Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vuelta Preview - Stage 5

After two stages for the climbers it’s now time for the fast guys to fight for the stage win. It’s another relatively short stage, only 168 km, with 8 laps of 21 km in Logroño, meaning that the sprinters will get time to study the finish before the end.

It’s a tricky route and even though the last kilometer if flat on the big Avenida de la Paz there are some difficult turns the riders need to pay attention to. About two kilometers from the line the route turns right in roundabout before turning left in another one 500 meters later. The last turn comes just before “flame rouge” where the riders turn right in a 90° curve.

It seems to be another hot day in Spain and with an expected head win the last kilometer, the sprinters need to save energy for as long as possible. My pick is once again Ben Swift who is strong in a tricky finish like this one and who I still see as the fastest guy in the race. On stage 2 he was in a terrible position in end and had to come from behind and got out in the wind way too early. Allan Davis and John Degenkolb took his wheel and only managed to pass him on the last 50 meters. 
Last 4 km - click for larger view!

Swifty’s only problem is that Team Sky’s focus is on Chris Froome and the overall classification and that means he will only have Flecha and Stannard to help out in the end. Still, Swift showed to have an incredible kick on stage 2 and if he manages to arrive in a good position he shouldn’t have  any problems taking his first (of many?) stages in this Vuelta.

My joker for the stage is Manuel Cardoso who’s been good in the Vuelta before. Cardoso’s team mate Marcos Garcia got world famous when he celebrated his 4th place on stage 4 as had he won it and it would be nice for the little Caja Rural team if they got some real success now. I doubt Cardoso can beat guys like Davis, Degenkolb and Swift but he’s used to the warm temperatures and he knows how to perform in a bunch sprint after a tough mountain stage.  Furthermore, without a team to take control in the finale, the sprints will get very chaotic and that could be just what Cardoso needs to surprise the pack like he did when he won in Tour Down Under a couple of years ago.

Winner pick: Ben Swift
Joker: Manuel Cardoso

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: Ben Swift
Joker: Klaas Lodewyck

Explanation: The return to the Spanish plains should give the sprinters another rare chance to do battle in this year's mountains-heavy Vuelta. Swifty missed out on stage two but I expect him to draw level with Degenkolb on Wednesday. But Belgian youngster Lodewyck has been zesty so far and you get the impression he's enjoying being the joker of the pack. 

Overall score:
Felix 3 points
Mikkel 0 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.


  1. 0/5 your picks ....

  2. Not as good as in the Tour this year. I don't think you are right that Ben Swift is the best sprinter :D I know you were unlucky in the first 2 or 3 stages, especially when you had Rodriguez to win...I hope you find the right one tomorrow! When will the preview be online?