• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 15 Preview

It wasn't a very stressful stage, a dangerous breakaway in front but several teams kept it under control, and riding into the final kilometers Bora had Bennett in perfect position, when Deceuninck came into the front in the final kilometer there was a crash, involving a lot of riders including Valverde and Pogacar, and in front Tosh van der Sande attacked on the steep part of the climb, Richeze and Bennett responded and Bennett easily made his way to the front and had no trouble taking the win in front of the Deceuninck rider, van der Sande held on to third.

Positive: Bennett with an easy win, and despite some not normal names in the Top10 there was no real surpise. With Jakobsen cracking Richeze was an obvious choice, and van der Sande is known as a specialist in these steep finishes.

Negative: Valverde and Pogacar, but also Kelderman and Chaves were caught up in the crash. No serious damage at first glance but only tomorrow will we find out if they came out unscathed.

The Route

Stage 15, it's a very hard day packed with climbs. It's a multi-climbing day in the Asturias and features a lot of dificult ascents, and the climbers that can handle this type of day will again be favoured, not having to face mega-steep climbs and ramps on a daily basis (although Acebo isn't on the light side at all).

The first climb of the day is exactly on the Acebo, but via a different side, it's a very hard climb but early in the day it shouldn't have much of a decision to be made.

With 81Km to go summits the Puerto del Connio, a climb similar to the Pyreneen ones in terms of gradient and lenght, a more familiar type of climb for the peloton, further damage to be dealt in the peloton here.

With 41Km to go comes this climb, already a very hard challenge coming after the previous, the gradients really kick up the final kilometers and it is set to be a big preparation for the final climb.

Which is again up to Acebo but to the sanctuary this time, it's a mightily hard climb, very familiar to the race and to the Vuelta as Asturias aswell, it's a 9.6Km ascent at over 8% but not a very constant climb as the other ones, the final 5.2Km are at 9% and the gradients go up to 15% near the finale. It's a very hard climb and it remains so until the very end as the final kilometers is the steepest of all so not only is it one where pacing is vital, after such a hard week and race it's judging what you can do and see where alliances can be formed, because you can't afford to go hard very early. The surface is quite irregular for most of the climb until it's final kilometers, although it includes a new section that isn't the regular finish place that may be in gravel, but even if so it shouldn't cause any extra damage.

The Weather

A little different weather, will be a cold day, temperatures always below 20 degrees and the wind will be present, not strong but between 10-15Km/h from the northeast, will mean a headwind in the penultimate climb and somewhat of a cross/headwind in the final ascent, although in such gradients, changes of direction and the big audience always on the road, it shouldn't be massively felt.

The Favourites

The dynamics will be very interesting tomorrow, but I see another breakaway win. Why is that? Well, Jumbo won't be pushing to catch a breakaway and have bonifications available for Roglic's rivals for sure, Valverde and Pogacar went down today so do not expect their teams to work also tomorrow, and Astana did so yesterday in Los Machucos and Miguel Angel Lopez didn't manage to perform. No other team is expected to actually work, so it will remain as that for sure. With the lack of interest for outsider GC riders getting in breakaways and the huge gaps everywhere, there should be plenty quality in the breakaway to make it all the way to the line.

So my breakaway choices are the ones you should follow more closely. I would expect AG2R to go on the move again, maybe too early but Latour has showed to have the legs to take a stage, Astana will depend on how much they'll support Lopez but I don't see them working tomorrow, someone like Cataldo or Fraile I would see in front, but if they get Fuglsang or I.Izagirre in front they have big chances of succeeding. With Higuita and Martinez I'd expect EF to also make a move, Kilian Frankiny is a really interesting name to take into acount and he will have freedom, between him and James Knox I see maybe the biggest contenders if they get in front, GC motivation and great form will make a great combination, Nieve and Pernsteiner may also have freedom to go onto the front, it's not like anyone will chase them if they are.

There's Gianluca Brambilla, the Euskadi duo Mikel Bizkarra (if he has recovered from ilness) and Oscar Rodriguez who lost time in Bilbao, my guess is that he also fell ill as I see no other explanation, and finally from INEOS, Wout Poels looked good in Los Machucos stage but had bad tactics, but from Tao Geoghegan Hart there's a serious opportunity to finally net a stage win.

From the big men, well you know of the names too. I don't know exactly how it'll be as Pogacar and Valverde may not be at their best, but in case they are I see a very similar outcome to Los Machucos, it's a climb where Roglic and Pogacar can make use of their power, both looked flawless actually so there is nothing to point out there. For Quintana and Lopez, well it does suit them aswell but Los Machucos is where in theory they'd be favoured but they instead lost big time, so no I don't have confidence in them right now, maybe they'll prove me wrong.

Prediction Time

T.Hart, Latour, Frankiny

Higuita, O.Rodriguez, Pogacar, Roglic, MA.Lopez

Valverde, Quintana, Knox, Nieve, Pernsteiner, Poels, Brambilla, I.Izagirre

My call is for Tao Hart to make a comeback and take the stage win. I don't know what happened at the start of the race but he is definetely picking up the form, he's been riding strong but saving himself more than other contenders, tomorrow the climbs suit him, I see him take the win.

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