La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 4 Preview

Course:

Having left the day’s start of Escaldes – Engordany, the riders will face a 198.2km journey to the coastal finish at Tarragona, most of which being a gradual downhill route. The only classified climb of the day is the Category 3 Alto de Belltall, punctuating the day with a 13km rise at a gentle 2.8% and unlikely to cause much trouble for anyone. Once over the top, it is downhill all the way to the finish line, with a bunch sprint of sorts expected to decide the outcome. Position will be crucial, as plenty of road furniture in the way of roundabouts feature on the route into town, with a small 2.5% drag to make things more difficult still.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 4 Preview

Contenders:

John Degenkolb is often the man to beat on finales such as these, as even the slightest of inclines, seem to make the German almost unmatchable in the final moments. His form is certainly still bubbling up to the level we know from him, though this could prove to be the launchpad which signals his return to great form once again. The technical nature of the last few kilometres might be troublesome for him, especially as he would prefer a simple head to head drag race to the finish, concentrating simply of churning his pedals. Regardless, if he informs his team that he believes he can do it, then the expectation is that Degenkolb shall deliver on his word.

Edward Theuns might instead prove to be the card which Trek – Segafredo choose to play on Stage 4, backing the gifted Belgian to seize the opportunity while teammate Degenkolb waits for a more suiting finale. Theuns’ form has been blistering as of late, and if he has managed to sustain that when heading into La Vuelta, then there is a great chance he will be untouchable in the final metres of the stage. The jostling for position and drag up to the line are ideal for Theuns to make his skills count, attacking hard from a jumbled bunch of leadout trains and opening a gap which nobody can close.

Adam Blythe could be the joker in the pack on the second sprint stage at this year’s Vuelta a España, the British rider clearly aggrieved by the lack of a bunch kick on Stage 2, especially given the form he has possessed for such a long time now in 2017. This drag is not perfect, but such a gentle incline can still be decided simply by sprinting power, meaning those who lean closer towards being puncheurs are unlikely to better him. The leadout train at his disposal is certainly one of the top three at the race and they will be confident of positioning Blythe well here, allowing the Yorkshireman to focus on timing his effort perfectly.

Matteo Trentin was pleased to see his teammate Yves Lampaert take the win on Stage 2, though there is no doubt that the Italian would have fancied a more typical finish to the day’s proceedings, as he looked well positioned in the final moments to secure a win. Quick – Step have already looked impressive as a coherent unit during the race thus far and stand a good chance of proving why they are the best leadout train present at La Vuelta. With its tricky final kilometres, Trentin and his leadout men will relish the technicalities, applying pressure to their rivals and hoping to slingshot their Italian rocket skywards over the line.

Juan José Lobato is a real champion at winning upon uphill finishes, though he is likely to have wanted more of a severe challenge to really see the day play into his hands on today’s stage. Regardless, such talents do not always need the perfect conditions to succeed and there is every chance that he shall be in the mix for the win at the very least.

Other names to consider on a day such as this are Tom Van AsbroeckMichael SchwarzmannJens Debusschere and Jonas Van Genechten.

Outcome:

1st Adam Blythe 2nd Edward Theuns 3rd Michael Schwarzmann

 

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La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 3 Preview

Course:

Day three at La Vuelta a España takes the peloton on a 176.4km journey from Marín to the brutally steep climb of Mirador de Ézaro, offering up a gruelling finale to lure the puncheurs and general classification contenders into action early on at this race. The opening 100km of racing offer little interest to spectators, though shall prove ideal terrain for the day’s breakaway to form and establish a good rhythm ahead of the Category 1 and Category 2 ascents en route to the finale. The action will be ignited amongst the specialist climbers in the final few kilometres as they ride onto the opening ramps of the Mirador de Ézaro, a 1.8km ascent which averages 13.8% and reaches a leg burning 20% before the finish.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 3 Preview

 

Contenders:

Esteban Chaves is a clear contender for stage honours on day three, the diminutive Colombian rider often flourishing upon these short, sharp climbs which offer no cover for weaker riders to hide. Orica-BikeExchange have not made their intentions at this race clear thus far, but could certainly see today as an opportunity to capture an early stage win.

