• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 16 Preview

The start of the stage was hard, Movistar pushed the pace on the first climb of the day so as to put Marc Soler in front. With him went some more and in total a group of 17 were up in front, they ended up battling for the win. Early in the final climb Sepp Kuss attacked hard, went through Samitier who was in front and soloed to the line with a dominant win, with Ruben Guerreiro and Tao Geoghegan Hart completing the podium. On the peloton there was a slow pace until the run-up to the final climb, the start was violent and also on the first ramps Valverde attacked with only Roglic on the wheel, the duo later had support of Soler but most of the climb they collaborated and rolled in together, winning 41 seconds over Lopez and Pogacar, and 1:36 over Quintana.

Positive: Roglic has consolidated his lead over most of his rivals, Valverde solidified his second place also in a very strong performance. Jumbo had a jackpot day as Kuss also took the win, Guerreiro still going very consistent and climbing up the GC, close to a stage win.

Negative: Quintana the big looser of the day, contrast with his teammate he's dropped a lot of time to his rivals.

The Route

Stage 16 is yet another mountain brute and this once includes a trio of Asturian colossus, the San Lorenzo, Cobertoria and Cubilla. The day stars off with a relatively flat 50 kilometers but then the dificulty starts.

The Puerto de San Lorenzo is a climb of two parts where the gradients are normally above 10% but there's a 2Km section in the middle that allows some rest, but it's very hard and in any scenario can be a dangerous one.

The Alto de la Cobertoria is a brute, after the rest day there may be some riders suffering and this is definetely a place where teams can test their rivals, it's hard enough to create gaps if needed and it's a climb that can be vital for the stage, we'll see how hard are the GC contenders willing to go but above all see how much horse power is left to work both in the front of the race and in the back.

And the final climb to la Cubilla is somewhat different from the habit, not a steep climb but one where the dificulty lies in the lenght of it, being 18.2Km long officially but even more if you so wanted to categorize it. There are some hard kilometers, the first half of the climb is harder but excluding some easier couple of kilometers most of the climb is on a steady 6 and 7%, so it's one where the attacks can come as brutal after a dificult combination of climbs.

The Weather

Another coldish day, temperatures around 15 degrees, there will be a breeze from from the northwest but not strong, still it will make for a tailwind for a good part of the final climb, as for the others it will be a crosswind for both.

The Favourites

You know, this won't be easy at all to write. I mean, we're seeing breakaways win almost everyday and honestly I see no reason why tomorrow that won't happen again. My argument as to why it won't be a breakaway win it's because it's already happened so much which no-one would take as a serious justification. So I'll think of it like this, seeing Quintana loose time today I'd believe tomorrow is his last chance to put Roglic under pressure so he should go all or nothing, but he needs the team behind him and that hasn't seemed at all the case so far. UAE doesn't have the team and Astana won't be working as Lopez is on a level below Roglic in the last couple mountain stages.

This climb, it favours Roglic, and that says a lot since he already looks like the strongest climber in the race. There's almost nothing more to say, at this point unless Roglic has a bad day he won't loose time, he just won't there's no flaws in his arsenal. At this point he seems to be allying with others to extend the gap on his rivals one by one and that's working out perfectly for him. Pogacar should like tomorrow's climb, however Los Machucos didn't favour him in theory and he flew, and today he was well below Valverde so it's a bit of a roulette. Lopez, well just hang around and see what legs he has because it's same situation as Pogacar, and for Quintana either he attacks on one of the early climbs of the day or he waits for the final climb and eventually will be dropped. There's Majka who's consistently holding on in the GC and Kelderman who should fancy the climb but they are below the necessary to win the stage.

But if there's no early attacks, well it's for a breakaway, again. With the amount of stages already for them even the riders targeting breakaways should be fatigued, so the sensible thing (of course taking in the logic thought) is to see who didn't move today and is looking fresher for tomorrow. Pierre Latour and Geoffrey Bouchard, why not? I don't know if there was any ilness seeing how they lost time yesterday, but it may have been saving themselves. If so then I think they can cause damage tomorrow. I think Astana is going to be on the attack again, Fuglsang is my choice as I don't think Lopez is seriously with the legs to attack, I can be wrong but Fuglsang may be given his shot for success. Gianluca Brambilla and Peter Stetina of Trek and Wout Poels I rate them very high, Higuita and Martinez are coming in again in my preview as they didn't make a move for tomorrow, so tomorrow is a new chance.

Out of other GC outsiders there's some potential in Nieve, hell even Chaves but honestly I don't see it he looks like he's going down. If Hermann Pernsteiner is given freedom absolutely, and from James Knox and Kilian Frankiny I see serious favourites to take the win.

Prediction Time

Fuglsang, Roglic

Knox, Brambilla, Higuita, Pogacar, Valverde

MA.Lopez, Quintana, Nieve, Latour, Bouchard, Poels, Frankiny, Pernsteiner

My call is for Fuglsang to take the win tomorrow via a successful breakaway. I was right today that their intention was to do it with Ion Izagirre, but he didn't have the legs. Astana's intentions are clear, and seeing how Fuglsang has been riding, specially today, he will surely have freedom tomorrow and if he manages to get in front he can win.

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