La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

We finally reach the most eagerly awaited stage of 2017’s La Vuelta a España, finishing atop an iconic climb and laying the foundations for an epic conclusion to this year’s race. Beginning in Corvera de Asturias, the course totals a brief 117.5km and seeks to instigate an immense battle upon the epic Alto de L’Angliru. Climbing immediately from the start, Stage 20 is bound to see another hotly contested battle to feature amongst the day’s breakaway, though the first recognised climb does not appear until the Category 1 Alto de la Cobertoria; lasting for 8.1km and sustaining a draining gradient of 8.6%. A steep descent then follows and sends the bunch headlong into the Category 1 Alto del Cordal, averaging a gradient of 8.6% and taking all of 7 km to complete. The subsequent downhill run is a deceiving drop down which never really hits level ground again, slingshotting the riders immediately up the day’s iconic climb of Alto de L’Angliru. Considered one of the toughest ascents in the whole of Europe, the HC task totals 12.5km and possesses an average gradient on paper of 9.8%. This is a greatly misleading fact however, as the reality is that of a climb which has slopes far into double digit figures and eventually touches around 25% to really break the spirit of those hoping for the win. There is very little in the way of relief during the ascent, contributing to the immense gruelling nature of this legendary climb.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 20

Contenders:

Romain Bardet has had eyes upon the stage for sometime now, and having started the race with his ambitions on stage wins, Stage 20 would be the most impressive win to take at this year’s La Vuelta a España. He invested plenty during yesterday’s breakaway attack, though still looked relatively fresh when crossing the line, potentially giving him the confidence to try another move today. The steep slopes suit his talents, providing an ideal springboard to break his rivals upon.

Chris Froome is the best climber in the race currently, looking to pace himself perfectly en route to the summit of the day’s finale, reeling in all rivals in the process. He shall rely heavily upon his Team Sky firepower as usual, but when it comes to the concluding kilometres on Stage 20, Froome has enough to solo his way to victory. Having had to endure a defensive approach to this summer’s Tour de France, he will want to seal this impressive second grand tour victory of 2017 with a flourish and has the ability to achieve precisely that.

Alberto Contador shall be waving goodbye to his home grand tour this weekend, hanging up his wheels and choosing to retire on Spanish soil. As the greatest rider of a generation, he will not be content with leaving his final race empty handed, and his constant attacking in recent days as proved exactly that. His greatest ally is the element of surprise, as many are certain he shall make a move, but where that might occur is a mystery right now. For all fans with a sense of romanticism, a victory for Contador would be a fitting tribute to himself and La Vuelta.

Ilnur Zakarin has once again found his best form during the final week of a grand tour race, looking more aggressive as of late and being capable of following the moves of the bigger names. He often emerges as one of the strongest when racing upon ludicrously steep climbs, especially those which last for quite some time, rather than brief ramps to battle up. Zakarin could struggle to find the freedom to attack, though with such a huge challenge concluding the day, his rivals might not have what it takes to close him down.

Vincenzo Nibali is another rider who can produce his best on steep climbs which last for several kilometres and his been relatively consistent throughout the entirety of the race. The Italian has performed well atop the Angliru before, providing insight as to how best to measure his efforts, thus will be a danger to stage honours on this infamous climb.

Others to consider are Miguel Angel LopezRafal MajkaJoe Dombrowski and Daniel Moreno.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Alberto Contador 3rd Chris Froome

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La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

The day’s 149.7km course from Caso. Parque Natural de Redes to Gijón should inspire an aggressive approach to racing from the bunch, as with so few opportunities remaining for riders and teams to save their race, interest will be great on Stage 19. Though a flat finale is on offer for the sprinters, it is bound to prove a considerable task in order to be at the front of the race once the finish line approaches, as the course will make controlling any breakaway hard work.

Without giving the riders much of a chance to find their climbing legs, the day’s first climb appears after around only 20km, coming in the shape of the Category 1 Alto de la Colladona. This opening ascent averages 6.8% for 7km, though comes very close to touching double digit gradients at times and will form the day’s gruppetto for many in the bunch. Once over the top, a considerable downhill stretch begins and runs right the way to the opening slopes of the Category 3 Alto de Sto. Emiliano (6.8 km, avg 4.5%). This is soon followed by another Category 3 ascent, the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos, which looks a tougher task on paper with an average gradient of 8.2% for 4.3km. A rolling run of terrain then lasts for 25km, dropping down rapidly after another small rise and placing the riders at the base of the day’s final climb. The Category 3 Alto de San Martin de Huerces is relatively short at 4.5km, though its average gradient of 7.2% is potent enough to decide the day’s outcome before the finish line is even worth worrying about. A sharp charge from the top leads into Gijón, potentially allowing a solo move to stay clear during the descent, though a well organised group could close the gap and duke it out amongst a reduced sprint.

