• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 20 Preview

It was a big big day in the Vuelta, no rest at all in yet another day. With 11 riders in the breakaway it looked very good already, but Katusha, CCC and Lotto Soudal helped Bora in the chasing which gave the peloton a chance. However when a crash took out a lot of riders including Roglic and Lopez, Movistar pushed hard afterwards but eventually it grouped up. There were echelons in the meantime but it all came back together again. In front Cavagna attacked with 25Km to go, built a gap on the chasing group all by himself and held off the peloton afterwards by just 5 seconds. In the peloton Sam Bennett resisted and won the sprint for second, Gilbert, Stybar and Valverde arrived afterwards, gaining 3 seconds on the peloton.

Positive: Deceuninck ruling the peloton once again, Roglic and Lopez saved the day.

Negative: James Knox lost some time there in the end, but it shouldn't make much of a difference, no real loosers today.

The Route

And the final stage, that can properly be called the queen stage, it's 190 kilometers long and it's the stage with most climbing in the race with over 4500 meters, and it's through an area not used often in the race finishing on the Sierra de Gredos after a grueling day on the Sierras.

The first climb of the day will pretty much decide who will be on the breakaway but for raids, to have teammates in front or to actually find youself in front, this climb is shallow enough to see big riders with some teammates in front building gaps, this is perfect raiding terrain with lots of climbing and descending, winding roads and it's not too hard to make comebacks if you're behind.

As there are three more categorized climbs on the way and a lot more uncategorized there are no definitive spots on the stage that can be said it will be attacked, that's what makes it such dangerous territory, all the GC contenders and their teams must be up on their attention all day long to prevent being caught up in what would be a disaster of a situation.

However the place where the attacks may come is the Puerto de Peña Negra, it's the last long climb of the race, it's in a vital point of the stage where there's only 35Km to go and it's hard enough for all kinds of attacks, even if the stage is easily controlled until then. It's the last place where the climbers can attack and forge real gap but there is still a lot of ground to cover.

There's a descent and some roller-coaster roads before the final summit finish to the Plataforma de Gredos, a 4Km climb at 7% but the dificulty will be much more enhanced from all the fatigue from the stage and the race, it's a straightforwards valley road which further accentuates that it's such a hard climb to deal at a proper pace, it's one to just survive or keep the gaps opened until that point.

The Weather

There's a threat of rain all day long, can't say certain where and when, it can be at any time. The wind will have massive gusts reachip up to 60Km/h but on average around 10Km/h coming from the southeast, will be felt more in the high spots and not in the valleys. Sadly that will mean a headwind in Peña Negra but a tailwind at the start of the day which can make things even more exciting.

The Favourites

So tomorrow is the final showdown of the Vuelta, but unlike most previous days I'll actually keep it short and for a simple reason. Vengeance. Today things turned very sour between Astana and Movistar, fair-play was one of the subjects of the day and Miguel Angel Lopez commented quite negatively on Movistar's actions. What happens also is that Lopez has been attacking like crazy in the last two mountain stages and the only thing preventing him from being on the podium is, that's right, a couple of Movistar riders. Astana have the team and they will be going hard again, likely Lopez will wait for Peña Negra, but the first climb of the day allows plenty chances for Izagirre and Fuglsang to be in front, and honestly there's a lot of terrain to push on, and fatigue will be on the legs of the breakaway men aswell, at this point of such a hard race with so many breakaways no rider is truly fresh.

And Lopez will attack, simple as that. The race will kick off early again and the minimum he wants is to be on the podium and motivation will be high. Roglic all things going normal will be able to respond. Although, both of them crashed today, but it seems like they didn't suffer as both made it back and finished high on the final climb.

Movistar, they will defend. Quintana and Valverde clearly don't have the legs to attack the race and they are focusing on defending their two podium places for now, Soler is strong, very strong and should be able to give a big hand in that and Pogacar also had a rough day in Navacerrada, he's 1:18 away from Quintana so I doubt he can go up any place, he's on his debut and his race has been perfect, so he'll make the effort not to loose it all.

So from those teams I wouldn't expect a win, only Kuss from Jumbo could maybe but he already had his chance (and very well) so no, let's look at the other teams. And to win a stage like this only the best of the best (of the ones not fighting for the overall) can win. So first thought is those who lost time in the crosswinds, Pernsteiner, Guerreiro, Edet and Frankiny. None has had a win so far but both have ridden brilliant races, Higuita took his shot so it's time the others do the same, all seem to have the legs for it so it's about having the timing and well, the luck.

And the others, well Pierre Latour (yes I keep insisting), Wout Poels, Oscar Rodriguez and, what the hell, Louis Meintjes.

Prediction Time

MA.Lopez, Roglic, Poels

Valverde, Pogacar, Guerreiro, Edet

Majka, Latour, Rodriguez, Meintjes, Pernsteiner, Frankiny

So to finish a great three weeks of mountain stages I'll bet on Superman Lopez to get his revenge and finally take a win in this race.

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