Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Vuelta a Espana 2013: Stage 5 Preview


After four very difficult opening days the day that all sprinters have wanted has finally arrived.

Usually the start of a grand tour is recognisable from the number of flat, sprinters stages.

This year's Tour of Spain has been different. The uphill finishes have meant the pure sprinters have had to disappear into the safety of the autobus while they waited for their time to shine.

Tomorrow should see them spread their wings and fly.

I say should as although the race book says it is a flat stage, it isn't exactly pan flat.

From the start in the beautifully named town of Sober the route races 174.3km to the Lago de Sanabria. Along the way the route crosses two Cat 3 climbs, topping out 1,030m higher than the start town before finishing 720m above Sober.

The climbs of Alto de Cavela and Alto de Padornello may see one or two drop of the back but with 31km to go from the final summit to the finish line, they shouldn't be enough to destroy the chances of the quick men.

This Vuelta does not have the likes of Mark Cavendish or Marcel Kittel in the peloton. So the victory on this stage should go to one of the lesser lights.

My favourite yesterday was Omega-Pharma-Quickstep's Gianni Meersman. He ended up finishing fourth and despite his quickness he isn't fast enough to pip the real big sprinters. If the big boys don't make it over the climbs however Meersman could be the man. Whatever happens expect a top 10 finish.

The Belgian was beaten across the line by Michael Matthews of Orica-Greenedge today and the Aussie is another who should be guaranteed a top 10 finish tomorrow. He will definitely be able to get over the climbs and his 'victory' over Meersman will give him confident.

The real quick men in this tour are the likes of Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar and FDJ's Geoffrey Soupe. Both have the ability to be there at the finish but neither have shown a lot of form recently.

There are two outsiders for the stage in my eyes.

The first is Vanconsoleil's Barry Markus. All of the Dutch squad are looking for rides next year as the sponsor is pulling out of cycling. Markus is one they could benefit from both the lack of the real quick men and that desire to do well.

The second 'outsider' isn't one that would normally fall into the category.

Sky's Edvald Boassen Hagen crashed out of the this year's Tour and is using this race as a reintroduction to the pro peloton. His form is therefore a subject for debate. Even before the crash he wasn't in the best of shape and results haven't gone his way.

However a sixth place today may indicate a return to better fortune so do not write him off.

One thing that shouldn't happen today is a change in the race leader.

But I said that today and a small split in the front group meant Chris Horner's tenure in red was short-lived. Vincnezo Nibali is now back in the leader's jersey and all things considered, he should not let it go for a little while.

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