• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 3 Preview

It was a very exciting day of racing, and what a day! The climb was climbed with a very high pace but as expected the decisive move came after the summit, but what wasn't expected was a move including Roglic, Uran, Nieve, Aru, Roche and stage winner Nairo Quintana. Quintana attacked solo from that group in the closing kilometers and won by 5 seconds over the chasing group, with Roche taking second and taking the lead, and Roglic. The chasing group including Lopez finished 37 seconds back, whilst the main peloton arrived 1:43 after including some important names aswell.

Negative: Quintana, Roglic and Uran the big winners of the day, they are the big favourites that won serious time today on rivals almost in a ghostly fashion, Nieve and Aru also big winners and obviously Roche too. Roglic, Aru and Pogacar gave a brilliant response to yesterday's crashes. From the chasing GC group, De la Parte and Higuita pleasant surprises.

Positive: Astana weren't strong as a team today, and Lopez completely missed Roglic's move, a big mistake that was very costly. Kruijswijk and Fuglsang are some of the big names that lost over minute and a half today, GC fight isn't over but at least three of these riders are expected to be up there and they lost big time today. As for Tao Hart and Wout Poels, over 9 minutes, game over. Ben O'Connor and Marc Soler are also out of the fight.

The Route

Stage 3 will deliver the first bunch sprint if it all goes well. It isn't as simple as that though, the breakaway must at all times be controlled as there is quite a general descent after the Alto de Tibi.

The climb itself isn't very hard, it isn't easy though and in case some team wants to really put the hammer down there can be some damage done there, but I think the sprinter teams will take it easy during the climb, make the effort before it so at the summit the gap is short to be able to reel them back in.

As from the summit there are 38 kilometers to go and the altitude will descend over 700 meters, which is a danger if there's a big gap to reel in, specially if there are powerful riders in front. Everything must be kept under control. It's a descent technical at points, and there's a really dangerous section just outside the town of Bussot where the intermediate sprint is positioned, a slight downhill section that's very exposed to what will be a crosswind. It's the only real dangerous zone and most of the run-up to Alicante after this section of around 2Km is covered by buildings, but here there's no protection (see below).

As the finish is also fairly pan-flat, in the Alicante sea shrore the fast men will come to the front, it isn't a technical finish, very straightforward with the last roundabout with 1.5Km to go, it will be a fast sprint with a tailwind.

The Weather

Wind altert! 25Km/h from the east with 40Km/h gusts, a strong and consistent wind, and a real danger. I have above a section where it can blow apart, those final kilometers are right by the sea but are in roads that are covered, but the section outside of Bussot that I mentioned is dangerous.

The Favourites

Firstly I have to mention that, whoever is in front the peloton can't afford to give more than around a minute after the final climb of the day. The last 20 kilometers are mostly in cross/tailwinds, but from after the summit there's a lot of descending, including some technical sections, it is not chasing territory, so the breakaway must be kept under control very tightily throughout the day, if the sprinter teams are smart they will push hard until Puerto de Tibi, as it isn't a climb where they should push not to put the fast men into dificulty, then steady up the climb but to make sure the gap is short by the summit. I'll give 1:30/2 minutes is the maximum confortable gap at the base of that climb for the sprinters.

And this is, if the wind doesn't cause havoc, but I will stick a controlled or at least no total chaotic situation.

So with that out of the way, who are they? There is Sam Bennett, he doesn't have the leadout but Jempy Drucker and Shane Archbold may be enough to get him into a very good position looking at the finish, it isn't technical and he's seen in BinckBank that alone he can do it very well. And on the opposite side, his two main rivals here. Firstly there's Fernando Gaviria, coming strongly from Poland but his crash in the opening time-trial may not be a good sign, but he has a solid leadout and Juan Sebastian Molano is strong enough to put him in prime position. But the best of best (leadouts, that is) is Deceuninck's, Fabio Jakobsen is the leader but with Max Richeze as a leadout he's certain to be very well prepared. With Stybar, Gilbert, Cavagna and even Declercq who will surely be there in front all day long, they have a lot of firepower to give Jakobsen a legitimate chance to win.

The competition, there's Luka Mezgec and Max Walscheid, powerful riders who will quite fancy the very fast sprint that will take place. A LOT of attention on Mezgec, you've seen already that he's very strong on this type of finish, I wouldn't be surprised if he repeats his Polish prowess. Trek have Edward Theuns and John Degenkolb, not certain which one will be the choice but I wouldn't put any in the main list, but they're nice outsiders for the Top5 places, there's Marc Sarreau and Phil Bauhaus as more powerhouse sprinters. On the other side, Clement Venturini and Jon Aberasturi who are strong sprinters but very lightweight, not suited for this one.

There's Edvald Boasson Hagen, CCC with a Koch/Bevin/Sajnok trio, we're left to see who will be up there for them, and baring some other outsider names there aren't many expected to be contesting the finish there.

Prediction Time

S.Bennett, Jakobsen

Gaviria, Mezgec, Walscheid

Theuns, Sarreau, Venturini, Bauhaus, Degenkolb, EB.Hagen

And my choice? Sam Bennett, if you read my previews you'll know why, but to keep it short he is THE fastest in the race, and today he saved himself with clear intentions of attacking tomorrow.

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