Friday, 31 August 2012

Welcome To The Mountains. Welcome To La Vuelta!

The race has been fantastic so far with organisers getting the balance right between stages in a way that has provided moments of toe curling excitement atop some short steep finishes without blowing the race up and revealing a winner - in fact the top three are separated by seconds, rather than minutes, which is going to make for a fantastic battle in the final week and what a final week its going to be. Welcome to the mountains. Welcome to La Vuelta...

The stage profile above is what awaits riders tomorrow. A ferocious welcome to the mountains that crawls up and down over 5 categorised climbs in what is really a very short stage at just 149km which means the pace is likely to be high going into the final 10km climb (averaging over 8%) - the legs will be hurting after this one for sure. Stage 14 (above) announces the arrival of the 'high mountains'. So far we have seen several summit finishes and as early weeks go in grand tours, quite a lot of climbing, but next week is a different ball game. Alberto Contador says this is where his Vuelta starts and he's right, so far the punchy finishes have suited the likes of Rodriguez and Valverde who have a more explosive burst of pace on steep up-hills, Contador prefers a long climb with a middle range gradient and it's here where he is likely to gain time on the GC. But if Contador is just starting his Vuelta, there is sure to be some hoping to get it finished - if the last 13 stages have given some riders sore legs and a yearning for home its probably best they keep the route book closed from here on in...

Stage 15
Vuelta Stage 15
Stage 16
Vuelta Stage 15
Stage 17
Vuelta Stage 17
Stage 20
Vuelta Stage 20

Don't expect any tempo riding to victory here as having Contador placed second in the GC means guaranteed attacks, Froome needs to gain time so cannot afford to sit pretty setting the pace on the front and there are still enough steep finishes for Rodriguez to try and gain some time - Fasten your seat belts because this is set up to be a week in cycling not to be missed. If it's climbing you like its climbing you've got and there is going to be plenty of riders going pop along the way in what could well be the best Grand Tour finale of the year...

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