CyclingPub Feature - La Vuelta final week after the last ITT
Nov 04 2020 08:58 am CET

CyclingPub Feature - La Vuelta final week after the last ITT
CyclingPub Feature - La Vuelta final week after the last ITT
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After the unexpected results of the stage 13 time trial, it becomes necessary to update our analysis of what outcomes could we possibly witness in this final 5 stages (four without the triumphant march in Madrid on Sunday).

By Marcelo Hernández

Even when this time trial had in Primoz Roglic an expected winner, there were several surprises among the GC contenders and expectations about the final stages of this Vuelta were turned upside down, to begin with the time gap that the Slovenian took over his main rivals. He had a very good performance, but he didn’t smash the clock like in other time trials of recent seasons. His average speed in the flat section of the course was around 48.2 km/h which is a very strong pace but not an exceptional one in this kind of terrain.

The reason for this relatively cautious speed is, of course, that Roglic was saving efforts to make a superb climb of the 3rd cat. Mirador de Ézaro. He was in fact the fastest rider in the climb marking around 7’20” in the 1.8 km of uphill road, gaining 3” on Enric Mas, 9” on Hugh Carthy and 27” on Richard Carapaz. Nevertheless, this extremely strong performance on the climb wasn’t enough to take the considerable time gap in the GC than many of us expected.

That’s because Carapaz delivered an impressive result in this time trial. The Ecuadorian managed to keep an average speed around 47.9 km/h in the flat section which represents quite a quality jump in his skills against the clock, stepping up his average speed in this terrain by more than a kilometer and a half per hour in comparison with similar stages in previous seasons. But the big revelation of the day was of course Hugh Carthy’s impressive 4th place on the stage. The EF rider delivered an astonishing performance for someone whom very few people had in their time trial radar before this stage, or in their GC radar before this Vuelta. With a very impressive average speed of 48.3 km/h in the flat, and the fourth best time in the climb Carthy finished the day comfortable placed in the 3rd spot of the GC with almost 1’ of advantage over Dan Martin.

Showing his best shape so far in three weeks races, Carthy has confirmed once and for all that he is a serious candidate to try to win this Vuelta. Prior to the Time Trial we all expected him to emerge behind Roglic with a 2’ disadvantage or more but now that he is only 47” away from red his strategy will have to be different. Same case about Carapaz who is only 39” behind the leader but has now to worry about a strong Carthy that is breathing on his neck, so Ineos Grenadiers has a potential war on two fronts developing in the next four days.

Team Jumbo Visma is in the defense position, as expected, but there is a much smaller margin of error for them. Of course the Dutch squad is the better equipped team in this Vuelta to try to hold the red jersey in the middle and high mountain, but they probably wanted less pressure after today by having their rivals over one minute and a half. Therefore, they will likely keep a closer eye on any possible movement of their rivals and tighten their policy role over the peloton, probably discouraging long range attacks from Carapaz and Carthy before the 17th stage.

These facts leave us with the uncertainty of Movistar’s situation. Enric Mas performed well below his average in the time trial leaving him 3’23” behind Roglic and 2’36” away from the current podium. The Spanish squad is now in a precarious situation with its main GC goal almost obliterated and without may other cards to play. Of course, they have two riders in the Top Ten with Alejandro Valverde in the 8th place of the GC but for a team that repeatedly stated that they were going to fight for red that is not enough relief. Are they going to target stage wins with Soler, Valverde or maybe Pedrero or Verona? If that’s the case they will work hard to enter in the breakaways maybe giving a chance to other teams such as Ineos or EF to also send riders to the front and keep pressure high for Jumbo Visma.

Fans all over the world would love to see early attacks from the GC riders in the three medium mountain stages that come prior to La Covatilla day, but that’s sort of a risky move for Carthy and especially for Carapaz since any mistake attacking too early or in the wrong state of the race could translate in him losing the small gap he has with Carthy. Nevertheless, the Ineos Grenadiers’ leader has always been an aggressive rider so a surprise attack can’t be entirely ruled out.

The terrain of all the next four days invites to ambushes and attacks, especially the tricky stage finale of Wednesday’s 14th stage, but the long shadow of Jumbo Visma could be a powerful deterrent. But, Is the Dutch squad strong enough to put a strong pace four days in a row? That’s a though question to answer and maybe the door to an ambush in these days.

Nevertheless, there is a big chance that teams will ride carefully the next three days and then deliver a big showdown in La Covatilla stage, which also can be the scenario of early attacks although each day in which no team challenges Jumbo Visma is one day closer to the overall victory for Roglic. If Ineos, EF or Movistar let the Dutch team arrive relatively fresh into Stage 17 it will be really hard to try to take the leader's jersey away from the Slovenian.

This remains one of the most exciting fights for La Vuelta in recent memory so either strategy the different teams chose to display, it will surely deliver a lot of thrill for cycling fans.





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