Vuelta a Espana 2017: Stage 13 Preview

Marczynski takes a second, career defining, stage win as Chris Froome crashes and loses time to a late Alberto Contador attack. Tomorrow sees the riders treated with a much flatter day, will we get a sprint, or will the Vuelta once again prove to be the most unpredictable race of the season?

Marczynski takes his second stage win in emphatic fashion. CREDIT: Tim de Waele

Stage Twelve Review

Yet another big day for the breakaway that appeared lucrative right from the off, the escape building an unassailable lead before the midpoint of the day’s stage.

With the majority of the day’s climbing set to appear in the latter half, many teams allowed the break to stretch the gap upwards of eight minutes, eager to keep the race calm and set an easy tempo at the front.

In the 14 man breakaway were Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Pawel Poljanski, Andreas Schillinger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Julien Duval (AG2R-La Mondiale), Brendan Canty (Cannondale-Drapac), Michael Morkov (Katusha-Alpecin), Stef Clement (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates), Tomasz Marczynski (Lotto Soudal), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Anthony Pérez (Cofidis), David Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Peter Koning (Aqua Blue Sport).

The Puerto del León climb appeared, on paper, to be one tough ascent; but both the break and chasing peloton managed the 5% gradients with ease. Crashes in the breakaway group on the descent then sparked a series of attacks, Fraile, Morkov and Canty all attempting to break free.

None of them could manage to forge a gap and the break soon started the final ascent together. A fierce pace then dropped the majority and only left a handful of the strongest climbers remaining. It was then Marczynski who made the race winning move, putting in a stinging acceleration that soon saw a gap of 45 seconds stretch out to the chasers behind.

Contador puts in a searing attack on the final climb of the day. CREDIT: BettiniPhoto

Meanwhile, it was Alberto Contador lighting up the climb from the peloton, joined by Nicolas Roche the pair soon gained time on the GC contenders behind. A spirited chase from Team Sky behind and an electric pace set by Contador soon dropped the Irishman and saw the Spaniard’s gap come within 15 seconds.

Disaster then befell Team Sky, Chris Froome crashing and requiring a bike change at the most pivotal point of the race. With no teams to take up the chase, Contador’s gap grew once more and a selection of GC contenders were inspired to mount attacks of their own.

The Brit managed to catch back onto the bulk of the GC group through the assistance of devoted teammates, Poels and Nieve. The situation really hit home in the Team Sky camp and reminded them that this isn’t Le Tour de France; this is La Vuelta and it bites with a vengeance…

Stage Thirteen Preview

Finally a chance for the riders to have a well deserved rest, well, if a 198.4km day through sweltering Spain loosely fits the definition of ‘rest’. Only one categorised climb would initially lead one to believe that this is a simple sprinters stage, but further analysis of the final few kilometres will tell you anything but…

The Route: Coin –> Tomares (198.4km)

Stage 13 Profile. CREDIT: CyclingStage.com

For the first 100km of tomorrow’s stage, the peloton will roll out of Coin and be faced with a series of rolling roads; nothing too exerting but it may sting a few riders legs who spent the majority of today off the front of the bunch.

As they pass through the feed zone, a long descent to the flat roads on the outskirt of Tomares will see the bunch pick up some fast speeds, any breakaway out front may just see their lead slashed in this section.

All of the interest surrounding tomorrow’s stage comes in the final 5km, a stepped climb to the finish that suits most riders in the bunch, sprint, puncheurs, late attack, who knows?

A tiered ascent to the finish line in Tomares. CREDIT: CyclingStage.com

10 roundabouts within the final 4km is just tradition at La Vuelta, the organisers seemingly loving the chaos and danger that they pose. Once the first kilometre of roundabouts are negotiated, the riders will then tackle a steep ramp up to the 2km to go banner.

The ascent is fairly uneven and ramps up to 13% in some sections, steep enough for the sprinters to be distanced and the opportunists to launch a late, daring attack. The road is relatively narrow and traffic islands will really split up the race, quite literally…

A short plateau will then give the fastmen one brief moment to gather themselves for the final run in, a 400m ‘sprint’ up a false flat of around 4-5%. The climb suits all manner of riders and we should be treated to one incredible finish in Tomares.

One final chance for the sprinters before Madrid…

Until the final Sunday in the Spanish capital, the sprinters only have tomorrow to grab an illusive stage win. Whilst many fastmen haven’t made the journey to this mountainous race, there is still a wealth of second tier sprinters itching to snatch a victory.

Two teams that will be eager to control proceedings tomorrow will be Quickstep and Lotto NL Jumbo. Quickstep will ride in support of both Trentin and Alaphilippe, each of them perfectly suited to the tough final 5km in Tomares. Lotto NL Jumbo will be eager to get JJ Lobato into a strong position, aside from his second place on stage 4, the Dutch team are yet to do anything else in this race.

Quickstep and Trentin will be eager to further their lead in the points classification tomorrow. CREDIT: Cor Vos

Any breakaway that forges a gap on the rolling roads out of Coin will struggle to hold a gap on the flat run in to Tomares. Unless the escape is graced with some strong rouleurs, they’ll surely be found out on the open roads.

