• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 7 Preview

It was a heavy action day in the Vuelta, sadly for bad reasons aswell. The begining of the stage was very fast as there was a massive gfight to enter the breakaway, in which 11 riders settled in eventually. Nelson Oliveira and Tsgabu Grmay were the first serious attackers but Dylan Teuns attacked from the group in the final climb alongside Jesús Herrada. The duo went into the final kilometer together but Herrada easily took the win as Teuns made the effort to jump into the leader's jersey witht he advantage he took from the day, as he was also distancing David de la Cruz who was virtual leader into very late in the day, they are now first and second. In the peloton there was the bad news of a mass crash, involving and forcing to abandon Rigoberto Uran, Hugh Carthy, Nicolas Roche and Victor de la Parte, a big switch in the GC and a big blow to EF. The final climb was calm until a late attack by Pogacar, but the Slovenian only managed to take two seconds over the GC contenders that arrived all together.

Positive: Teuns and De la Cruz moving up the GC and entering the fight are big ups, alongside Herrada who avenged his brother's loss yesterday.

Negative: All the abandons unfortunately, EF the biggest hit of the day, loosing Uran and Carthy and seeing Higuita and van Garderen crash too.

The Route

Stage 7 is the culmination of a trio of summit finishes in the brutal Mas de la Costa climb, and it's a very hard stage overall with plenty of climbs in the 183 kilometers that make up for the stage. There are a lot of rolling climbs and the outcome may be similar as in some years ago when Alexey Lutsenko won, where the decisive moves were made far from the finish.

The Puerto del Salto del Caballo may very well be a decisive place, the attacks may come here or on the sharp roads that come after it, but the pure climbers may be distanced in such roads in front, and in the peloton there may be a big pace setting in these climbs if someone is looking to set up their leader.

And the summit finish in Mas de la Costa, ridden in 2016 and 2017 it's a climb for over 15 minutes, a brutally steep concrete climb mostly with no restbite virtually. There are several sections at over 20% including the final meters and it is definetely a climb where positioning means everything at the bottom of the ascent and then it's all about pacing yourself, not a climb where you'd wanna blow up early on.

But tomorrow is also a day full of dangerous places. Racing in Spain is always sketchy and almost everyday there are places where the race can be lost which I have been looking for, tomorrow seems a particularly heavy day in that subject.

The Weather

The wind won't matter much, it is a weak-moderate breeze from the southeast which shouldn't influence the stage much. There is a small chance of rain, unlikely but it's a possibility to take into acount, also it will be a quite hot day as the temperatures will come right by the 30 degree mark.

The Favourites

If it goes for a breakaway or not tomorrow is a good question, normally I would say yes but seeing in Javalambre no-one took charge, and tomorrow Bahrain will be in the lead and will want to keep a good pace throughout the day so I'd say the breakaways chances reside in there being strong climbers, but as the start of the day is quite flat it won't really be the most realistic scenario.

A climb like this will be made by pace, it is quite steep though so the lightweight riders will be favoured but really there is no actually heavy rider, Quintana and Valverde will definetely be fans of the hard gradients as they have Soler also to support them into the decisive sections, Esteban Chaves is the actual lightweight that will quite like Mas de la Costa, and he did very well aswell the last time this climb was raced.

Primoz Roglic is quite a fan of this type of climb although it doesn't naturally suit his qualities, I think the average gradient for him is good but the irregularities won't favour him, but he can't be played down in relation to anyone, specially seeing how Sep Kuss is riding and how George Bennett is also favoured by the brutal gradients. Miguel Angel Lopez, let's see how he feels, he prefers longer climbs and isn't a lightweight but he is the strongest climber it seems so it may indeed be a good day for him. Majka, Pierre Latour, Oscar Rodriguez and Sergio Higuita are also riders that should take some advantage of what's to be climbed tomorrow.

Pogacar, maybe the big GC rider that will suffer in the gradients, Wilco Kelderman is now the sole leader of Sunweb but that won't mean we'll be seeing him strong tomorrow, it's too steep of a climb for him.

If we are to see a breakaway succeed it's really hard to imagine who could it be, I'd go for a rider like Carl Frederik Hagen or Mikel Bizkarra but the flat start really doesn't favour them, so I would say maybe a break with some outsiders and rouleurs can have some luck early in the day and then from those whoever has the best climbing legs can survive the day and take the win.

Prediction Time

MA.Lopez, Roglic, Valverde

Quintana, Chaves, Majka

Pogacar, Latour, O.Rodriguez, Higuita, Bizkarra

My call is for Lopez to take the win then, he was set to do so in Javalambre but the breakaway wasn't caught in there, however tomorrow I suspect Bahrain will try to keep things under control and the run-up will be very fast aswell as the climb, and Lopez is the strongest climber.

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