 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 19 Preview

Cotenders:

Pello Bilbao shall be hoping his raw strength can help establish himself amongst the day’s expected breakaway, the Astana rider is well suited to the short climbs throughout Stage 19 and has done well to carry much of his earlier form into this final week. His greatest issue shall be whether he will be afforded the freedom to attack, as his responsibilities to his team have increased with the immense performance of Miguel Lopez upon the general classification. If he is allowed to invest his efforts into today’s stage, then there is a good chance Bilbao will be one of the strongest present in a winning move.

Alberto Contador will not be content with leaving his final native grand tour without a final stage win and the day’s profile has all the makings of a classic Alberto Contador long range attack. The choking nature of Team Sky will be a major obstacle to overcome in his attempts to seal a farewell win, though a tight race which reaches the final climb could lend itself perfectly for him to catch the fellow general classification big guns napping, stealing an advantage late on and holding it right to the line.

Rui Costa should be a capable of making any moves which form on the day’s first climb, reminding many of his capabilities on these days which are packed full of short climbs the former world champion has previously performed so well upon. Though he has not garnered a great deal of attention during the race so far, he has actually tried repeatedly to make the crucial stage breakaways and been extremely unlucky to miss out. He will be a difficult companion to ditch before a potential sprint finish, especially as so few will even have the turn of pace to compete with him after such hotly contested day.

Nicolas Roche might choose Stage 19 to try and recover some glory from 2017’s Vuelta a España, as his general classification hopes have slipped through his fingers and now a stage win appears his only remaining chance of salvaging a prize of sorts. He possesses all the requisite skills to perform well today, the ascents suiting him sufficiently enough and a sharp downhill to the line where he has a great chance of being one of the fastest of a breakaway present.

Alessandro De Marchi will surely prove to leave the race as the most combative rider, having featured so regularly in the breakaways during this year’s La Vuelta a España, it has become a question as who will join the Italian in the moves. Perhaps the final chance he shall have at taking a win, it is likely he will somehow muster the energy required to feature yet again, perhaps finally taking a much deserved stage win. His immense skill at identifying the perfect time to attack has been unrivalled at the race this year and it seems only a case of odds until he is finally rewarded.

Daniel Moreno suits this course particularly well and the Spaniard has certainly been on the rise in recent stages which feature this accumulatively draining series of ascents. Certainly entering the tail end of his career, Moreno is still one of the best when it comes to late challenges like today’s Alto de San Martin de Huerces and will know exactly how to time his move to perfection.

Others to consider are Luis Leon SanchezLuis Angel MatéChris FroomeSimon Yates and Adam Yates.

Outcome:

1st Alberto Contador 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Pello Bilbao

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course

A relatively short day at 169km in duration, though one which again packs much of the anticipated action in the latter stages of the day’s racing. Starting in Suances, the route to Santo Toribio de Liébana does not begin any significant climbing until around 100km of riding has been completed by the riders. The first of the day’s recognised climbs is the Category 3 Collada de Carmona (4.8 km, avg 7.2%), signalling the start of a sawtooth triple header which also features the Category 3 Colaada de Ozalba (6 km, avg 6.6%) and then concludes this rapid blast of ascents with the Category 2 Collada de la Hoz (7 km, avg 6%), the peak of which then sends the riders down another ascent before the final charge to the finish line. The last climb of the day is the 3.2km (avg 6.4%) rise to the finish line on Stage 18, likely to function as a crucial springboard for those hitting out for victory from a bunch of frontrunners.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Michael Woods could finally hit out for a stage victory on a stage finish which plays convincingly to his strengths. He has managed to stick relatively closely to the likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador throughout the race thus far and will now be afforded the chance to utilise his sparkling form to bring some happiness to the ailing Cannondale – Drapac team.

Julian Alaphilippe has shone brightly during the race this year and will be confident of being in the frame for stage honours yet again today. He has animated the days on a regular basis, which may have cost him somewhat ahead of Stage 18, though his condition has been so encouraging that he seems like he can achieve anything he sets his mind to right now.

Miguel Angel Lopez really stepped into the limelight during La Vuelta a España this year, proving incredibly strong and a consistent thorn in the side of those hoping for unexpected breakaway success. Despite his swashbuckling performances, Lopez still appears in competitive condition, having managed to avoid fatiguing too much as a consequence. If part of a group reaching the final rise first, he will be an obvious favourite to go all the way.

Rafal Majka finally mustered glimpses of his best last week and now looks a threatening presence for the win if a breakaway makes it all the way to the concluding kilometres. The amount of climbing late on plays into his hands well, though there are questions as to whether the terrain is truly tough enough to extract the best performance possible from the Polish rider.

