Vuelta a España Stage 2 Preview
It was one of the most dramatic days of the year, and surprises were not left short. Right before the stage started there was the news of an Euskadi car crashing into a wall, and that was a sign of what's to come as then Jumbo-Visma had four riders crashing in a left bend, including Roglic and Kruijswijk, and then seven of the eight UAE riders also crashed in a corner. Luckily even after those crashes it seems no-one got injured but those two teams have started the race on the wrong foot. In the end of the day it was a surprisingly strong Astana taking the win over Deceuninck (who was also almost involved in a crash with a Jumbo-Visma car) and Sunweb, and Miguel Angel Lopez became the first race leader.
Negative: Astana were the absolute winners of the day, it wasn't just defending themselves but they've attacked their main rivals. Sunweb also had a pretty strong ride.
Positive: Jumbo lost 40 seconds and UAE 1:07, horrible losses in a scenario which they had no fault in but the physical damage may be bigger, although at this point it seems as if there was no rider injured. AG2R perhaps the other looser of the day, no crash but a 37 second loss in such a small space isn't a good start for Latour's ambitions.
Stage 2 is not short of traps, over 3200 meters of climbing in the classic roller-coaster Spanish roads, the rompe-piernas - you'll hear me say this a LOT throughout these weeks - which add up to such a dificult stage already. The begining sees quite a hard combination of climbs, with the Puerto de Confrides and the Alto de Benilloba set to be the ground where the riders will be looking to get themselves in front of the race in a stage that is quite favourable for a breakaway. With the gaps very short it's another reason why the motivation will be high in the peloton as getting to the race lead is a realistic outcome.
The highlight of the day comes with 25.5Km to the finish with the Puig Llorenca, a brutal climb, where in the last few years riders like Dumoulin and Froome have won. Although it won't be climbed until it's very summit, it features some nasty brutal ramps, it's a climb in steps all the way to it's summit and it can be attacked, but at the very least it will shed the peloton even if at pace, and will leave big marks and see what riders are ready from the start and who may be in a lesser level, despite being very early on.
There are long sections of winding roads, some steep descents and ascents, hard roads to control after the climb which may mean a lot of confusion, specially as the peloton will be somewhat shredded from a very steep climb.
As for the final kilometers there is nothing to note. The roads aren't ideal for a chase until the final 5KM, but from there on it's straightforward, with a couple of roundabouts in the final kilometer the biggest "hurdle".
There will be a slight wind from the east, it may be felt as it is above 10Km/h, most of the climb is sheltered from what would be a headwind, but there's a tailwind after the summit in the hardest part. Attacks will come there unless a big GC contender is dropped.
This is a finish too hard for the sprinters, even those who can climb, the Puig Llorença isn't a climb that can be paced at, it has some really steep ramps so those who can't climb as well will definetely struggle. If some GC rider is struggling it'll be visible and can trigger a team trying to push it to the maximum which can be done in these roads. If not, there will surely be lots of attacks after the climb and chasing isn't really expected, only if Astana are keen in keeping their lead or some sprinter ends up resisting and has a strong team still present in the peloton.
So this gives us a pretty interesting list of favourites, because there aren't actually favourites for the stage! Honestly this feels like one that would suit a breakaway very well, riders like Thomas de Gendt will surely be licking their lips and this is exactly the type of stage that suits him like a glove. But even if Astana aren't keen to burning their team to keep the lead, they won't let an early break get it, they just don't race like that.
So who does that leave us?
The Sprinters? Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sam Bennett, some other names may climb decently but I just don't see it. The sprinters that I give a little chance of resisting the climb would maybe be Luka Mezgec, he has given great signs, and I would put Caja Rural's Alex Aranburu and Jon Aberasturi has big names to quote, with Lastra and Serrano I actually have quite a good feeling from Caja Rural. There's Patrick Bevin, quite a good call actually but I don't see any team willing or capable of chasing if he does make it through, and I would really cut the list there.
In the climber's side, you can always rely on Alejandro Valverde in such a parcours, and well race, Sergio Higuita and Tao Geogheghan Hart have quite a strong finish, they are riders set to be marked and I don't think the stage will be that selective, but they are riders to take into acount.
But as for those who I think suit the type of rider for tomorrow, the powerful type of puncheur/climber, I would integrate Astana with some names there but maybe Luis Leon Sanchez and Ion Izagirre are those to have an eye on. Dylan Teuns, Davide Formolo and Ruben Guerreiro look to me like the riders that fit this scenario the best. Again, I see no real favourites for this stage, which I consider pretty cool, so it's about who has the legs followed by who will be given the freedom.
⭐ I.Izagirre, de Gendt, Aberasturi, Higuita, Hart, Teuns, Guerreiro
Alex Aranburu, fight me. Now seriously, he's a great rider in great form, and no-one will be looking at him, he packs a strong sprint and can climb quite well, this is a rider that the WT riders and GC contenders won't mind dragging to the line.
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