• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 14 Preview

It was an exciting finish, it was a very fast start to the day and when it seemed as if the breakaway was set to discuss the stage Astana took responsability of the peloton and shredded it to pieces before the final climb, in front it was Pierre Latour who was standing out but in the peloton Astana led it out before Quintana attacked, but after being reeled in there was clearly an extra gear in Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic, the Slovenians attacked in the final kilometers, Alejandro Valverde kept up for a bit but soon enough was left behind. Pogacar powered through and took the stage win with Roglic on the wheel, Latour took third place stealing the bonifications from Valverde who arrived with Quintana and Majka, whilst Miguel Angel Lopez got left behind and clearly lacked his speed today. I had some days off, you all must know how it is going currently but Roglic leads the GC with 2:25 over Valverde, Pogacar has stormed through to third at 3:01, Miguel Angel Lopez rolls in at 3:18 whilst Quintana is at 3:33, everyone else is quite far behind the GC already.

Positive: It wasn't a climb that I thought suited Pogacar, but he proved me wrong he looks super strong, but Roglic looks even better, and fresh, he is really flying and if he doesn't have a bad day in the Vuelta he is well on his way. Pernsteiner, Knox and Edet had great performances, Edet keeping up his great GC even going up to 7th whilst Knox and Pernsteiner are building up to brilliant form.

Negative: Lopez, not only his poor performance today but his team worked so much for him, it was a shame.

The Route

Stage 14 is a return to some easier roads, however it's far from being a sprinter stage. When you look at the profile it doesn't really look hard, and despite that third category climb there is barely any dificulty to the day. But what you can see is the final climb, to the Oviedo Cathedral is not at all shown in the profile and what looks like a flat finish is actually a dificult steep finish.

The final climb has some nasty gradients and in those roads the sprinters can resist, but it's a very punchy finish and far from an ordinary sprint, that is if the puncheurs don't really ruin the party for the fast men, as there will be nothing considered high speed in this arrival. The entrance in the final section is going to be full speed ahead but as the last meters flatten out and the stage isn't overly hard, the sprinters are still the ones to watch here.

The Weather

A slight breeze from the northeast, nothing really to note, will be a pleasant day for the riders in these terms.

The Favourites

Although this is a stage that favours a breakaway win, some winding roads and a very rolling profile, I believe it is one for the sprinters because their opportunities are so limited that a stage like this simply can't be ignored. Several teams will be interested in chasing and so I believe there's enough firepower to chase a morning break, and with so many hard days to come and honestly a very very hard start to the Vuelta, much of the peloton will be looking to save their legs for the remaining days to come.

However, one team has a big big saying in how it'll end up. Deceuninck have taken two wins already, Jakobsen is far from a safe pick tomorrow so I believe they will try to get someone in the break, and if either Stybar and Cavagna manage to get up there there will be SERIOUS danger. Jakobsen should be there in the end but even if not Richeze has the power, and I'm putting him behind because he's fullfiled his goal but doesn't this finish look like Phil Gil's Cauberg? As Bora is down two riders, Majka obviously won't work and Grosschartner will be saving himself for sure, the German team will need big help, and where will it come from?

Some outsiders, that will make this a very interesting finale. Mitchelton, mark this name Luka Mezgec is a big favourite to take the win, the uphill finish is perfect for his skills, the issue is that Sam Bennett has too excelled in them. Still Mitchelton has firepower to chase and Dion Smith as a perfect leadout in the end. There's Trek, Edward Theuns is another explosive rider good for this, the team is still intact and without any GC ambitions, they will be full on the Belgian and I think they'll help the chase if needed. Between Lotto Soudal and Tosh van der Sande and Sunweb with Nikias Arndt I would in normal circumstances expect to see them in the battle, but both have been active in the breakaways so I don't know until what point they have the legs for it.

From UAE, I doubt, Gaviria hasn't had a good run and despite being saving himself I don't think he'll be as strong as the others, I doubt to see them work. There's riders from CCC, Patrick Bevin and Jonas Koch who will fancy their chances tomorrow, INEOS' Owain Doull, he's very strong for uphill finishes but hasn't shown the form in the race yet, but will try to be up there as he has the freedom in the team, Katusha has Ruben Guerreiro and a possible rogue Enrico Battaglin, Clement Venturini and maybe even Edvald Boasson Hagen for tomorrow?

Last but not least, no I did not forget, the Caja Rural boys! Like all PCT teams they have been absolutely flying in this Vuelta, but sadly they haven't yet reached the top step of the podium. And why am I rating them as main favourites for tomorrow too? Well in Burgos, both have won very very similar finishes. Despite Aranburu may not have his best legs due to his breakaways, Jon Aberasturi has been saving himself in the peloton and the team is fit and strong as he is, he's been present in the sprints and tomorrow is one perfect for him, let's see if he can pull it off. Also I'll slot in a wildcard, Cyril Barthe of Euskadi, somewhat safe pick for the Top10.

The GC riders will surely be up there but the finale isn't selective enough to see them attack, and to go for the bonifications I seriously doubt but Valverde and Pogacar have very strong sprints and could try to be there, even if just for the points classification.

Prediction Time

S.Bennett, Mezgec, Aberasturi

Theuns, Aranburu, Stybar

Jakobsen, Cavagna, Gaviria, Koch, Arndt, van der Sande, EB.Hagen

Gonna go for it. Everyone will go for Bennett, with good reason but I think Bennett may suffer from the Matthews syndrome tomorrow, Bora will be forced to chase too much and he will have to spend too much energy with positioning despite being good, and some teams with much less pressure such as Trek and Caja Rural can profit there in the end, and seeing the wins Aberasturi has had this season, these roads have his name written on them.

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