Romain Bardet is here to collect stage wins, having looked relatively animated on occasions, though there are suggestions he may have eyes upon a bigger prize later in the race. The final climb to the finish is a fitting finale for the surprisingly punchy French rider, though much like potential rival Rafal Majka, the last push for the win might not be steep enough to allow Bardet to really hammer home an advantage.

Others to consider are Daniel MorenoRui CostaAdam YatesAlberto Contador and Pello Bilbao.

Outcome:

1st Michael Woods 2nd Romain Bardet 3rd Julian Alaphilippe 

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

A somewhat bizarre structure to the stage, this intermediate day in the mountains should prove a fascinating affair to observe from start to finish. Leaving Villadiego and finishing atop the ascent of Los Machucos, the day entails a total of 180.5km of racing and should culminate in an exciting battle to the day’s uphill finale. It will take almost 100km of riding before the bunch begin climbing the first of the day’s recognised climbs, coming in the shape of the Category 2 Portillo de Lunada (8.3 km, avg. 5.7%). From here the peloton plummet downhill and do not begin to rise again until the early footholds of the Category 1 Puero de Alisas, lasting for more than 10km and maintaining a relatively even 6% throughout its entirety. Having conquered the penultimate ascent of the day, it is the final surge to the line which is likely to cause the most excitement on Stage 17. The HC Los Machucos is a testing affair which lasts for 7.2km and averages only 8.7%, though the reality is that of a climb which sees gradients swing from 10% to 25% at times. It will require a perfectly timed and incredibly strong effort to succeed here, though it shall certainly be one unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 17 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome seems to have confirmed that he is the strongest rider now at the race and could deliver a killing blow if winning Stage 17 today. Having recorded another dominant victory in yesterday’s individual time trial, a repeat demonstration of force would send his rivals fighting for the minor placings at this year’s Vuelta a España. He is not interested in simply winning this grand tour by riding defensively and now appears to be in the sort of mood which sees the Team Sky captain hammer home all advantages at any opportunity.

Vincenzo Nibali definitely gives the impression of a man who is currently on the up, thus marking him out as a contender on a day which concludes with agonisingly steep gradients. He certainly produces his best on these leg breaking ascents and should be a serious threat to the day’s stage honours if given a glimpse of victory.

Miguel Angel Lopez could be poised to secure another victory at this year’s race, as his current form seems to grow from one day to the next, hinting that we should expect another strong showing from the Colombian today. His performances on the toughest slopes of the Vuelta thus far have been brilliant, no doubt making him a serious contender for the win today. He may need to get the jump on some of the bigger names amongst the peloton, but he will only need a handful of seconds to convert into another win.

Alberto Contador is likely to animate the day in some form on Stage 17 and should be highlighted as a serious contender at this point of the race. No doubt eager to pursue a final career stage win at his home grand tour, Contador should view the profile of Stage 17 as one which lends itself quite neatly to his trademark long range attacks. If we see him attack from far out, it shall be a brilliant reminder of his swashbuckling abilities and a great way to sign off from grand tour racing.

Others to watch for are Ilnur ZakarinAdam YatesWilco KeldermanEsteban ChavesRomain Bardet and Darwin Atapuma.

Outcome:

1st Chris Froome 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Miguel Angel Lopez

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

After two weeks of racing and a couple of tough summit finishes before the last rest day, this 40.2km individual time trial has the potential to drive a wedge between the slightest of cracks of those riders beginning to weaken. Starting in Circuito de Navarra, there is not a great deal to be said about this rather simple course, finishing sometime later at Logroño. The immediate riding out from the start and into the final kilometre are reasonably technical, though the course itself will suit those who are capable of sustain a high amount of power throughout. There are no recognised climbs and only a few slight drags along the way, with much of the second half actually raced slightly downhill. Such a course has the ability to expose weaknesses amongst those chasing for a good general classification place, as there are no opportunities for the lithe limbed climbers to make up time if having a bad day.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Nelson Oliveira still lacks a major win against the clock, though has already won a stage of La Vuelta a España despite this fact, and would certainly like to secure another victory with his specialist talent for time trials today. He has looked strong during the race thus far and should be extremely interested in performing well on Stage 16, especially in the absence of the usual clutch of time trial riders who dominate such days. With nothing else to really worry about, he can go into this challenge, knowing that he can end the day having put everything into a shot at glory.

Chris Froome is potentially the strongest time trial rider at the race, as the likes of Tom Dumoulin and Tony Martin are not here to argue otherwise. The Sky captain is in a dominant position as ever, though does not need to hammer home an advantage today, as it looks like the mountains are where he is hoping to deliver the greatest damage to his rivals. However, he wants to ride this race aggressively after such a defensively ridden Tour de France and will be aware that he may not even need to give it everything to win by a considerable margin today.