Alejandro Valverde has made finishes such as these his specialism throughout his career, marking him out as an obvious danger to the hopes of others on Stage 3. Questions are being asked as to his condition right now and this early test could prove to be a baptism of fire for the ageing Spaniard. If however he hits the ground running at this year’s Vuelta a España, then he may prove the man to beat on this testing final ascent.

Alberto Contador finished second on this same stage finish in 2012 and should have arrived at the race in good condition after abandoning the Tour de France last month, gradually increasing fitness through a light race schedule. This is not Contador’s favoured terrain and he will no doubt be focused on the longer plan at hand here, but if he is required to race hard to the line, there is every chance he could take the win.

Chris Froome is hoping to stretch his earlier summer form into this year’s Vuelta a España, looking to join the select club of riders who have won two grand tours in the same year. There is little doubt that Froome is aiming to ride himself into peak condition by the latter part of the race, though will have to follow the wheels of rivals on the Mirador de Ézaro, as a bad day could cost him a lot of time before the general classification fight is really on.

Simon Yates offers another great option for Orica-BikeExchange to challenge for the win on Stage 3, the young British rider suited to these steep gradients which require a strong burst of speed to distance everyone else as their legs begin to falter. This early part of the race may allow him a degree of freedom ahead of the general classification battle truly kicking off, making him a great outside bet for victory atop the Mirador de Ézaro.

Others who could win with a late surge to the line or from an earlier breakaway move include; Gianluca BrambillaJose GoncalvesRein TaaramaeDarwin Atapuma and Daniel Moreno.

Outcome:

1st Esteban Chaves 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Alberto Contador

La Vuelta a España Preview

La Vuelta a España 2016 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

La Vuelta a España once again looks to the team time trial to raise the curtain on they season’s final grand tour. An immensely testing and technical discipline, this 27.8km route from Ourense to Parque Nautico de Castrelo de Miño will prove a rude awakening for many in the peloton with only a handful of teams likely to relish this arduous opening to the race. The road rises immediately from the start, but soon becomes a more manageable rolling profile which will quicken the pace in the first half, before then offering up wide roads that shall prove ideal for laying down a huge wattage all the way to the line. A day for those who can generate and sustain large power outputs, this team time trial will be an extremely fast introduction to the next three weeks of life at La Vuelta a España.

La Vuelta a España - Stage 1 PreviewContenders:

Movistar have become one of the most consistent performers in this discipline, combining engine power with technical skill to great effect. Like the majority of teams at this year’s race, the composition of the squad leans strongly towards climbers, but Movistar look to have the strength required to perform competitively on today’s course. Though Jonathan Castroviejo is the only true specialist present for them, the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Rory Sutherland are all capable of putting in a performance to match him in this short challenge.

Sky may not have their ideal set of riders available for the opening day’s team time trial, but they shall remain motivated to secure a good performance in this highly pressurised discipline. Though they have riders competent in a time trial such as Chris Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski, there will be concerns that the gulf in ability to the likes of Ian Boswell and Michal Golas is greater than that of other team’s rosters in contention on Stage 1.

BMC are the reigning world champions in this specialist exercise and will hope this foundation propels them onwards to success by the end of the first day. Unlike many here, their strength appears to stem from a lack of any true time trialist within their ranks, thus calling upon them to function efficiently as a whole team which does not expect one or two riders to carry the greatest load. It will be interesting to see how this approach performs in comparison to the likes of Movistar or Sky and their greater number of true TT riders.

Others who could all challenge for a podium place are former world champions Etixx-QuickStepTinkoff and Orica-BikeExchange.

Outcome:

1st Movistar 2nd BMC 3rd Sky

Spokies Awards 2015 – The Polls CLOSED

With the road racing season sinking back into hibernation until the new year, Spokenforks is now looking to YOU in order to end the year with the most important competition of all; the 2015 Spokies. During the coming weeks, we shall unveil a series of award categories, which we are opening up to the public, in order to decide who is worthy of a Spokies trophy this year. All of the awards from last year are once again up for grabs, but we would like to hear from you for suggestions of new awards, as well as contenders who you think we have not represented upon our various shortlists.

