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

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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 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 14 Preview

Course:

Though yesterday was billed as a day for the sprinters, other than the blisteringly on form Matteo Trentin who took the win, it failed to be the conclusion which we were anticipating. Regardless, that quasi-sprint was a brief reminder of the fast men being present at La Vuelta, as Stage 14 immediately returns to the mountains with a summit finish. Beginning in Écija and finishing atop Sierra de la Pandera, the day clocks in at 175km and is essentially climbing for the entire duration. Rising gently from the starting line, the first recognised climb is encountered after 76km of racing in the shape of the Category 3 Puerto el Mojón, an 8.8km challenge which averages a gradient of 3.7%. After the subsequent descent, the peloton will face an extended period of rolling terrain, finally reaching the next significant ascent around the 144km marker. The Category 2 Alto Valdepeñas de Jaen is similar to its predecessor at 8.5km and averaging 4.8%, though it is what follows so soon after which makes it crucial. The Category 1 Sierra de La Pandera totals 12km from bottom to top and possesses an average gradient of 7.3% on paper, though the reality is that of a climb which is irregular throughout. Tipping upwards to beyond 10% in the opening couple of kilometres, the climb momentarily softens, before swinging between 5% – 13% en route to the summit. It drops down just before the finish line, though the last push to the chequered flag will be against a reasonable incline.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 14

Contenders:

Romain Bardet is here to collect stage wins and should find the final third of today as having the sort of terrain which brings his skills to the fore. With little in the way of flat roads, a few rapid descents and climbs which repeatedly kick between gradients; the Frenchman is a clear frontrunner today. His previous effort several days ago was encouraging, suggesting he has not suffered too greatly from arriving here off the back of Le Tour de France and is still posing a genuine danger to the rest on these tough finales.

Darwin Atapuma was the main accomplice in Romain Bardet’s attack earlier in the race, the two combining well together late on and there is no reason to suggest why Atapuma may not find himself in that position once again. Evidently feeling good at La Vuelta, he will be confident of making a breakaway early on, though might now be more aware that he shall need to avoid going head to head with riders of Bardet’s calibre for the stage win.

Rui Costa has not been as active as perhaps expected, but the realisation that a convincing general classification placing was not possible, should now provide him with the freedom to try and follow the key moves on Stage 14. Though not a pure climber, he is very successful when it comes to placing himself in the best possible situation to win from and there is every chance that he may already have too great an advantage to catch once on the final climb. He can certainly sprint well after a tough day, so with a final kilometre which dips down and then up again to only a few degrees, he might be the best bet to win from an elite group.

Pello Bilbao will be hoping to make the cut today, his form bubbling under particularly well at the moment and he will not wish for this to be wasted amongst the peloton all day. Though duties to his team and team leader Fabio Aru could prove impossible to escape, the natural selection process of the final climb could see him as their best placed rider regardless. Bilbao exited the rest day looking sharp and stands a good chance of making it count for something if given the freedom to try.

Joe Dombrowski could be amongst those who choose to try their luck from a long range breakaway, though this perhaps is not tough enough to really get the best from him. The lithe limbed climber is still without a grand tour stage win surprisingly, though that is no true reflection upon his capabilities for these mountain stages. If he can find himself in a well drilled and strong move, then the American might finally strike it lucky.

Others to look for include Adam YatesRafal Majka, Igor AntonJulian Alaphilippe and Sergio Pardilla.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Pello Bilbao 3rd Joe Dombrowski

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 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

Giro d'Italia 2017 Logo

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

A difficult day to predict, Stage 8 is another intermediate challenge for the peloton ahead of their arrival upon the footsteps of this year’s first serious mountaintop battles. Totalling 189km as it makes its way from Molfetta to Peschici, the route features both a Category 2 and Category 4 ascent to punctuate the racing, though some of the most intense riding is expected during the opening 85km as the breakaway attempts to form. With a punchy finale which would normally suit the classics specialists, in their absence, it will be somewhat of a lottery as to who will be in contention as the race comes down to the final kilometres.

Giro d’Italia 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Omar Fraile may prove to be the best bet for Team Dimension Data now Nathan Haas looks to have become ill in the last day or so. Fraile arrives here off the back of an extremely strong performance at the Tour of Yorkshire, suiting this rolling run into the finish line at Peschici. Strong enough to attack solo from a breakaway, he will be a dangerous rider if allowed to open up too great a gap upon his rivals.

Dario Cataldo could be given the chance to throw his hat in the ring on Stage 8, his explosive finishing abilities being hard to match on the uphill drag to the line. Astana are certainly on the hunt to secure a stage victory as soon as possible, with the profile of today an appealing prospect for Cataldo to potentially perform upon.

José Gonçalves would normally have been a regular face in the breakaways by now, but his recent move to Team Katusha – Alpecin has clearly reduced his freedom to animate contests like today. Regardless, this might not even prove a tough enough challenge to catch his eye, though he remains a strong contender if able to join the breakaway.

Enrico Battaglin once possessed a strong reputation for competing convincingly on parcours such as these, but at this year’s Giro d’Italia, the native rider appears to be happy to focus upon contesting the reduced sprint finishes when possible. Should he manage to feature as part of a racing deciding move, then Battaglin certainly has the experience to convert his presence into a stage win.

Michael Woods shall be fired up to join the move today, especially as Cannondale – Drapac were surprisingly absent from the move on Stage 6 which eventually decided the day’s winner. The Canadian rider has a developing talent for the steep gradients which feature late on in the race and could prove unmatchable if at the fore during the final moments of Stage 8.

Other riders who could feature in this lottery are Adam YatesLuis Leon SanchezRui Costa, Pello Bilbao and Adam Hansen.

Outcome:

1st Omar Fraile 2nd Michael Woods 3rd Enrico Battaglin

Outsider: Fernando Gaviria