Vuelta a España Stage 10 Preview
It was an amazing day of racing in Andorra, it lived up to the expectation I would say. The day started out with a lot of attacks as expected, a group of around 30 riders including several GC contenders as Kelderman, Latour, Nieve and Hagen that gained up to 4 minutes with Cofidis' control of the race. In Collada de la Galina Movistar but mainly Astana ranked up the pace shredding the peloton leaving it without overnight leader Edet and Teuns. Bouchard led the race as it entered Comella and Lopez attacked there and went solo, chasing was Jumbo and Movistar who had riders who were in the breakaway, and then the Movistar duo attacked Roglic over Engolasters but when a hailstorm hit the race it was Roglic and Lopez themselves who crashed. Quintana attacked the bottom of the final climb joining up with Pogacar who "attacked" over the gravel, Valverde stuck with Lopez and Roglic chased back, dropping Lopez and catching Valverde later. In front Pogacar attacked as Soler dropped to help Quintana and on that sense the stage finished.
Positive: Pogacar recovering and Quintana winning some time due to the crashes. Persteiner, Higuita and Hagen weren't surprises but had great results after a successful breakaway, all of them being in the GC fight with very good presence. Bouchard had a massive solo and climbed his way to 2nd on the KOM classification.
Negative: Chaves, after several bike changes which was a mistake under pressure but it wasn't his fault. Roglic and Lopez (and Higuita) victims of crashes on the dangerous road to the final climb, whilst seeing Pierre Latour drop down the GC was a big surprise, seeing the way Fabio Aru was also eliminated also came as a shock as in theory he was on the uprising.
The second week starts with a time-trial the race's sole individual effort and it takes place in Pau, the exact same city where the Tour time-trial took place and it's quite a similar effort.
The profile doesn't show it, at all. But it has quite some climbing, with a 2Km climb at 7.3% starts the effort that's nothing but regular. The road is narrow but until the base of the next climb they get at times really dangerous, with car-wide roads and a tricky descent.
And then another one at 5.9% during 1.7Km, the Côte de l'Église is the final big climbing test of the time-trial, it is very irregular and after this one there's a bit of a plateau and another tricky descent until finally there are wide roads into Pau, where the final kilometer is slightly uphill and finishes on the exact same place as the Tour's ITT.
It is not a time-trial for specialists. Although of course we should see them in front, the same way Alaphillipe's Tour win wasn't a surprise here it wouldn't be a surprise to see the GC men heading some of the first places (which well, seeing there's Roglic on the start line should be taken for granted).
Warm temperatures and a small northeastern wind, it won't have any drastic change so shouldn't be a factor to consider tomorrow.
As I've mentioned above, this isn't a "specialists" time-trial, this isn't one where you'll simply see the big powerful riders take over the first places and the GC men have a battle of their own behind. No, the profile is incredibly misleading and when you see a proper one, you see just how much climbing there is for a "flat" TT, and when you see the map you realize the descents are dangerous, and when you streetview the course, well it's just an added dificulty with constantly narrow roads. So having rouleurs and GC men battling for the win shouldn't come as a surprise unless the actual specialists can climb very well too.
So having that said, who are the "specialists"? Well I can divide them onto the non-climbing side where we have names like Tony Martin and Vasil Kiryienka, in normal circumstances they could be serious names to consider but this time-trial just seems way out of their league at this point of their career. In the side of those that can climb, I would consider Nelson Oliveira, he won't be saving himself as Movistar will want time on the team's classification, there's Patrick Bevin who is well capable of powering over climbs like these, Lawson Craddock, Tobias Ludvigsson, Benjamin Thomas and Nikias Arndt are all names to consider, none of them is exceptionally good at climbing but they can handle them and have quite the power to go through the roads towards Pau. The advantage these riders have in relation to the GC riders is that they may be willing to take further risks in the descents as they have much less to loose, and in a time-trial every second counts so there is something for you to think about.
There's the power men category, not time-trial specialists but riders that have a massive power and can really profit from the rolling roads on course. Thomas de Gendt was third in the Tour ITT and the course is almost identical, he would be no surprise to see winning. On this list, I seriously consider Remi Cavagna, great form and one of the most powerful riders in the peloton.
From the GC riders, well there's no ignoring Roglic, period. Valverde is a solid name and so is Pogacar, both have ridden really impressive time-trials and in such a route having them in the top places is something I expect. Ion Izagirre is a serious favourite I'd say, he had some bad days early in the Tour but on this weekend he showed quite the fire on his legs, as a strong time-trialist and descender I'd rate him high. Wilco Kelderman and Daniel Martinez are two other names to consider, obvious bike reasons but also good form going on.
⭐ Valverde, Kiryienka, Ludvigsson, Thomas, Arndt, Cavagna, Kelderman
He's won 3 out of the 5 ITT's he's started this season, and this one is yet another that suits him perfectly. The form he's showing and his quality it's hard to ignore his favouritism to win this, only an after-rest day effect could take it away from him in normal circumstances.
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