In order to share your ideas for 2015’s Spokies as the categories are announced, get in touch directly here in the comments section below, or simply tweet @Spokenforks with the hashtag #Spokies.


 

In the meantime, we shall start with one of the first categories upon any awards list at the end of 2015; which was the best grand tour this year? Beginning with the opening salvos of the Giro d’Italia which crowned a new winner almost everyday, to Chris Froome’s chokehold in France and onto the dramatic battle beneath the Spanish sun at the Vuelta a España acting as the final bookend to the year. If you are struggling to pick a winner, remember to click on the ‘highlights’ button beneath the nominee and refresh your memory before casting a vote.

 


Our second confirmed category of 2015’s Spokies is one of the most controversial likely to appear on this year’s list. A topic fiercely debated by all fans of cycling, a topic which instigates debate and divides many who dare to bring it into question. Simply put, which is the best team kit of 2015? The Notts County homage of MTN-Qhubeka perhaps? Or the eccentric print and brown shorts combination of AG2R La Mondiale? We have picked out our favourite four kits who we saw battling it out at some of this year’s biggest races, but if you do not agree with our choices, get in touch by leaving a comment below, or via twitter @Spokenforks using #Spokies, and we will add your champion to the nominations.

 


Award number three of 2015’s Spokies is a distilled concoction of the year’s most aggressive, fractious, and unpredictable of competitions; the one day race. Though associated predominately with the spring classics, these contests are scattered throughout the year and offer the broadest array of riders an opportunity to place their name into history. From the remote dusty white gravel roads which form Strade Bianche, to the utter cacophony which enveloped 2015’s World Championships in Richmond; these occasions provoke the most instinctive and ferocious racing of the season. Riders are all too aware how a moment’s hesitation at this level can leave them with a lifetime to rue their mistakes. So which of our selected one day races crowned its victor with the greatest glory in 2015?


From those with a burgeoning gift for the cobbled classics of Northern Europe, to the lithe limbed climbers who make the steepest of gradients appear effortless; plenty of fans will want their say as to the contenders for Hot Prospect 2016. The likes of Louis Meintjes, Julian Alaphilippe and Alexis Gougeard enjoyed a 2015 season which demonstrated their talent on some of the calendar’s biggest stages. Securing between them a Vuelta a España stage win, Tour de l’Eurométropole overall, a Liége-Bastogne-Liége runner-up and a top ten grand tour finish.

For others on the list, 2016 looks set to be the season which we see years of potential translate into big name victories. Belgium is eager to fill the void soon to be left by Tom Boonen, so a fifth place finish for Tiesj Benoot at Ronde van Vlaanderen this year has firmly stoked the public’s fires beneath him for 2016. Caleb Ewan’s turn of speed in a bunch kick has been no secret for a while now and 2015 saw him increase the calibre of his wins by taking Stage 5 at La Vuelta, while also picking up a raft of victories from Tour de Korea, Le Tour de Langkawi and many more from around the World.

Miguel Ángel López caught the eye when finishing fourth on the Rettenbachgletscher at Tour du Suisse, Tao Geoghegan Hart completed his much anticipated move to Sky after great showings in America, Mike Teunissen came close to turning his 2014 Paris-Tours Espoirs title into an elite win when making the top ten on his debut, Pierre Latour is developing an aptitude for lumpy week long races and Yves Lampaert totted up a series of performances to ignite yet further excitement from his Belgian fans after taking seventh in Paris-Roubaix.

Think we have overlooked the next big thing for 2016? Get in touch below, via @Spokenforks on twitter or by using #Spokies and we will add your champion to the public vote.

 

La Vuelta a España – Stage 21 Preview

Course:

As ever, the remedy to three weeks of unpredictable racing at La Vuelta a España is the expected final hosted in Spain’s capital city of Madrid. Considering the longest stage of this year’s race clocked in at 215km, today’s 97.8km charge to and around the city will surely seem like a blink of the eye for many 0f the riders here. Having rolled out from the start in the Madrid suburbs of Alcala de Henares, the usual steady parade of processioning teams and riders will gently approach the capital and cross the finish for the first time after 39.8km.

