Friday, 30 August 2013

Vuelta a Espana 2013 : Stage 8 Preview

STAGE Eight sees the focus switch from the sprinters back to the overall contenders.

The riders will travel a total of 166.6km from Jerez de la Frontera to Estepona - Alto Penas Blancas.

The climb up to the finish climbs 960m at an average gradient of 6.6% although after 2km it maxes out at a gradient of 12.5%.

It does level out somewhat after this but the final 8km has an average gradient of 7.8%. And it climbs for the last 5km at an average gradient of 6%.

It means that if one team can get the speed high and keep it at that level, then it will be a very reduced peloton.

Movistar are the obvious team to do this. They have brought a squad filled with climbing super-domestiques, the likes of Sylvester Szmyd, Eros Capecchi and Pablo Lastras.

They should be able to keep the speed up to allow Alejandro Valverde to make his move.

The problem will be how many of his rivals will they get rid of.

Vincenzo Nibali should be able to stay with them. Joaquin Rodriguez should also manage to handle the intensity. However after that it depends on how much people have recovered.

The likes of Sammy Sanchez, Sergio Henao and Carlos Betancur have all been suffering with various ailments. Henao blamed stage two's travails on the 'knock'. Betancur has been ill and not raced since the Giro. Sanchez is another that hasn't raced much and is struggling for form.

But they have now had a week to recover and have the ability for certain to be close.

It will be very interesting to see how the Saxo-Tinkoff trio of Nicolas Roche, Roman Kreuziger and Rafal Majka go. All three, and Roche in particular, have looked very good so far. Roche is having his best tour of his life and this may not be the stage he struggles on.

Others to look out for are Euskatel's Mikel Nieve, who may be heading towards the leadership of his team, and Caja-Rural's David Arroyo. This shouldn't be the stage where we see them make their big moves but if they are there for the finish, expect them to have a go for the stage win.

Belkin's Laurens Ten Dam, by his own admission, found the opening climb tough. He has been coming into form so may look at this as being a stage to go for.

Lesser names to look out for are Domenico Pozzovivo and Ivan Santaromita.

But for outsiders look towards the Sky duo of Henao and Rigoberto Uran. The younger Colombian lost a lot of time of stage two and is now in 41st position, 2.59 behind Nibali. His more experienced team mate has taken the de-facto leadership of Team Sky and sits 7th, just 28 seconds behind. If anybody wants to disrupt Movistar's train then these two could be the ones to do it.

Expect Henao to go and if he gets caught close to the line, expect Uran to jump and go for the win.

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