Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vuelta a España: Stage 17 Preview & Favorites

After a well-deserved rest day, the Vuelta continues with a stage for the sprinters - or so it seems. In fact, the final 10 km are very demanding with a steep hill and a tricky descent. More on the later.

The day starts in Calahorra and finish in Burgos after 189 km in the saddle. Without being completely flat, this isn’t a very hilly stage either. The sprinters haven’t had many chances in this year’s Vuelta and their teams will be eager to control the race. The first 100 km take place in head- and crosswind and we shouldn’t see a breakaway get too much of a gap.  After 109.8 km it’s time for the first categorized climb of the day, Alto de Pradilla. It’s a category 3 climb and the 6 km towards the top have an average gradient of 5.4 %.

The next climb, Alto de Valmala, starts after 133.5 km and from its top there are 50 km to the finishing line. The last intermediate sprint comes with 36 km to go and from here, the riders will be able to enjoy a strong tailwind towards Burgos. On paper, the final 10 km don’t look very tough but if you haven’t done your homework, you will be in for a big surprise!

With about 10 km to go, the riders turn right - away from the big road - up the little Calle Eras de San Francisco. The following 1.2 km are uphill and especially the first part is steep. While the riders won’t be able to admire it, the TV-viewers will have a beautiful view over Burgos on the way towards the top of the hill. From here, it’s downhill for about 450 meter before the road kicks up again for 200 meters. The following 800 meters downhill are very technical and on narrow roads. The peloton will be stretch out significantly on this part, and it’s doubtful all the sprinters will make it back to the front in time.

The final 5 km are straight out with a few up and down parts. There is now cross- and headwind towards the line and it won’t be easy for a lonely rider to keep the peloton behind him. However, if the sprinters aren’t back in the peloton, it may be very difficult organizing the chase.

The final 14 km of stage 17. Many things to pay attention to!
Click for larger view.
We haven’t seen a regular mass sprint since Michael Matthews won Stage 5 and the chances are good that we won’t get one this time either. Usually Philippe Gilbert, Luis León Sanchez and Simon Gerrans would be excellent winner candidates for a finish like this one. However, they are all out of the race and instead we should probably look to opportunistic riders like Juan Antonio Flecha, Fabian Cancellara, Luca Paolini and Rinaldo Nocentini for a late attack on the hill.

Especially Fabian Cancellara is extremely strong right now and if he gets away on the descent, I doubt the peloton will see him again until after they cross the finishing line. The same goes for a rider like Samuel Sanchez. He’s getting better and better but he still isn’t able to beat the best climbers uphill. Sanchez knows how to attack on the final kilometers and keep the peloton behind him and he’s very eager to give Euskaltel their first stage win in the their last Vuelta a España.

In case it all gets back together in time for the final sprint, it should come down to a battle between Gianni Meersman and Michael Matthews. In theory, any of them should have problems on the 1.2 km climb but it all depends on how fast the peloton is going. Edvald Boasson Hagen is another very good candidate for the stage win. He came close when Gilbert won and he’s been trying very hard to hit the right breakaway the last couple of days. The strong Norwegian is obviously in great shape and I would be surprised not to see him fight for the win in Burgos.

If you are looking for a super joker, look to Anthony Roux. He’s very fast on the line, especially in a reduced peloton, and he’s been doing very well the last two days in the Pyrenees. He may not be able to beat the big sprinters in a regular bunch sprint but with a finish like this one, he should be in the mix.

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 17, Laura picks Fabian Cancellara to win.

For live coverage of the stage go to steephill.tv


  1. Thanks you C-Cycling. Have really enjoyed your daily coverage of each stage and the predictions.

  2. Thank YOU for reading! Happy you enjoy the previews!