Froome which was seen yesterday. Contador is an intelligent rider who is likely to have already calculated the best point to attack from, yet he often rides based on the moment and nobody can exploit an opportunity to strike better than ‘El Pistolero’.

Chris Froome does already appear to be the strongest climber at the race and will be searching for a stage win to cement his credentials as likely overall winner. The gradients are not to his suiting, though he is likely to adopt an aggressive approach in order to act as defence, making it as hard as possible for his rivals when the road pitches down somewhat. As a punchier rider than most in the frame for today’s honours, Froome could choose to follow the attacks and simply pounce with a trademark acceleration during the final kilometre.

Rafal Majka has previously performed strongly on this concluding climb and will take confidence from yesterday’s efforts to feel capable of challenging once again today. His ambitions have altered in regards to those he initially held heading into the race, though a focus on winning stages instead of the general classification makes the Polish rider far more dangerous now.

Esteban Chaves needs to start finding his best form at the race, otherwise, it is beginning to look like he is suffering under the greater strength of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador right now. His explosive capabilities could inflict great damage upon his rivals, but Chaves will need to time such a move to perfection in order to avoid blowing up or simply towing others to the finish line.

Others to consider from a large group or breakaway move on Stage 9 are Joe DombrowskiMichael WoodsDarwin AtapumaSerge Pauwels and George Bennett.

Outcome:

1st Alberto Contador 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Rafal Majka

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

Only 5o0m short of being another 200km day in the saddle, the 199.5km journey from Hellín to Xorret de Cati offers a couple of categorised climbs ahead of the final push towards the day’s last summit and eventual downhill rush to the line. With no recognised climbing until the 100km mark has been passed, the first ascent comes in the shape of the Category 3 Puerto de Buar (6.1 km, avg. 3.4%) and is soon followed by the Category 3 Puerto de Onil (7 km, avg. 3.8%) which provide little to worry about in the way of inclines. From this point onwards, the focus shall be upon the finale, taking the shape of Category 1 Alto Xorret de Cati. With gradients touching 18% during the 5km passage, this is an ascent poised to decide the day; perhaps catching the eye of the general classification hopefuls in the process.La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves has appeared to be in encouraging form during this opening week of racing, though is yet to suggest he has the upper-hand over rivals such as Chris Froome. The Colombian rider is no stranger to such steep gradients, no doubt eagerly viewing Stage 8 as an opportunity to take a stage win and time from his major rival. With his potent sprint against the gradient, there is a great chance that nobody shall be able to match the Colombian when it matters most during the final kilometres.

Ilnur Zakarin appears to be on the rise in regards to the form and will certainly be a threat to the day’s stage honours as the first week of racing nears completion. The Russian rider is one of the few climbers who truly suits the finale on offer today and can also utilise his time trialing abilities to sustain any such gap he manages to acquire during the final climb of the day.

Alberto Contador shall not be happy to leave his final native grand tour with a mediocre effort, making the odds of him attacking hard on Stage 8 more credible than previously thought. The Spaniard has already conceded a considerable amount of time, perhaps generating him a degree of freedom in the final kilometres which nobody had previously expected.

Chris Froome has appeared to be imperious once again at a grand tour level and will be the favourite for many to capitalise upon this for many durning Stage 8. The Team Sky rider will hope to be part of an elite group which reaches the final climb first, utilising the team he has at his disposal to make life as tough as possible for his rivals, before kicking onwards to victory. He may not need to push hard on today’s stage, but if the opportunity does arise, then Chris Froome is one of the most likely riders to capitalise.

Tejay Van Garderen certainly has something to prove since suffering a degree of misfortune and forfeiting his previously encouraging placing on the general classification. Should the American choose to ride aggressively, then there is a good chance that he shall discover the freedom to make a move and aim to hold any gap right the way to the line.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Ilnur Zakarin

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 7 Preview

Course:

Stage 7 is another day in excess of 200km to travel for the peloton, taking the riders on a lumpy route from Llíria to Cuenca, though featuring only three Category 3 climbs. Regardless, there is not much in the way of flat riding to be done here, making for a draining affair and another opportunity for the breakaway to decide the outcome. As has often been the theme during this year’s Vuelta a España, the course rises almost immediately after the day’s departure from Llíria, building steadily towards the foot of the Category 3 Puerto La Montalbana, an 8km climb which averages 4.3% which should be easy to float over after around 50km of racing already in the legs of the riders. The peloton briefly drop downhill not long after this in order to climb the Category 3 Puerto de Sta. Cruz de Moya. The 8.7km long climb averages 4% and will place the riders atop a rolling plateau from which they never really descend from for the rest of the day. No other significant features occur until less than 20km of racing remain, as the Category 3 Alto del Castillo is the final recognised climb of the day at 2km long and averages a reasonably draining 7.2% gradient. The concluding kilometres are simple enough and should not pose any problems for either a solo breakaway or large group arriving into Cuenca.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 7 Preview

Contenders:

Alexey Lutsenko confirmed his immense form when securing a stage victory just a couple of days ago and could be asked by Astana to produce a repeat performance if possible. The former under-23 World Champion has immense talent to say the least and would not surprise many if he does indeed rise to the occasion once again already. However, fatigue will be an issue when trying to make the selection on Stage 7, as Lutsenko will be recovering from his previous exploits and from the effort he invested in supporting teammates yesterday.

Matej Mohoric was another of the riders who performed well during Lutsenko’s victory on Stage 5, the young Slovenian reminding pundits as to the reason why he garnered such hype a few years ago. Today’s profile is perhaps more fitting, though it is difficult to gauge his development right now, but it will definitely be on his radar if the legs are still in good condition after his encouraging display a couple of days ago.

Alexis Gougeard has been an active prescence during the opening week of racing at 2017’s La Vuelta a España and is a good bet to be animating the day once again. Whereas he struggled to follow the concluding moves on Stage 5, today’s offering plays to his strengths more so, especially with a finale which could allow him to utilise his sprinting ability to finish off any rivals.

Julian Alaphilippe still promises to deliver a stage winning performance at the race, though is not quite on his perfect form during this first week, but does appear to be coming round to his best as the Vuelta progresses. Once again, he has all the requisite skills to perform strongly, but will need to make sure he manages to feature in the crucial moves of the day before he can dream of a win. If he does, then a small sprint is likely to be his ideal conclusion, as after 207km of racing there are few faster than the Frenchman.

Pello Bilbao will view the challenges of Stage 7 as being well within his capabilities, offering Astana yet another card for them to play during this opening week of racing. He often performs strongly on these rolling days and is certainly tough enough to make the cut, especially during what is bound to be a hectic fight for the breakaway to form early on.

Others to look for in the moves on Stage 7 are Jetse BolRicardo VilelaMarc SolerStephane Rossetto and Lachlan Morton.

Outcome:

1st Pello Bilbao 2nd Matej Mohoric  3rd Ricardo Vilela