• Rúben Silva

Vuelta a España Stage 9 Preview

Nikias Arndt took the win from the breakaway in quite an exciting finish to a hard stage. As expected there was no will in the peloton to chase down the early move of 20, nobody very important in front but there was Nicolas Edet who took over the red jersey after winning 9:24 from the day, not a surprising rider but my surprise is really to see how these riders are ignored by the peloton and become candidates for the Top10, same thing in every Grand Tour.

As for the stage the climb was attacked, but no-one could really explode the race and most of the riders remained grouped up, and despite lots of attacks in the final kilometers it ended up coming down to a sprint between the group where on the uphill grind Arndt was the fastest, beating Alex Aranburu and Tosh van der Sande in the sprint.

Positive: Besides Arndt's stage win the obvious winner in Edet. He's been riding very strong this season, the Tour was where I expected him to come out but ilness wiped him out, but it was a blessing in disguise as he has his legs here and leading the race at this point is amazing. The way he's been ignored by the GC teams means he's now a Top10 contender if not more, he leads the 5th placed at the start today by almost 5 minutes.

Negative: Nothing really to note besides the GC riders around the Top10 that have rolled down the overall and lost over 9 minutes to other rivals that may not be recovered.

The Route

Stage 9 is the race's first incursion into the outside of Spain, it's also the big finale of the first week. It's the shortest stage of the race ignoring the time-trials but curiously it may just be the hardest. Well, maybe not, but it's definetely the one that has the dificulty most compact throughout the day.

The day starts of with a slight uphill from Andorra La Vella into the foot of the Coll d'Ordino, it's a very hard start and everyone will be on the rollers before the start, it's set to be a very explosive and fatiguing start to an equally hard stage. The descent is quite steep and it completes a loop that sees the riders pass by the starting place again after 35Km.

After Santa Julià de Loria the vicious climb to the Collada de la Gallina via it's hardest side, it's one of the hardest climbs of the race and it's summit comes with 38Km to go, it's a great launch pad for attacks even from the GC as it antecipates an extremely technical descent back into the valley.

The descent of the Collada de la Galina is particularly dangerous. I mean just look at the image, no description needed really. The roads aren't narrow but the are dozens of hairpin bends and they are quite steep, this descent is what was climbed on last year's stage where Enric Mas won.

And then follow the trio of final climbs, we could call them all a single climb with several restbites but they are all categorized, the first one is the Comella which is one of the most used climbs in the region, quite short but explosive in relation to the others, summits with 17.7Km to go.

The second one is the Engolasters, the climb is what's on the image excluding those 2 opening kilometers, it's another quite steep and explosive climb and the summit comes with 12.7Km to go, and after comes a gravel sector that leads all the way to the base of the final climb.

That one is the Cortals d'Encamp, as it won't be climbed via it's traditional side it may be a shock to the system but the final kilometers of it will be this stage's final kilometers aswell. It's another climb that's fairly short but steep, like the previous ones and the ramp get really brutal in the begining. At this point everyone will be very fatigued but it's all a question of getting to the line and making it over a brutal opening week of racing, culminating in the Andorran mountains.

The Weather

Oh man, the temperatures will be low, it will be a shock to the system to be over 30 tomorrow and around 15 the whole day tomorrow. Risk of ilness is serious and the riders should pay maximum attention to that, this is a long race.

There's no wind but serious chances of rain and there will be very grey skies, it's a totally different story and we can see some big changes with this weather.

The Favourites

This isn't a day for a breakaway, there isn't enough time to build enough of a gap to hold off a peloton that will be giving it their all in such a rough stage. The stage, besides that, starts with a huge climb and there may be ambushes right in the begining, with the almost non-existant flat roads and technical descents, short distance and steep climbs this is a very dangerous stage in all senses.

Keep your eyes on Movistar, in these roads last year Quintana was on the attack and I would expect him to do the same, with Valverde in great form and seemingly climbing stronger, it would make for a great strategy to try and explode the race from the start, with Marc Soler in the team they should absolutely go for it as opportunities to raid the race in high mountains will only come essentially in the third week now.

But that's from Movistar, with Cofidis taking the lead of the race I would expect Astana to do the same, but not in the same way. With Jakob Fuglsang and Ion Izagirre on the uprising they will be of a great assist to Lopez, but he should target the final set of climbs and not go early on as he has no backup, unlike Jumbo-Visma who also have George Bennett to play in, and Sep Kuss will be racing on his training roads and the way he's been climbing I would expect him to be very important for Roglic in whatever scenario may appear. I would go for Bennett attacking early on and Kuss staying with Roglic.

Majka will have support from Grossschartner, Wilco Kelderman and Pierre Latour should also be some riders that we'll see racing more conservatively, but outside of those there are lots of riders that I wouldn't be surprise to see on the attack. With Aru backing Pogacar, I expect to see the Italian moving in the early kilometers, Esteban Chaves is there but my eyes are really on Mikel Nieve, a strong rider for these mountain slogs and his form should be good for the job, he is never marked by the GC riders so he should take advantage of it.

Oscar Rodriguez and Hermann Pernsteiner are my outsiders. They also have freedom to attack and showed great legs on Mas de la Costa, although not only there but also as an attack early on the final climbs is also a legitimate way to imagine them pull it off.

Prediction Time

MA.Lopez, Roglic

Quintana, Valverde, Pogacar, Nieve

G.Bennett, Majka, Chaves, Aru, O.Rodriguez, Pernsteiner

Third time's a go? That's my say, in Javalambre he was clearly the strongest on the road, yesterday he suffered with the short climb, it isn't quite his scoop, but tomorrow is ideal I'd say, the stage should be discussed between the big names and I wouldn't look at another name.

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