Vuelta a España Stage 5 Preview
Just as I predicted, clean sweep at the first sprints of the race, exactly as I had called, Bennett is the fastest but it is not all about the sprint, Deceuninck took control today and got Jakobsen in the perfect place which is what he needed, and he capitalized with a maiden GT win. It was an interesting stage, some tension in the closing parts including EF making a dash for the echelons but without major damage, Cavagna put the leadouts in danger with a fearsome attack in the closing kilometers and when caught Deceuninck took a hold of the peloton with Sunweb, and in the sprint Jakobsen's speed was enough to hold off an emerging Bennett from behind, Walscheid completed the podium.
Positive: Deceuninck nailed their strategy, did everything right and got Jakobsen where he needed in the end.
Negative: No real names to point out today, only some minor mentions, Bauhaus and Theuns were a little behind today unlike yesterday. And well Steven Kruijswijk's abandon due to his crash on the opening stage was one of the day's subjects.
Stage 5 though sees the race turn around on it's head quite soon. Not only do the hard stages come early, the summit finishes do too and in this stage, finishing on the Javalambre observatory after a hard day in the hills of the Comunidad Valenciana. It's just a hard day, starts off by the sea and despite not having any real climb before the summit finish there's also very little actual flat terrain, there's just a constant up-and-down at around 1000 meters of altitude until the base of the final climb.
And that one, the Javalambre is not only a very hard one for an opening week, it's hard in any context. 11Km at 8%, the final 5Km average almost 11%. This is the first crucial moment of the race, in such a climb there is nowhere to hide, it's a genuine hard climb where the GC contenders will unveil themselves and we will have a good view of who will be in the fight for the win, which teams will have the strongest depth and support and which riders won't be in the fight, and at what form everyone really is, although the finish to Calpe was already a solid indicator tomorrow is an actual test of what will be the vital terrain.
Nothing much to note, the temperature will be mild and so will be the wind, coincidently a tailwind for the first section of the stage but then it fades as the race enters the mountains, so it shouldn't be something making much of a difference tomorrow.
It should be a stage for the GC men to discuss, it's the first summit finish and it's still very early on the race for the breakaway specialists to be shooting their shots, plus at this point there are still lots of riders thinking of the overall so they won't be risking it, it's still very compact (although not at all comparing to other GT's) so not many riders will be risking it.
Seeing this, who are the real riders to watch for tomorrow? Well we all know them it's true, between two types of riders I'd say those who will be looking to be riding more conservative, or by pace will obviously include Roglic as the main rider to watch, although he is quite fond of steep climbs. Rigoberto Uran, between the Mitchelton duo Nieve and Chaves I will assume they will want to ride in the wheel and obviously Sunweb too, Roche is set to likely loose his lead but both him and Kelderman are well within the GC fight for now. And well with the dificulties many other riders will end up taking the climb by pace, not only by that but for the fact that it's a constant and quite steep climb on it's decisive kilometers, so going on attacking waves isn't the smartest outcome for those in dificulties.
But the good news (in terms of show) is that there are quite some riders that are explosive and look in very good form. To start of the Movistar duo, Quintana should be a fan of those gradients and if he actually shows his best legs it's a climb very well suited for him, and having Valverde should be a solid enough help in the crucial moments which can also bring tactical options. Miguel Angel Lopez, team is fully behind him but it seems as if his form still needs some days to be sharper, there's the UAE duo which I consider solid contenders at this point after the way they raced the day after a team crash.
There's Sergio Higuita, one of the riders who's looked the best so far and we're left to see how he'll behave with Uran in the team aswell, the Bora duo of Majka and Formolo were caught out and provided vital support for Lopez in Calpe, tomorrow they have the big test to who is above on the ranks, and despite Majka being the contender Formolo looks very sharp and can't be discounted. Pierre Latour has also looked very good lately and we need to see just how well he'll deal with the big mountains, as he is more suited for the shorter climbs.
And outside of that list are riders that have lost some time already, I would however consider Oscar Rodrigues and David de la Cruz and the biggest outsiders for tomorrow.
⭐ Uran, Valverde, Pogacar, Majka, Nieve, Latour
My call is for Lopez to take revenge and take the win in Javalambre, I think he is still a little short in form but the climb suits him very well, and he has the team to get him to the finale with the legs to take it out of his rivals.
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