The real fight will all be focussed in the final 5km, twisting roundabouts proving to be the first obstacle in the way of an illusive stage win. Teams will find it difficult to control and once the race reaches the 13% gradients just before the 2km mark, the peloton will be primed to explode.

Only a fierce pace on the front will be able to quash any late attacks, Quickstep the only team that could set such a tempo at the head of affairs. If the boys in blue can’t manage to string out the peloton, opportunists and late attackers will run havoc, using the steep gradients to punish the bigger sprinters.

Even after the first part of the climb, any riders that forge a gap will still have to deal with the 400m false flat finale, a real strength sapper. This is a tough one to gauge for all teams and may simply come down to a showdown of strength at the finish, only the strongest will emerge from the pack victorious…

The Contenders

Quickstep go into tomorrow’s stage as the favourites to take control and stamp their authority on the run into Tomares. Yves Lampaert, Julian Alaphilippe and Matteo Trentin will all be protected tomorrow, the trio all capable of take the stage win individually.

Lampaert takes a rare sprint stage win on the second day of this Vuelta a Espana. CREDIT: RoadCyclingUK

Lampaert will be the rider to chase any late attacks, or possibly even launch one of his own if Quickstep are left to do all of the work. He’s already got the confidence of a stage win behind him, what will stop him launching another attack tomorrow aside from strict team orders?

Alaphilippe is another Quickstep rider with the confidence of a stage win booming inside him; the Frenchman is evidently recovered from his early season knee injury and looks eager to continue impressing on this race. Whilst he may be relegated to Trentin’s leadout man tomorrow, if the Italian encounters any difficulty, it’ll be Alaphilippe that Quickstep turn to next.

Double stage winning Matteo Trentin is on electric form in this race, dominating from both bunch sprints and breakaways. There seems no limit to the Italian’s capabilities, not even a testing climb and false flat to the finish.

Being a larger rider, he may struggle with the steep 13% gradients of the lower slopes; but providing he can endure them and remain in a good position, he should be able to finish off the job on the false flat to the finish line.

Lotto NL Jumbo’s Juan Jose Lobato may just prove to be Trentin’s biggest rival for tomorrow’s stage win. On his day, the Spaniard can eat up these kind of stage finishes, preferring an uphill drag to an arrow straight ‘pure sprinters’ finish.

On his day, the Spaniard is one of the fastest in the world on these kind of finishes. CREDIT: Tim de Waele

The Dutch team are yet to do anything at this race and will be ruing the missed opportunities to challenge for a stage win. Tomorrow is their final chance to really do anything before Madrid, expect the yellow train to be prominent in the final 5km…

Other sprinters that will be looking to take stage honours include Adam Blythe, Edward Theuns and Juan Sebastian Molano. The trio pack a punch but the steeper gradients near the finish could just have each of them on their limits.

Blythe is yet to really impress aside from a podium result on stage two, and Theuns may just be a little too exhausted after his efforts towing Contador on today’s stage. Molano, however, is relatively fresh and seems to have been waiting all race for the sprint into Tomares. He’s a punchy rider and may just cause a few surprises tomorrow…

Aside from the sprinters, there is a whole host of punchy riders that will be eager to light up tomorrow’s stage finish. One of these riders is Soren Kragh Andersen, the young Dane a promising talent for these kind of uphill drags. He took a stage win in the early season Tour of Oman on a similar drawn out finish and clearly has the talent to repeat this performance on a grand tour level.

Soren Kragh Andersen has shot to prominence on the WT this season. CREDIT: Tim de Waele

Even in a bunch kick Andersen has proved himself, placing eighth on stage 4’s bunch sprint into Taragonna. He won’t be able to match the pure speed of Trentin or Lobato, but could certainly profit from a long range attack, especially if Quickstep start losing riders.

Other riders looking to launch some late daring attacks include Luis Leon Sanchez, Luis Angel Mate, Gianni Moscon and Alexis Gougeard. None of them will profit in a bunch sprint, but given a small gap over the steepest ramps and they may just be able to take a sweet solo victory…

Race Prediction

Quickstep and Lotto NL Jumbo will join forces tomorrow to ensure that the breakaway doesn’t manage to snatch yet another stage victory.

A fierce pace from the pair will prevent any opportunists from gaining a gap on the ramped run in and we should be treated to a select bunch sprint on the 400m false flat. Matteo Trentin will lead out the sprint after an efficient leadout from Quickstep, but it will be Juan Jose Lobato that just overhauls him on the line, salvaging Lotto NL Jumbo’s Vuelta…

It may just be all smiles for Lobato tomorrow… CREDIT: Twitter.com

Juan Jose Lobato for the win!

Who do you think will take tomorrow’s stage? Agree with our prediction? If you enjoyed this stage preview, make sure you’re following InsideThePeloton on Twitter for all further updates on this year’s Vuelta! Any feedback, as always, is greatly appreciated…