From here they will begin the first of 10 laps which comprise the day’s finale, each pass taking them along the 5.9km pan flat route as the speed and intensity ratchets up lap upon lap. Little has changed about these finishing circuits in recent years and the riders should be well aware of the technical challenges on each lap which includes a pair of tight 90-degree bends and a trio of complete U-turns. Having exited the last lap’s final turn, the bunch will stream immediately under the flamme rouge and have an unobstructed (slightly uphill) run to Plaza Cibeles’s finish line.

La-Vuelta-A-España-2015-Stage-21

Contenders:

John Degenkolb has experienced somewhat of a nightmare in the sprints during this year’s La Vuelta a España, but he will return as the favourite to win on the final day regardless. The German is likely to be the freshest of many of the sprinters who are also targeting a victory today, but it is his team which really inflates his chances of wining here. Luka Mezgec and Koen De Kort are both crucial to the success of his sprint today and each man has looked in great condition throughout this final week of the tour. Ultimately, the biggest doubt against Giant-Alpecin and Degenkolb is the possibility that the team may already have cooked themselves heading into today as a consequence of doing their utmost trying to defend Tom Dumoulin’s lead.

Danny Van Poppel produced a fantastic sprint on Stage 12 and could once again emerge as the biggest threat to John Degenkolb’s hopes of winning here. The Dutchman has a fantastic turn of speed and will have a full team at his disposal who have not had to dig a great deal during the final ten days of this grand tour. Of his support still present at the race, he might lack a certain level of brute strength to keep him at the front of the bunch heading into the final kilometres. This might not prove crucial however, as he was already lacking both Fabian Cancellara and Jasper Stuyven when he took his victory on Stage 12 and Van Poppel still looks fresh enough to challenge here.

Alejandro Valverde knows that a good placing in the sprint today will likely win him the points jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez. The Movistar rider’s turn of pace is well documented and there is little doubt to suggest that himself and the team will shy away from this opportunity to leave this year’s Vuelta with a jersey in the bag.

Tosh Van Der Sande has been a surprisingly consistent rider in the sprints at this year’s race, an unexpected factor for a man who usually only flourishes on the real tough days and stage finishes. On paper he should not be able to challenge for the win today, but given the attritional nature of a grand tour, he could find himself being brought into contention greater than expected.

Jempy Drucker is another rider who has performed incredibly consistently throughout the race and has demonstrated a strong enough turn of speed to push the bigger name sprinters right to the line. He is unlikely to have invested much in the way of effort during this final week of the race and he has a strong chance of getting onto the podium today; if not more.

Tom Van Asbroeck will have a great deal of power offered to him on the final stage in an attempt to win the stage for himself and LottoNL-Jumbo, a team who have not experienced a great deal of success at the race this year. Though like several of the sprinters here, he has lost a few men who would have contributed to his leadout today, but if they pick up the chase later than usual, Asbroeck will still have a great chance of winning Stage 21. The subtle drag to the finish line is perhaps the most favourable factor of today’s finish and this could be the reason why we see a shock result in Madrid.

 

Outcome:

1st John Degenkolb 2nd Tom Van Asbroeck 3rd Danny Van Poppel

La-Vuelta-A-España-2015-Stage-20

La Vuelta a España – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

The penultimate day of La Vuelta a España shall once again pivot around a testing day in the mountains, designed to offer the riders one final chance to dislodge the Red Jersey from the shoulders of this year’s current leader, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin. However, the most obvious contrast compared to previous editions’ last hurrah is the lack of a summit finish, a factor which could ignite the battle much earlier than we have witnessed on these penultimate stages recently. Four recognised ascents feature on this day for the climbers, which is realistically two climbs tackled twice from opposing sides and should entice at least one general classification rider to make the most of the slopes and utilise them as a race changing springboard.

