Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Vuelta Pais Vasco - Stage 4 Preview

This is the typical finish on Arrate. It’s a classic in the recent year’s Vuelta Pais Vasco and it was also used in the Vuelta España last year. Normally the rule is; “First rider in the last corner takes the stage”, but last year in the Vuelta, Purito started to celebrate a millisecond too early and by that gave the stage to Valverde.

Samuel Sanchez has won this stage the last three years in a row and naturally, he is among the favorites again this year. Still, it’s important to remember that Sanchez is not here in tip-top condition like the last years. This time he’s 100% focused on peaking in the Giro d’Italia and with strong climbers in the race like Contador, Henao, Porte, Betancur, Quintana, etc it won’t be easy to make it four in a row.

In my eyes, Alberto Contador is still the big GC favorite after stage 3. Contador won on Arrate back in 2009 after he soloed away from the other favorites and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again this year. The first 6 km of the final climb have a steady gradient of 7,5% before the final “flat” (3%) 1,3 km. As mentioned in the previous previews, there aren’t any bonus seconds in the race, so if you want an advantage before the time trial, you need to attack when possible. 

I think Team Sky will try to control the race on final climb, like they have been doing all year long, and try to set Sergio Henao up for another lethal attack. Henao needs time before the time trial and right now he seems to be one of the strongest climbers in the race. Movistar have strong riders like Rui Costa, Beñat Inxtausti and Nairo Quintana for this stage and I’m sure they will try something too. This climbs suits Quintana a lot more than the one on stage 3 and if he can cope with the expect rain, he will be very dangerous.

Andy Schleck normally test his legs on this climb and he’s been very focused - near the front of the peloton - so far this race. He attacked on the mountain stage in Criterium International last month and I have a feeling he will show himself on Arrate. Unfortunately the weather forecast shows we're in for a rainy stage and that could kill the hopes of seeing Schleck attacking. The descent before the final climb will become very tricky on wet roads and I doubt Andy Schleck will take any chances at this point of the season.

My personal joker for the stage is Pieter Weening. The morale on GreenEdge is sky high after two stage wins already and Weening did very well on La Lejana despite the steep gradients not being in his favor. Weening is fast on the line and if the we see a little group sprinting for the win again this year, I expcet Weening to be up there. The same goes for Diego Ulissi. The young Italian has been showing great shape lately and is always good in the rain. He has team mate Damiano Cunego to help him in the final and if Ulissi still up there in the final, he'll most likely win the stage.

Once again, it's difficult to pick only one rider as my favorite. Contador, Henao and Sanchez all seem like solid candidates, but I'll give Contador another shot to prove he's ready to win Vuelta Pais Vasco overall.

Favorite: Alberto Contador
Jokers: Pieter Weening / Diego Ulissi

For live coverage of the stage go to


  1. When has Weening proven to be fast on the line?

  2. I'd like to see Weening get the win for another GreenEdge victory, but the Colombians look like they've come into this race in top form and could be hard to beat. Contador looks good, but doesn't look stronger than the other top guys.

    But if I was a betting man, I'd put it on Henao or Porte for the win. Sky Team seem to be getting very good at playing the two-card trick...