Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vuelta Preview - Stage 17

This stage has "breakaway" written all over it. It's true that the last two stages before the rest day also ended up with a break making it to the line but since the last climb here isn't hard enough for the favorites to try something, I think Saxo Bank would be happy to see a break take the bonus seconds.

The peloton enters the Cantabria region and despite the GEOX team not existing anymore we should see local guys like David de la Fuente and Juanjo Cobo try their luck. Felix came close the other day, but yet so far, when he picked de la Fuente as his joker, but maybe this could be his day? Anyway, I will stick with my previous joker Paolo Tiralongo - last chance for the Italian climber as my joker, maybe...

The stage's final climb up to Fuente Dé.
Click for larger view! Source: climbbybike
On paper this stage really looks good for a guy like Tiralongo. One could argue that the last long climb to Fuente Dé doesn't really suit the Italian climber, but the two climbs before that most certainly do. Collado de Ozalba and Collado La Hoz are both around 6 km long with an average gradient of 6,6% and 7,6%  and don't forget that Paolo Tiralongo nowadays has a very good sprint too. He showed that in the Giro earlier this year when he outsprinted Michele Scarponi and won on Rocca di Cambio - the training climb of yesterday's stage winner Dario Cataldo, but that's another story.

Another rider I have backed (too) many times in this Vuelta is Damiano Cunego. The "Little Prince" started the Vuelta as warm-up for the World Champions, but after the new Italian "clean" strategy, Cunego is no longer in the run for a spot on Azzurri's team. Looking at it, this stage seems tailor-made for Damiano Cunego, but without much to warm-up for now I'm not sure he will have the needed motivation anymore. Still - as I've said many times already - look out for Cunego!
The last turn before the finish line.

If this stage ends in a sprint anyway I think it will be fighting between Gianni Meersman and Alejandro Valverde. Meersman showed great shape earlier in the race and if he keeps that up he might have a chance as the last climb has an average gradient of only 3,9%. While it's not sure that Meersman will be there in the final, I think it's safe to say that Alejandro Valverde most certanitly will, so even though Gianni Meersman is an interesting outsider I'll go with Valverde as my favorite.

Winner pick: Alejandro Valverde
Joker: Paolo Tiralongo

To make this Vuelta a little bit more interesting I’ve challenged Eurosport blogger Blazin' Saddles to a winner pick duel during the race. You have my winner and joker picks above, here you have Felix':

Winner pick: David Moncoutie
Joker: Rob Ruijgh 

Explanation: This is a very hard stage to predict - but one thing is almost certain: a break will stay out and it won't contain any of the GC men. French veteran David Moncoutie has pretty much waved goodbye to securing a fifth consecutive king of the mountains title but he will still hope to take a stage win for a fifth successive year in what could, after all, be his last Vuelta. This is the last chance he realistically has - I can't see his battle-bruised old legs getting up the Bola del Mundo in pole position. It's a gamble putting Moncoutie as my winner though: should he win, I'd be far better off taking five points from him as joker. I could then cover my back with a security blanket Mikkel has no doubt opted for: that's to say, one of the Big Three taking the win. That said, I could even throw in Purito as a joker, considering the likelihood of a break staying out... But heck, I'm going to be honest and stick with my gut-feeling, so for my joker I'll choose Rob Ruijgh. Vacansoleil still need a win and de Gendt will probably hold back until the penultimate stage (he needs the mountain points for the polka dot jersey). I feel Damiano Cunego will want to try something after his snub for the worlds, while the likes of Gianni Meersman, Paolo Tiralongo and even Philippe Gilbert will be hungry. Javier Aramendia will no doubt be back in the mix after a quiet week. Simon Clarke, too, may have a pop. Decisions, decisions... with so many permutations, it's going to be fascinating. And I'll no doubt enter stage 18 three points down on Mikkel... or worse, five!

Overall score:
Felix 9 points
Mikkel 9 points 

1 comment:

  1. Very impressive Mikkel! But no points haha