In total, it will be 175.8km from the departure in San Lorenzo de El Escorial to the extremely anticipated finish line situated at Cercedilla. Beginning with only 17km of riding before the peloton roll their way onto the foot of the day’s opening climb, the Category 1 Puerto de Navacerrada, which they shall also meet once again from the other side as the day’s finale ascent. On this occasion however, the climb is 9.4km in length and averages out at 6.6% gradient. Like many of these Spanish slopes, the upper sections are tougher after an easier opening period, maxing out at 11.25% just before they crest the summit. A brief plateau then follows, leading into the descent which sends the bunch head first into the day’s second ascent immediately.

The second Category 1 climb of Stage 20 is Puerto de la Morcuera, a longer challenge of 11.5km, but one with a softer and more regular gradient of 5.4%. From the summit the peloton will have clocked up a little under 70km worth of racing, leaving them with just over 100km still remaining of the decisive day. The descent from the summit passes down to the base of the valley, before then building again and starting the third climb around the 116km marker. Though differing in nature, this is in fact the same as the previous climb, a consequence of the racing beginning to loop back on itself en route to the finish in Cercedilla. The Puerto de la Morcuera’s second appearance of the stage comes from its opposite side, making it a 10.4km climb with an average gradient of 6.6%, only possessing a short lived maximum incline of 9.5%.

A shorter descent than previous then follows, passing through the intermediate sprint and onwards to the final ascent of the day. Puerto de Navacerrada appears once again, though experiences a name change to the Category 1 Puerto de Cotos as a result of the alternative approach, averaging 5.4% and totalling 11km from bottom to top. Once again the opening slops are simple enough, riding upwards to a sustained 6% – 7% run of gradient, peaking yet again ahead of the summit to a maximum of 8.5%.

Less than 20km will separate the frontrunners from Stage 20’s finale, nearly all of which is a sustained descent right the way down to the final kilometre pennant ahead of the line. The road maintains an ever so slight incline of between 2% – 3% during the last kilometre and does not pose a great deal of technical issues which stage winning hopefuls will have to worry about.

La-Vuelta-A-España-2015-Stage-20

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin remains the strongest looking rider in the final week of this year’s La Veulta a España, but his workload will be immense to retain the lead on a day which is bound to isolate him and leave the Dutchman spinning plates as he calculates who to chase and who to let slip. He took three further seconds from Fabio Aru during the cobbled finale of yesterday’s stage, though it will be surprising if after everything which has preceded this last mountains stage, that such a tight advantage has a huge affect on the overall race outcome. That is to say, on Stage 20’s parcours, Tom Dumoulin will either stick to the wheel of his rivals like glue and cross the line in their shadow, or he will finally be overcome by the attrition rate and crack entirely. Whichever of the two rings true today, spectators are sure to witness an intriguing climax to 2015’s final grand tour.

Fabio Aru hit the deck hard yesterday, lost time to Dumoulin and even appeared to struggle with the pace on the day’s final descent into town; not encouraging signs. The Italian has to make a big move today if he hopes to bury his Dutch rival and take the Red Jersey at the final time of asking. Astana have the strength and depth to make life difficult for Dumoulin, a man who came here with little support due to the unexpected position within which he now finds himself, instead now relying on the likes of John Degenkolb to offer him assistance; something Astana are bound to exploit. Despite it being an unpredictable stage as to when the fireworks will truly erupt, for Fabio Aru, it seems that he will invest everything into cracking Tom Dumoulin on the final ascent. His biggest issue is that the gradients are not favourable and nor is it a summit finish for the Italian to strike for. Coupled with the long descent into the finish and Dumoulin’s apparent strength in the midst of the hardest days, Aru will have to conjure up something spectacular to win 2015’s La Vuelta a España.

Alejandro Valverde performed convincingly during the last three stages and even appeared to be toying with the elite group of riders during the descent into yesterday’s finish; upping the tempo and looking round to gauge their reaction. He could have seriously targeted several of the stages in the final week of the race, but today could certainly emerge as the most worthwhile day to put his talents on the line for another stage win. Given his swashbuckling nature, Valverde will not fear risking everything in order to bridge back to the front group on the descent, nor push on to put the likes of Aru or Dumoulin under pressure if he is already present. Due to the general classification dynamic which imbues the day with greater aggression and anxiety, it seems likely that the usual top 15 – 20 riders will catch the breakaway and come to the line together. In this scenario, Alejandro Valverde will be confident of executing his great turn of pace to secure victory in Cercedilla.

