I’ve pumping up Vasil Kiryienka’s chances of making it all the way from a breakaway the last couple of days and Thursday afternoon, he finally did. Kiryienka went solo with 45 km to go and managed to keep everybody behind him. Chris Horner showed he is still the strongest uphill when he climbed Peña Cabarga about 40 seconds faster than Juanjo Cobo did in 2011. Cobo won the Vuelta that year and right now, it seems like Horner will win this year’s edition.
Stage 19 is another one for a breakaway. The GC riders are focusing on Angliru and I doubt they want to use up their teams already. That being said, if Valverde or Purito wants to win a stage in this year’s Vuelta, this is probably their last chance. Astana and Vincenzo Nibali will be happy to see a breakaway take all the bonus seconds again this time. Nibali can’t follow Chris Horner on the steep gradients and even though the final climb isn’t very steep this time, I can’t see Nibali gain time on Horner in Oviedo.
The first 100 km of stage 19 take place next to the sea. The wind is coming from north-northeast and if it’s strong again, we might see a team like Saxo-Tinkoff trying to split up the peloton again. However, they are still about 80 km to go - and six climbs - so I doubt it will happen. However, DS Fabrizio Guidi says the team is looking to climb the GC and that means taking time on Purito and Valverde.
Usually the big favorites want to go for the stage win on the mythical Angliru climb and that means this is the last day for a breakaway to make it. Therefore, we can expect another very fast with half of peloton trying to get away. For once Movistar missed the breakaway on stage 18 and I’m sure they will be eager to get at least one rider up front this time. It’s true the final climb suits Alejandro Valverde very well but I doubt Movistar can control the race all by themselves. They tried on stage 18 and look what happened.
|The final 5 km of stage 19 on Alto de Naranco.|
After entering Oviedo the final 5.7 km are uphill towards the finishing line. Alto del Naranco has average gradient of just 4.2 % but there are a steep kilometer of nearly 10 % with 3 km to go. The final two kilometers have an average gradient of 6.5 % and take place in headwind. The last 300 meters are straight out with a tailwind and should a couple of riders arrive together, it may be an idea to try an early sprint out of the final corner.
If the peloton catches the breakaway, Alejando Valverde is the big favorite but the chances of that aren’t very good. I think the GC riders will be saving a little energy for Angliru and that means we - once again - should look to riders down out of the general classification.
First rider on my list is Bauke Mollema. He didn’t have the legs to go for the GC after the Tour but he stayed in the race aiming for a stage win. That win came on stage 17 when he took the peloton by surprise with a late attack. Mollema is targeting the World Championships in Florence later this month and he’s coming out of this Vuelta in great shape. The final climb suits Mollema perfectly and unlike many other, the Belkin captain doesn’t need to solo away in order to win. Bauke Mollema is very fast on the line and it’s probably only Valverde and Dani Moreno could can outsprint him on a finish like this one.
Another strong rider right now is Diego Ulissi. I’ve been naming him a couple of times already as a good candidate for an early breakaway but so far, Ulissi hasn’t been able to make it. However, the young Italian is climbing very well these days and this stage really suits him. He tried a late attack the other day but never really got away. This is Diego Ulissi’s last chance for a stage win and I’m sure he will do whatever he can to make that final breakaway. Lampre also has Michele Scarponi for a stage like this one together; Ulissi and Scarponi are a very dangerous duo for stage 19.
Team NetApp Endura has been doing extremely well so far in this Vuelta. Leo König is still sitting 8th in the overall classification and Bartosz Huzarski was close to take the team’s second stage win the last time Warren Barguil won. König’s focus will be on Angliru but I think Huzarski has this stage marked in his road book. The strong Pole knows how to get into the right breakaways and he seems to be climbing very well right now. Furthermore, Huzarski is actually fast in an uphill sprint too. Don’t forget he took second place after Purito on stage 10 in the Giro last year.
For other good candidates looks to riders like; Warren Barguil, Rigoberto Uran, José Herrada, Ivan Santaromita, Rafa Valls, Andre Cardoso, Oliver Zaugg and the strong Euskaltel trio Igor Antón, Mikel Nieve and Mikel Landa. Euskaltel is aiming big at the team classification and we expect at least one orange rider in the breakaway.
For live coverage of the stage go to steephill.tv