Monday, August 26, 2013

Vuelta a España: Stage 4 Preview & Favorites

Movistar and Alejandro Valverde missed out once again on stage 3. They didn’t have enough fresh riders to close the gap on stage 2 and somehow they managed to make the same mistake Monday. Valverde even said he had the legs to win. Instead Chris Horner attacked and took an impressive stage win, only surpassed by his Spanish interview afterwards.

In my overall preview I wrote that Chris Horner was targeting the Red Jersey within the first couple of stages. One of the key points for that to happen was a strong team time trial and thanks to Fabian Cancellara, Horner had a chance to take the jersey. The 41 years old American climber is now the oldest rider ever to win a stage in a Grand Tour and he should have no problems keeping the leader’s jersey on stage 4.

Tuesday’s 189 km long stage takes the riders west from Lalín/A Estrada towards the finishing line in Fisterra. The riders will be battling the crosswind for most of the stage and we could see the peloton getting split up again. After 152.8 km the riders reach the feared ascent up to Mirador de Ézaro. This is only a category 3 climb but the 1.8 km towards the top have an average gradient of 13 %! There are only 34.4 km to go from top of Mirador de Ézaro and a strong team could really blow the race apart. Last year, stage 12 of the Vuelta finished on Mirador de Ézaro and in case you need a re-view click here.

"The stage to the end of the world".
Photo via @lavuelta on Twitter
This stage is called “the stage to end of the world” and it’s easy to see why. With 5 km to go, the peloton turns left and from hereon they simply continue straight out until the road ends. It’s a spectacular finish with a slightly uphill run-in towards the line. The final 2 km kick up with about 3.5 % and this time, Gianni Meersman shouldn’t have problems fighting for the win. Of course, he has to survive Mirador de Ézaro first. There is a soft left-hand corner with 200 meters to go and with a tailwind towards the line, first rider of out this corner most likely wins the stage.

Meersman finished 38th on stage 3, just 22 seconds behind the favorites. The final kilometer was too hard for the Belgian rider, but the finish in Fisterra is perfect for him. Gianni Meersman arrived to the Vuelta with his eyes on this stage and I think he will be very difficult to beat.

Another strong candidate is Michael Matthews. The former U23 World Champion is a real specialist on these kind of finishes and he comes to the race with two fresh stage wins from Utah in the bag.  GreenEdge didn’t manage to set up Simon Gerrans for stage 3 but I think they have a good chance to set up Matthews for stage 4.

Argos-Shimano have two interesting riders for this stage in Nikias Arndt and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg. Both are very fast on the line in a sprint like this and it will be interesting to see if the two Grand Tour debutants can get over Mirador de Ézaro with the peloton. also have a strong duo for these kind of finishes. Geoffrey Soupe and Anthony Roux are both in great shape right now. Especially Roux who won stage 4 of Tour of Burgos and finished in top4 on the first three stages of the race.

The following three stages are for the pure sprinters so this is the last chance in a while for the strong puncheurs.

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 4, Laura picks Gianni Meersman to win. 

For live coverage of the stage go to

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