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