Vuelta a España Stage 17 Preview
Another correct prediction in the bank and this one came from a breakaway! For me it was a good day, but for the riders? Well it wasn't bad, the start was vicious, a big breakaway got away before the first climb of the day and the start was very fast in the peloton as some outsiders looked to attack, but all came together. In front they went together and easily gained time and fought for the breakaway, Astana had Luis Leon Sanchez who finished third but was an important part to Jakob Fuglsang's win, he attacked still far from the finish in the final climb and soloed his way to a great win in front of Tao Hart, fourth was James Knox who took advantage of the break and climbed to 11th on the GC. In the peloton it was then a very quiet day until the final climb where Jumbo set the pace, Astana then took charges and Miguel Angel Lopez attacked twice but all the favourites followed, except for Quintana who cracked early and lost out a lot of time. On third attempt Lopez took only Pogacar and Roglic with him, the trio rode until the finish distancing Valverde mainly by 23 seconds and Quintana by 2:34.
Positive: Lopez definetely looked brighter than in previous days, a good sign for Astana as they also took a stage win so it was a good day for them, Roglic ticked another flawless day, seeing Knox almost jump into the Top10 was a nice performance, he has the legs to make the leap.
Negative: Movistar, Jumbo firstly covered their attacks, but Quintana completely blew up and then Valverde also lost time, despite not a lot he doesn't look to be in the fight for the actual win.
Stage 17 is a well deserved easier day and one where the sprinters will finally get their chance again after a rough week, that is, those who have resisted, but there is a lot more to this day than the bare eye can see. There's wind! But I'll leave it for afterwards. In terms of profile the stage is mostly flat, there are some rolling sections but this one is honestly flat, but even with all of that we can't call it a pure sprint, because tomorrow it will be the finish ridden in a slight dificulty.
Not one for the puncheurs, it doesn't get that steep, but the final three kilometers have an average 3%, it will definetely put some lactic acid on the sprinters' legs before they get to the decisive moment but to be fair the sprinters that make it this far into the race must be used to the climbing needed to thrive on such a finish. The roads are wide, that won't be an issue at least but some sprinters may arrive suffocated to the final sprint.
Well, WIND! I've said it already but now there's the details, there is a strong northeastern wind for most of the day, it won't be as strong at the start but around the 60Km mark it will get really strong, and until 85Km to go there will be strong crosswinds, maybe it's too far out but tension will be sky high tomorrow. The last 85Km will be mostly in tailwinds, strong tailwinds all the way to Guadalajara, it's perfect conditions for a breakaway despite not a favourable stage, so it will be interesting to watch.
You know, this day is incredibly similar to last year's stage where Jelle Wallays won, together with just Sven Erik Bystrom the duo iluded the peloton using the wind and some genius use of their strenghts to hold off the peloton. Tomorrow, well there are teams that will want to chase but with this wind I think the priority of all teams but Bora will be to get riders in the break, because it can work perfectly.
Bora is the one that will chase, Bennett is the strongest sprinter and his team will make the effort to chase definetely, but it may very well be Bora against the world in the start. In a perfect world it would be a small breakaway that's able to be reeled in, Deceuninck and maybe UAE would help the chase and it would come down to a sprint after a not very dificult chase, however that's not what I believe, so let's put in a list of riders who are powerful rouleurs and can do some big damage tomorrow if in front.
AG2R - Dillier
Bora - Haussler
CCC - Bernas, van Hooydonck, Ventoso
Deceuninck - Cavagna, Stybar (no Gilbert and de Clercq due to previous stage win and workhorse)
Groupama - Ludvigsson
Lotto - De Gendt, Wallays
Mitchelton - Howson, Smith
DD - EB.Hagen, Tiller
INEOS - Doull, Kiryienka, Puccio, Stannard
Sunweb - Arndt, Pedersen
Trek - Kirsch
UAE - Troia
Burgos - Rubio
Cofidis - Rossetto
Euskadi - Iturria
So if you're going for long shots, they won't be as long tomorrow ;)
With Bennett out of the way, I should say Jakobsen and Gaviria won't like the uphill leading to the finish. Who will? Max Richeze for a start but don't be confident he will sprint still, Jon Aberasturi and Alex Aranburu will be fans of it no doubt, Edward Theuns, Tosh van der Sande but it may not be hard enough for him. Jonas Koch as an outsider, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Owain Doull and Cyril Barthe if they focus on it instead of a breakaway, and Clement Venturini.
More on the heavier side there's Marc Sarreau and Max Walscheid adding to Jakobsen and Gaviria, the climb, again, isn't too hard but it's more a matter of the legs they have for the final sprint, that is, if there's no GC fight on the open roads with the wind, will make it an even harder stage.
⭐ van der Sande, Doull, Sarreau, Cavagna, Wallays, Arndt, Rubio
Sam Bennett. Will ignore the urge to go with an outsider and go with the logic thought which was what I should've done in Oviedo.
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