Rafal Majka must not be placed beyond the picture of today’s contest, the Pole knows he still has plenty to race for and could be enticed to attempt something unexpected as a result. Joaquim Rodriguez will be most concerned by any activity from Majka, as both are still fighting desperately to secure a podium spot. Unlike his Spanish rival, Majka appears to have sustained a greater level of condition into this final week of the race and is more likely to drop Rodriguez than vice versa.

Nairo Quintana is another man on the general classification who might fancy his chances of making gains on the final day and impact upon the final standings. The Colombian has not been at his best during La Vuelta due to a combination of Le Tour de France hangover and a viral infection of sorts, though he could muster something here. It appears that his form is now beginning to come round at last, his superb effort in the individual time trial being the strongest marker of that thus far. Rafal Majka and Joaquim Rodriguez will both need to stay alert to his movements, as out of the three, Quintana would be able to inflict the greatest damage if indeed riding as strongly as believed.

Domenico Pozzovivo has appeared in convincing form throughout the race, but has just fallen short of riding the sort of day which earns a rider a stage victory. Today is his final chance to remedy this and he could finally discover he has the freedom to attempt precisely that. Given his placing on the general classification, the impetus to close him down will come from further down on the standings and from one rider only; Louis Meintjes. Should these two indeed instigate a sparring session between them, it is easy to imagine those sitting more comfortably at the top of the standings allowing them to vanish up the road and possibly even allow them to decide the stage outcome amongst themselves.

Daniel Moreno‘s race is not over and he could still yet be crowned with a stage victory at the final time of asking. A cagily ridden race would help Moreno stay in contention with the likes of Alejandro Valverde as they reach the summit of the final climb, after which he is bound to fancy his chances in a sprint from an elite group where his compatriot Valverde will be his greatest adversary present.

Those who could also be encouraged to animate the race in order to aid a team leader in a late attack or climb up the general classification themselves are: Gianluca BrambillaRomain SicardKenny Elissonde, Esteban Chaves, Fabrice Jeandesboz and Giovanni Visconti.

Outcome:

1st Alejandro Valverde 2nd Gianluca Brambilla 3rd Daniel Moreno

Outsider: Nairo Quintana

La-Vuelta-A-España-2015-Stage-19

La Vuelta a España – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

This year’s La Vuelta a España is running out of opportunities for the teams and their riders to strike it lucky with a win and Stage 19 will no doubt instigate a frantic start as most of the peloton attempt to make their way into the day’s breakaway. Around 90km of ever so slightly rising roads will make it difficult for a move to establish itself once the bunch are on the road, but expect the size of the eventual group to be large, perhaps between 15 – 25 riders as team’s attempt to make their presence here worthwhile.

Medina del Campo will host the riders’ departure point for Stage 19 and set them on their way to the 186.8km journey to the day’s finish in Ávila. Building steadily from the off, it will not be until the 92km marker where the bunch will finally face a significant feature of the day’s profile; the Category 3 Alto de Valdelavía. A simple enough ascent which lasts 13km and averages out with a gradient of 2.7%, it will fail to impact upon the day’s outcome. From the summit, the bunch will drop down into the valley via a gradual descent, before beginning to climb yet again 35km from the finish in Ávila. 

Once the intermediate sprint is tackled by 158km, the day’s concluding descent begins immediately, maxing out just shy of 20km from home. The climb of Alto de la Paramera is a total of 8.7km and averages a manageable gradient of 4.5%, an ascent which could act as a springboard for those in the breakaway who will reach this climb first. Though there is still everything to play for in regards to the Tom Dumoulin and Fabio Aru dynamic, it seems more likely both shall keep their powder dry ahead of what is bound to be the more pivotal Stage 20. This means the escapees should be allowed to maintain their advantage into Ávila, where an uphill finish and cobble roads are set to make this conclusion just a little tougher still.

