Thursday, 12 April 2012

Vuelta a Castilla y Leon: Stage By Stage

Jon Tiernan-Locke and his Endura team will line up for stage 1 of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon tomorrow, and this is what they will face. A rolling first day featuring just the one categorised climb coming just after the mid-way point at 98km. Its rolling terrain all the way, but the finish is pretty flat and the sprinters will be keen to pick up a win here...

Traditionally this stage is one for the fast men, a relatively flat run in and the one of two chances for a sprinter to grab some limelight during the race. It's also an obvious stage for some riders to form a breakaway and try to use the climb as a platform to gain some time on the rest of the bunch - another thing to watch out for here is the wind, its been known to whip up pretty hard and crosswinds could obviously play havoc with the bunch. Providing there is not a successful breakaway - and it will be unlikely, if any threat to the general classification manages to get in the break then the peloton will be pretty eager to bring it back, losing time here would be costly with only the remaining two mountainous stages left - this stage will act merely as a leg stretcher for the guys contesting the general classification.

The small climb in the middle will have the main contenders looking around at each other to see what kind of form they are in, there are also some mountain classification points on offer here for anybody willing to jump the pack and take them and its on this slope where we will see how Jon Tiernan-Locke is looking. Whether Endura will ride with the intention of taking a sprinter to the finish I'm unsure - its pretty evident that Tiernan-Locke has undertaken alot of preparation to perform well here and the team may gladly conserve there energy for the ensuing two days and just sit back in the bunch for this one.

The forecast for tomorrow looks OK. It should remain dry and yes this is Spain but it isn't forecast to be very warm reaching highs of 12c, but with a stiff breeze coming from the west it will feel colder. 

Stage 2 is a different story, far more hilly but still not too difficult with four category 2 climbs, the last of which coming 18km or so from the finish, its here where any attacks may come to fruition and those looking to win overall will have to keep there eyes well and truly on the prize. Its not a particularly long stage so the pace will be pretty high and there is a slight uphill finish but probably not enough for a puncheur to create any significant time gap. The wind will also play a significant role here and there have been forecasts for snow on higher ground but I can't see it, having said that it will be cold at 9c and rain is expected. Unless a breakaway succeeds it will again probably come down to the sprinters who made it over the various lumps and bumps to put on a show.

Stage 3 will be the deciding stage, a tough day with three category 1 climbs, the steepest of which ramps up to 18% in places. The winning move may be made on the final climb of the Navacerrada, its here on the steepest side that riders with the legs can put some real time into their rivals - be afraid though, because if a big move does come here the rider cannot afford to expend too much energy, there's another 50km to the left to race and the leader will have to Time Trial to the finish. Failing any escape here there is a steep section 10km from the finish, anyone still possessing the energy after the Three big climbs will need to make it count here to take victory. The weather forecast isn't great with lows of 1c expected and a risk of snow and sleet.

The Endura boys have shown both domestically and abroad what they are capable of this season, clearing up at home and more than sticking with the big teams away. Its going to be a tough race, especially stage 3, but its by no means new territory for the likes of Russell Downing and Jon Tiernan-Locke who I'm hoping to see on the podium at the finish...

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