Bob Jungels certainly has the talent for a contest against the clock, though would no doubt have preferred a course which played to his strengths more so. Despite this, his development during the last year has been considerable and now makes the chances of winning a time trial in the final week of a grand tour more realistic. Though he will certainly perform convincingly enough, it might actually prove to be the fatigue of his rivals which delivers him a great win.

Yves Lampaert might not be an immediately obvious choice, but with a more open field and the accumulative tiring nature of a grand tour, he is well worth mentioning on Stage 16. He has worked hard for his team up to this point, so could prove to be more fatigued than previously thought, but his strong performances suggest that might not be too great a concern. He fits the bill for a rider likely to suit the course, but he shall need a bit of luck to steal the win from one of the bigger names here.

Tobias Ludvigsson has the potential to threaten the podium, but his form is rather unknown at this point of the race and he does possess an erratic record against the clock during longer races. However, he finished within 90″ of Chris Froome on the final time trial at La Vuelta last year, collecting third place on a similar course and distance; thus cannot be disregarded as a result.

Others deserving of a mention are Luis Leon Sanchez, Wilco Kelderman, Stefan Clement, Alberto Contador and Niki Terpstra

Outcome:

1st Nelson Oliveira 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Bob Jungels

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

Another tough day in the saddle is expected on Stage 15, as a long ascent to a consecutive summit finish could put the cat amongst the pigeons, seriously shaking up the general classification if any of the favourites begin to crack. Leaving the start at Alcalá la Real, a total of 129.4km separates the riders from a finale at Sierra Nevada, with the second half offering almost no flat riding at all. The first serious ascent is the Category 1 Alto de Hazallanas, a deceptively testing 16.3km climb which officially maintains a gradient of 5.5%, though the reality is a draining affair which momentarily drops downwards ahead of touching 22%; sustaining double digit gradients almost right to the top. An extended descent immediately follows, reaches an ephemeral stretch of flat road and catapults the riders into a make or break climb to the finish line. The 8.5km climb of Alto del Purche is a more even challenge, averaging 8% and completing much of its tougher slopes early on. What follows is the HC Alto Hoya de la Mora, a long 19.3km grind, which combines with the previous ascent to total almost 30km of continuous climbing for the peloton. The average here is 5.6%, and though its maximum of 10% is near the beginning and not particularly daunting, it is the attritional nature which is bound to leave plenty suffering on the slopes.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome seems on course for another grand tour win in his typical faultless style, slowly suffocating the potential danger of rivals, until they realise that anything resembling an attack is futility personified. The sustained amount of climbing will allow him to treat this with the mentality of a time trial stage, gauging his efforts for the final 30km and hoping that such a tactic will neutralise any possible unwanted stress. The even nature of the concluding climb is ideal for him to attack upon, and having won Le Tour de France in his most defensive style so far, he will be quick to seize upon an opportunity to remind his critics of his aggressive streak on Stage 15.

Romain Bardet did not need much encouragement to begin attacking yesterday, showing he is poised to capitalise on any given moment which could offer him a stage win. Today’s short course will encourage aggressive racing, and with such a long ascent to the finish, Bardet will certainly be at the forefront of any breakaway moves. He enjoys the extended rises of the Alps and should see a similarity with those on Stage 15, offering him an ideal launchpad from which to attack.

Miguel Ángel López has become one of the best performing riders at this year’s La Vuelta a España, and having seen his strength on display yesterday, he has a great chance of winning this testing stage. Outperforming his teammate and leader Fabio Aru, it seems like the time has come for Astana to back Lopez and give him the boost required to take another victory at the race. The altitude should be a benefit to the Colombian rider also, allowing him to surge ahead late on, similar to the final kilometres of Stage 14.

Vincenzo Nibali looks to be discovering something resembling convincing form, though almost appears unsure as to how best to utilise such unexpected condition. Regardless, if a group of general classification riders is leading the contest late in the day, then the Italian is one of those capable of measuring his efforts perfectly over such a sustain period of climbing. Though he will not receive much freedom from Chris Froome and Team Sky as a whole, he will not need much to deal the damage required to deliver stage honours.

Daniel Moreno is a previous winner upon the day’s concluding climb of Alto Hoya de la Mora, therefore is worth watching out for, especially if featuring in a strong breakaway which looks capable of deciding the day’s outcome amongst themselves. Perhaps not one of the strongest likely to feature today, he is certainly a clever rider and will be confident of knowing how to ride this final ascent to perfection.

Others to consider are Alberto ContadorJoe DombrowskiDarwin AtapumaPello Bilbao and Fabio Aru.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Miguel Angel Lopez 3rd Vincenzo Nibal

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