Sunday, September 8, 2013

Vuelta a España: Stage 16 Preview & Favorites

As expected, a break made it all the way on stage 15. Alexandre Geniez made sure the French spectators could celebrate the Vuelta visiting when he soloed away with 25 km to go. No changes in the overall classification as the first five riders stayed together all the time. Only Purito seemed to have energy to keep on trying to attack.

Monday’s stage is another hard day in the Pyrenees but not nearly as hard the last two days. The stage is only 146 km long and this time and it seems like the rain is now gone and the sun is back. Everybody is tired and it won’t be a surprise if an early breakaway manages to stay away again.

The first 20 km takes place in tailwind and this means we are in for another very fast start. Most likely, we will see a break getting away on Puerto de la Foradada. It’s only a category 3 climb but the 5.9 km towards the top still have an average gradient of 5.9 %. There are a lot of tired legs in the peloton after the last two days and it will be interesting who has something left in the tank.From the top of Puerto de la Foradada, the riders will have 60 km to cover in a light crosswind before the they start on the next climb. Puerto de Cotéfablo is 12.5 km long and has an average gradient of 4 %. It’s not a very steep climb but after the last two days, it won’t be a walk in the park either.

At this point on the stage, the wind has now changed and what started out as a tailwind is now a headwind. This means the final 30 km will be extremely hard for a breakaway and it's important to have saved something for the final climb. The ascent up to Aramón Formigal is 15.8 km long and has an average gradient of only 4 %. However, most of the first 6 km are either flat or downhill. The road start to kick up with 10 km to go and the following 3.5 km are steep with parts of nearly 10 %. The climbs then evens out for about 4 km before it gets steep again. The final 3.5 km have an average gradient of 7 % and this is where you can make the difference.

Aramón Formigal. 15.8 km / avg. 4 %. Last 3 km avg. 7 %.
In my preview for stage 15 I mentioned riders like Vasil Kiryienka, Mikel Landa and Diego Ulissi as good breakaway candidates. Landa made it into the break but didn’t have the strength to stay with Geniez. Kiryienka and Ulissi stayed in the peloton and once again, I’d like to point to those two as candidates for a break. I will add to that list riders like Egoi Martinez, Bauke MollemaMarcos Garcia, Georg Preidler and Chris Anker Sørensen.

The last two names for the (long) list of good candidates are Amets Txurruka and Rigoberto UranTxurruka was very active in the beginning of stage 15 and he started several breakaways. However, Txurruka couldn’t cover every move and in the end the big break went away without him (but with two other Caja Rural riders). Rigoberto Uran too was very active on stage 15. He stayed with the favorites for most of the time and he even tried to get away a couple of times. Uran is obviously feeling better and being nearly 25 minutes after Vincenzo Nibali, he won’t be the first rider the peloton start chasing down.

Among the favorites, there are no doubts that Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Horner are the two strongest riders uphill right now. Actually, it’s probably Horner’s teammate Robert Kiserlovski who’s best climber at the moment. The Croatian champion is a very important help for Horner these days! The last two days have been tough on the riders and once again, it will be interesting to see how 41 years old Chris Horner will recover. Naturally, he can’t recover as fast as the younger riders but so far he doesn’t seem to have any problems at all.

Alejandro Valverde and especially Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez tried to attack on stage 15 but Nibali and Horner never let them get more than a few meters. The final climb is not very steep this time and it will be very difficult for the two Spaniards to get away. Valverde seems to be satisfied with third place overall and he’s probably paying more attention to Purito in 4th place than to Horner in 2nd place. Valverde knows he can outsprint Purito in the end Purito knows it too. The final three kilometers on Formigal are the steepest and I expect Purito to put in a couple of strong attacks in the hairpin corners trying to drop Valverde. It won’t be easy but it seems like Purito is very eager to make up for the lost time.

The final 3 km of stage 16. Avg. of 7 %.
Domenico Pozzovivo is only six seconds in front of Nicolas Roche in 5th place but I don’t think he will have problems keeping the Irishman behind him. Pozzovivo has been very focused on not wasting any energy too early in the race. The Italian climber came to the race aiming for Top5 overall and he’s been saving energy for the last week. Roche has already put in numerous attacks and hadn’t he had a one minute gap to the favorites on the last climb on stage 15, he probably would have lost time again.

Samuel Sanchez is right now the best Euskaltel rider in the mountains and he too seems to be getting better and better every day. Sanchez can’t follow the top favorites when it gets steep but he’s clever and knows how to keep a good pace. The final climb on stage 16 has a couple of flat parts and I won’t surprise me to see Sanchez attack on the flat parts to get a good gap before the road kicks up again. He may even be able to win this stage like that if the peloton keeps the breakaway within striking distance.

The Vuelta pays homage to Fernando Escartín with this stage. The former Kelme captain never managed to win Vuelta a España but he was among the best climbers the country has ever produced.

Eurosport is covering this year’s Vuelta a España intensively. Before and after each stage you will get inside information from the many interviews with the riders. The interviewer is Spanish journalist Laura Meseguer. She knows what’s going on inside the peloton and each day she will get you her own personal winner picks for the stage.

For Stage 16, Laura thinks a breakaway will make it and she picks Amets Txurruka to win.

For live coverage of the stage go to


  1. "As expected, a break made it all the way on stage 15"

    A break made it all the way? Well, 1 out of 28 break away riders made it to the finish.

    1. Correction: 2 out of 28 made it to the finish.

  2. Naturally all 29 riders wouldn't arrive to the line together. Geniez was in the big break. Geniez then attacked so only 6 were in front and in the end he soloed away to win = the break made it all the way.