Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vuelta Preview - Stage 13

Purito made up for what happened on Arrate and leveled out the score in my ittle duel with Felix. Great. Now it’s time for another sprint finish and trust me, I won’t make the mistake of picking Ben Swift again.

John Degenkolb has shown to be unbeatable in this Vuelta so far and without many chances left - and with the desire of taking back the points jersey - this is a stage he can’t afford let go of. There isn’t a single categorized climb on the menu but as always in Spain that doesn’t mean there are no uphill sections. About 15 km from the line it kicks up with 5% for 2-3 kilometers but it shouldn’t really change the fact that this stage will end up in a mass sprint.

Only thing talking against it is Degenkolb’s superiority so far in the race. Like with Purito, no one really wanted to help out Katusha on stage 12 and that could very well happen for Argos-Shimano as well. The way I see it there are only two other sprint stages left in this race but even though the sprinters won’t get many chances from here on it will require a lot of confidence from guys like Viviani, Bouhanni and Bennati if their teams should start helping out Argos-Shimano.

Therefore you must not rule out the chance of a breakaway making it this time. There are some uphill sections in the beginning of the stage and I think it will be another fast start with everybody trying to put a guy in the break. Euskaltel showed on stage 12 that they are back ready to attack and it would make sense for them to send out a guy like Ruben Perez. He is good at picking the right breakaways and he is also very fast on the line. So far he has been sprinting to places from 10-25 in the previous bunch sprints but if he manages to get in the break he could go all the way in Ferrol.

Winner pick: John Degenkolb
Joker: Ruben Perez

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: John 'Jaaaa!' Degenkolb
Joker: Assan Bazayev

Explanation: The stage starts in town of Santiago di Compostela, the destination of the major Catholic pilgrimage route of the St James' Way. As such we can expect a likely attack from Javiers Chacon and Aramendia - although it hardly takes religious fervour to force those two out in front of the peloton. It's a tricky, undulating route, but given the lack of opportunities for the sprinters following this stage, I expect it to come down to a bunch finish. If that's the case then you can't really look beyond Degenkolb - it's almost as stupid as picking someone else to win on a punchy ramp other than Joaquim Rodriguez (as Saddles did yesterday - simply to allow Mikkel the chance to draw level and spice things up). While I don't expect a break to stay out, the final kilometres are challenging and there is also a difficult uncategorised climb near the finish. If someone attacks early, they could hold the pack at bay. That someone could be Astana pocket rocket Assan Bazayev.

Overall score:
Felix 9 points
Mikkel 9 points 

Right winner pick gives 3 points, if the joker wins it's 5 points while it's 1 points if the joker makes top3 on the stage.

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