• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 6 Preview

It was a tough tough day in Spain, much to the suffering of the three men that were out in front all day long, they decided the stage between themselves as the peloton didn't have enough will, it was a purple day, with the KOM leader Angel Madrazo taking a spectacular win after struggling the last two hours of racing in relation to his companions, second placed teammate Jetse Bol which means they took a 1-2, and José Herrada who had to settle for third. In the peloton there wasn't much will to chase, Sunweb wasn't willing to do it, UAE for a bit tried but then stopped too and they gave a buffer to big to catch the break, the bottom of the climb was by pace with Jumbo, Astana and Bora occupying the road for positioning, but EF started the real race, shortly after Jumbo took over as Valverde attacked, and when he was caught Lopez attacked and went solo. Roglic and Valverde were the closest chasers then in the line coming in 12 seconds later, and a big gap after with Pogacar coming in 42 seconds later, previous leader Roche climbed well but still lost 1:30, descending to fifth overall. Lopez is back in red with 14 seconds over Roglic, 23 over Quintana and 28 over Quintana.

Positive: Jumbo looked very good, Sep Kuss was vital support to Roglic which himself looked very good. Lopez got revenge and took back time on his terrain and took back the lead, Valverde rode strong as did Pogacar, Esteban Chaves and Ruben Guerreiro were good surprises going strong.

Negative: Ion Izagirre lost time today and is out of GC, surprising I'll say as he looked good so far. David De la Cruz, Sergio Higuita and Mikel Nieve lost time today aswell dropping out of the direct fight of the first places, Fabio Aru also shedded some after a great performance in stage 2.

The Route

Stage 6 is one of the Vuelta's classic hilltop finishes. The finish exactly in Maestrat not as classic, but this type of stage is familiar and caracterizes the race quite well, where explosive finishes and bonus seconds are an important part of the race. It's one suited for the breakaway, not only as it comes after a vital day, but in this day the GC will be more established, there won't be as many nerves in the peloton and they face a finish that isn't set to create big gaps, so the GC riders will be looking to spare their teams for the more important stages in the future.

May be a crucial period of the day. The breakaway will likely set itself on this opening climb and it's not easy at all, the climbing outsiders and opportunists have a favourable opportunity to attack and to make sure it's a group of strong riders in front, not just anyone.

With 30Km to go they go through the Puerto de Culla, a rolling climb but one that will see damage in the peloton and likely some attacks in front, there's a lot of rolling parts so the heavier riders will be looking to take advantage of those and the following descent to build a buffer for the final climb.

And the summit finish in the ravine-side village of Ares del Maestrat, it's a rolling climb, doesn't particularly fit anyone as the gradients aren't high but it's still a somewhat long effort, and there will be a big effort into the final kilometer for a draining uphill sprint in case there aren't serious attacks lower in the lower slopes of the climb.

Although it may seem by looking at the profile it's actually a somewhat relaxed day when it comes to the roads, they aren't very windy and there is no descent that's particularly dangerous, specially taking into acount aswell that the weather will be nice for the day.

The Weather

With nice temparatures and a southern breeze throughout the day, it won't make much of an impact as much of the day is around the same area and much is covered by the mountains, it will however mean a tailwind in the final climb, which will make it very quick as it's a rolling one and thus shouldn't see gaps emerging.

The Favourites

First the dinamics. Well today already did go for the breakaway, I wasn't expecting that but it did happen, tomorrow is the day after the first big GC day, where gaps have been made, lots of climbers distanced and out of the run, and also it antecedes another big GC day with the ascent to Mas de la Costa. Natural thought with these two days around tomorrow is that the GC riders will be looking to save themselves, specially as it's been a very hard start of the race. Then, you have a long stage, 199 kilometers and a lot of rolling terrain, which actually starts with a combination of climbs, ideal for the strong riders to make their move, they won't be blocked and won't have a lack of opportunities. Finally adding to all that, the final combination of climbs, particularly the last, isn't THAT hard and there will be tailwind, which for a climb like this means the averages will be very high, I'd say around 27-28Km/h, which is a speed that is hard to make gaps out of between climbers so strong and one where drafting gives a huge advantage, so I think the big guns will want to keep their powder dry. So now that I've hopefully made my thoughts clear, my obvious conclusion is that my belief is for tomorrow to go for a breakaway.

Still, from the peloton Alejandro Valverde and I would say yes Roglic would be capable of having a dig if Lopez looks in a very bad day, but I find that very unlikely, so if the final climb really gets slugish some outsiders may try it out, Pierre Latour and Ruben Guerreiro are two quite explosive names that rode very strong today and won't be covered at all by the big guns, they're part of a list of riders who may get their opportunity but even if lucky they won't get back more than a few seconds.

So Breakaway roulette? Breakaway roulette.

Ok first thought, Movistar's team classification. Who will they send to the front, Marc Soler would be the obvious choice, climbed very strong today and is far enough in GC to have freedom, but I don't think they'll be wanting to spend him like that. So I'd have Rojas and Pedrero as stage contenders from a breakaway (they may go with others but hardly will be real contenders). Looking at today's results some more great contenders would be Niklas Eg and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier, Lotto have Carl Hagen but honestly tomorrow seems like a de Gendt day, and it is actually quite suited for him and I'd be surprised not to see him.

I would expect EF to put men in front tomorrow, today was really disapointing, even more taking into acount they really pushed the pace in the climb. 4 possible GC candidates and Uran is the best in 6th but with a modest climb today, I think they are still close enough to be given freedom and seing how he's been riding, I'd have Lawson Craddock as the rider to put your money on, and he is fitting, power rider he can climb these climbs very well. From Astana, maybe Omar Fraile or Luis Leon Sanchez, or Gorka Izagirre, I have a good feeling about the Spanish riders in there and all of these names also look quite strong for these climbs, I'd have Patrick Bevin as a strong name, he looks to have been saving himself so far and tomorrow is his kind of day, seeing he is quite powerful and in Suisse as even climbed high mountains quite impressively.

Damien Howson of Mitchelton, INEOS' goal is sure to come through stage wins aswell, I think it's to soon for Poels to be showing his cards although he climbed well today, De la Cruz may not be given the freedom and Tao Hart looks to be far from his best, wouldn't go with him, so Sebastian Henao is my call there, there's Daniel Navarro of Katusha, and in the PCT teams there is also a lot to go with.

Burgos will be looking to protect their jersey so I would expect someone to be up there, not Madrazo as he should be saving himself, but Jesús Ezquerra and Diego Rubio are good men to take into acount, Caja Rural have a lot of names to be honest, but those looking the best should be Pardilla and well, Alex Aranburu despite being more of a puncheur (Christian Rodrigues should be saving himself for a minor GC for now) and from Cofidis, go with Herrada, with Jesús!

Prediction Time

de Gendt, Craddock, Je.Herrada

Bevin, Howson, LL.Sanchez, C.Hagen, Pedrero

Valverde, Guerreiro, Eg, Ghebreigzabhier, Fraile, Seb.Henao, Ezquerra, Aranburu

My call is for Lawson Craddock to take the win tomorrow. Long shot, but is it that long? I mean he definetely has the legs, I think EF will want a stage win and they do have a good shot for it, I see no stage that suits Craddock as well as tomorrow so if they give him a shot he may get his first pro win.

Make sure to let me in on your opinion, and of course follow me on twitter for the latest updates!