 

La-Vuelta-A-España-2015-Stage-19

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde will be the favourite to win if the breakaway capitulates late on in the day, the Spanish rider suiting this finale well and will certainly jump on the chance to add to his stage haul at this year’s La Vuelta a España. A man who performs well at the Ardennes and possesses a potent turn of pace, it is easy to see him dominating on the cobbled climb which precedes the finish.

Giovanni Visconti was a well backed rider to find success in yesterday’s breakaway, but sadly he struggled to identity the right move and consequently spent the day back in the bunch. Movistar will lean upon him once again today and request he does his utmost to make the cut on this occasion. With a limited amount of climbing and a finish which should favour those with a fair sprint capability, Visconti suits the requirements of Stage 19 well.

Stephen Cummings is still riding strong at the tail-end of this grand tour and he should be watched in the formative moments of the race as the breakaway attempts to establish its composition. Though absent from the previous day’s moves, Cummings will be the best card to play for MTN-Qhubeka and should be considered a danger man on a day which favours the breakaway’s chances of staying away to the line.

Alessandro De Marchi is another such breakaway specialist who has ridden impressively throughout La Vuelta, securing himself a stage win along the way. Today is perhaps not as tough as the terrain which usually draws the Italian out into a successful move, but at this point in the race it comes down more to condition than simply relevant talents; making him an ideal confederate to have amongst the break’s ranks.

Simon Gerrans was highlighted to make himself known on yesterday’s stage as a way of testing his condition ahead of this year’s World Championship Road Race, but this failed to materialise. Stage 19 is the last opportunity he will have to attempt such an exercise and the finale does suit the Australian quite well. The amount of climbing is unlikely to prove problematic for Gerrans, and with the cobbled hill coming a little way before the line, he could definitely challenge for the win.

Geraint Thomas might be tasked with getting into the day’s move, Sky no doubt eager to capitalise once again in the breakaway and avoid having to commit anything to the chase beyond protecting Mikel Nieve’s general classification position. Given their success yesterday however, they might be content with calling it quits at this year’s Vuelta and enter Madrid feeling a little fresher. The Welshman enjoyed an impressive Spring campaign this season and it is easy to see today’s late mixture of ‘hellingen’ and cobbles catching his eye.

José Joaquín Rojas could well feel a bit cooked after his exploits in the previous day’s breakaway, but he has ridden very strongly throughout the race and it is hard to see him call it a day with Stage 19 being such a good fit for him. Rojas will be a tough adversary amongst any group which contests the finale, and with the added drag to the line, it all adds up to a very enticing stage for the Spaniard.

Adam Hansen will be a man fancied to feature today, his reputation for a long breakaway preceding him, while the Australian is also known for utilising his brute strength to power through these final days of a grand tour. Of course, like Rojas, he did work hard on the previous stage and could decide that his hopes of another stage win at La Vuelta a España will have to wait until next year’s edition.

Julien Simon might choose to have one last attempt at picking up a stage win for his team Cofidis at 2015’s La Vuelta during today. The Frenchman has already taken three top ten placings, including a runner up spot on Stage 13 behind Nelson Oliveira and may emerge once again at the final time of asking. The uphill sections into the finish should not discourage him either, factoring in his sprinting ability, Simon actually suits today well if he can join the right move.

Rinaldo NocentiniNelson OliveiraTosh Van Der Sande and Moreno Moser all warrant a passing mention as those who could bolster the ranks of a decisive breakaway.

The ongoing Tom Dumoulin versus Fabio Aru battle also deserves a few words here, as it is possible that we may witness more activity than we expect between the two on Stage 19. The climbs do not really suit Aru, and given their nature, Dumoulin should not struggle to pace his way up them with the Italian safely in sight. However, the finale which includes a cobbled climb and rising roads in the last 2km, could prove advantageous for Dumoulin to actually take more time from Aru. The Dutchman performs strongly on these short, sharp climbs and could certainly put down the power in order to add a couple of seconds to his current lead.

Outcome:

1st Giovanni Visconti 2nd Adam Hansen 3rd Geraint Thomas

Outsider: Alejandro Valverde