Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Vuelta a España: Stage 6 Preview & Favorites

After missing out on stage 4, Michael Matthews did a perfect sprint to win stage 5. GreenEdge worked all day in front of the peloton all day long and in the sprint, nobody came close to the young Australian. Garmin tried to set up Tyler Farrar but they will soon have to realize that Farrar’s day as a top sprinter seems to be over.

Stage 6 is the second of three days in a row made for the fast guys and we can expect another bunch sprint. The stage starts out in Guijuelo and the riders will be able to enjoy a slight tailwind all the 174 km south towards Cáceres. There isn’t a single categorized climb on the menu and even though it’s not flat either, it’s definitely not as hard as the last two days.

With 7 km to go, the road starts to kick up a little but only 2.5 %. It won’t make for a selection in the peloton but the technical final four kilometer may do. Are no less than six difficult turns within the last four kilometers and of course a handful of roundabouts to overcome as well. This being the Vuelta and everything, of course the final turn comes just 400 meters from the line. Heading into a roundabout the peloton goes the long around instead of just turning left. This will really stretch out the peloton. If you enter this roundabout in second or third position, you have a very good chance of winning the stage.

Michael Matthews has been the fastest of the sprinters the last two days and he’s morale is now sky high. Originally GreenEdge had Leigh Howard down for this stage but it doesn't really make sense not to go for Matthews again. He’s obviously the fastest right now. Then again, the team spirit on GreenEdge is amazing and thinking about it, it wouldn’t actually surprise me to see Matthews leading out Howard to win.

Gianni Meersman tried to pass Matthews in the final of stage 5 but he didn’t even come close. I think it will be very difficult for Meersman to win this stage and it wouldn’t surprise me if Omega Pharma Quickstep gave youngster Andy Fenn a chance.

The final four kilometers. Click for larger view.
Argos-Shimano is right now the best sprint team in the world. They have finally perfected their leadouts and again on stage 5 they tried to make a surprise. They have a young team for this Vuelta and you don’t see any of the regular Tour de France riders among the nine starters. However, they still managed to hit the front with 5 riders on the final kilometers. Nikias Arndt was the man for stage 5 but it’s not necessarily him they will be going for every day. Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Ramon Sinkeldam are also very fast on the line.

Lampre’s Maximiliano Ariel Richeze is another fast rider in great shape right now. He wasn’t on top of his game in Eneco Tour but he still managed to finish 2nd and 4th in the sprints. This Vuelta is Richeze’s first Grand Tour since he did the Giro d’Italia in 2007 and he’s super motivated to do well. The Argentinian had to fight hard to get on Matthews wheel in the final of stage 5 and with a little bit more luck he might have been able to get closer. It won’t be easy for Richeze to win stage 6 but I think we will see the him in top3 again.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has finished 6th the last two days in a row. The Norwegian rider was a bit disappointed with his sprint on stage 5 and he will be very motivated to do better this time. Boasson Hagen seems to be getting stronger every day and without any top sprinters in the peloton, he may give Team Sky their first win in this Vuelta Thursday afternoon.

Last of the outsiders for the win in Cáceres is also the rider finishing last on stage 5. Barry Markus is only 22 years old but he  hasalready been close to beating some of the big sprinters. In Tour of Qatar he finished 2nd after Mark Cavendish twice and after coming back from his injury, Markus took 2nd place on stage 1 of Arctic Race of Norway earlier this month. Vacansoleil-DCM has been setting up Grega Bole the last two days but with a more flat stage, it’s now time for the fast Dutchman.

As of Wednesday evening the weather forecast shows 50 % chance of rain for the final. Hopefully the roads will stay dry. If not, it seems unlikely nobody will crash on the last four kilometers.

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 6, Laura picks Gianni Meersman to win. 

For live coverage of the stage go to

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