• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 8 Preview

Alejandro Valverde took an impressive win on Mas de la Costa after a hard fought stage. The stage was very fast overall, a 10-rider group evaded the peloton late already on the stage and when Bahrain wasn't picking it up Movistar took charges of the peloton causing Dylan Teuns and David de la Cruz to loose contact with the peloton, and they lead until the run-up to the climb where Astana was also firing all guns but in the hellish gradients of the final climb it was every man for himself. Soon enough a group with Valverde, Quintana, Roglic and Lopez was formed, as Quintana several times upped the pace on the ramps, but the quartet went into the final meters together and in the steep finale Valverde had the necessary kick to take the stage win, having Roglic with him taking second, with Lopez taking third but shedding 6 seconds alongside Quintana.

Positive: It's still so early but we're already seeing riders come up the GC, Oscar Rodrigues was a nice presence in the Top10 and seems to be growing form, Hermann Pernsteiner and Louis Meintjes were nice surprises in the first list of riders coming to the line. It's also nice to see Nicolas Edet perform strong and Ion Izagirre looking back in his best finishing 6th.

Negative: I started to believe Chaves was a legitimate contender for the Top5 but in a climb that would suit him very well today he was well below what he showed so far, only 13th. Abandons of Davide Formolo and Tejay van Garderen are yet another dash after yesterday's crashes. I can't say I was expecting Teuns to crush it but loosing the jersey the way he did was still somewhat a disapointment, I was expecting him to at least make it to the final climb and be a factor, he does have the quality for it but fatigue probably took it's share today.

The Route

Stage 8 is one set for a breakaway, ideal profile for it. In Catalunya this one, starting in a very known city to the Valls which is regularly a finish in the region's premier stage-race. The day is fairly rolling, bot too many dificulties present which should mean it should be a quite relaxed day in the peloton as long as nobody moves on the climb or no-one important finds himself in the breakaway.

The vital part of the stage is the Puerto de Montserrat, a hard climb summiting with 27.5Km to the finish, it's a very constant 7% for most of the climb and offers a big opportunity for the climbers to take hold of the stage, as for the others it's about keeping the gaps closeby and trying to close in on the run-in to the line.

As it's clear from there on there's a bit of a plateau before a somewhat technical descent into Igualada and a straightforwards section leading into the final kilometers.

The Weather

A lot of heat! With the wind fairly weak and no rain in sight, the rain settles in as the main thing to watch and it isn't good news for the peloton as the temperatures will go above the 30 degree mark.

Breakaway day. NO doubt.

On the back of a trio of hard days and antecipating the hardest of maybe even the whole race there's no doubt that this stage is designed for yet another breakaway, if that placing wasn't enough then the profile, with it's rolling roads and a hard climb summiting on the final section of the stage, it's just written all over.

After such a hard stage there is one good way to see who has saved themselves for tomorrow. The more obvious name is really Thomas de Gendt, he hasn't been in front in any day so far and tomorrow as de Gendt written all over, and as everyday I will point Carl Frederik Hagen as a good man, I have a very good feeling for him and I think he's on the brink of a breakthrough win. I would even consider Jesús Herrada, yes he won yesterday but I wouldn't be surprised to see him try again as he definetely has the legs to repeat that win clearly, and tomorrow also suits him very well. From Cofidis I would also point Jesper Hansen, not very visible so far but I think that's planned from the team. With riders like Aranburu, Pardilla and Cristian Rodrigues I would also expect Caja Rural to play a big part tomorrow, the PCT teams have been having a great run and I expect it to continue moving forward.

With Daniel Martinez and Lawson Craddock I see a big chance in EF taking the order back into their race, to recover from the casualties from the crashes. Mark Padun is a solid choice from Bahrain, I doubt their other climbers will be hitting the front. José Rojas and Antonio Pedrero my Movistar picks, but today they had quite the effort chasing so I wouldn't be very confident in their chances. Would add Patrick Bevin as a serious contender, Deceuninck's James Knox, Rémi Cavagna and Zdenek Stybar are nice names to me, Deceuninck will be trying and all of them have necessary skills to prosper on the stage finale.

Damien Howson, Kilian Frankiny, Ben King, INEOS' Wout Poels and Tao Geoghegan Hart seem to have decent legs already and such should be some of the biggest contenders for the stage, would have Katusha's Ruben Guerreiro too despite today having been dropped out of the GC contention. Niklas Eg and finally Valerio Conti are my final names for tomorrow. Quite a big list I know, but it shows how open and just the amount of riders that can take it, the Vuelta is always a palce for breakthrough wins and tomorrow may be one of those days.

Prediction Time

de Gendt, Poels, Craddock

Martinez, Aranburu, Bevin, Knox, C.Hagen

Cavagna, Howson, Frankiny, B.King, T.Hart, Martinez, Eg, Conti, Knox, Padun

Tomorrow is a de Gendt day yeah! Riding through Catalunya where he's won 4 times including this year, it's quite obvious he's made for the roads of the region. The way he hasn't played his cards yet and considering yesterday's stage I think he is the big favourite and can be on his way to get the stage win he's looking for.

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