Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Vuelta a Espana 2013 : Stage 12 Preview

" I DON'T expect him to lose the leaders jersey however".

So spoke this 'oracle' about today's stage. Chris Horner actually produced a decent ride yet Vincenzo Nibali produced a even better one.

Nico Roche was also impressive but probably the star of the stage was the diminutive Domenico Pozzovivo who produced an absolutely sensational and still somewhat unbelievable ride to finish third on the stage.

It means the time gaps covering the top 10 is now 3.56. However the top four are separated by just 46 seconds.

But this time I'm going to say it. The leaders jersey should not change hands tomorrow. And that's because of one thing. One big, imposing, colossal thing. 

The Pyrenees.

Saturday sees the first foray into the famous mountain chain and with that in mind the organisers, for once, have been relatively kind to the peloton.

Stage 12 is a straight run to the Mediterranean. We start in inland at Maella before travelling 164.2km to Tarragona, just 100km south of Barcelona, where we head tomorrow.

There is just one climb along the route, the 3rd Cat Alto del Collet, a 7.5km climb which rises 275m at an average gradient of 3.6%.

It's summit is still 73.7km from the finish and with nothing between it and there, other than two sprint points, it should mean another bunch sprint and a day off for the GC riders, if such things actually exist in this Vuelta.

Because the route drops towards the sea it should mean a quick stage and the opening hour could be interesting as the 'right' break tries to get away.

I've predicted bunch sprints before only to see someone jump clear and deny them their day.

The run in does have a couple of tricky corners. With 1.5km to go there is a sweeping left hand hairpin followed by a tight left 90 degree corner just under the flamme rouge.

And with around 300m to go there is a roundabout which while not a tight bend will still cause some problems.

It's going to be require someone to be a little bit brave as they are going to have to be towards the front from the last 2km at least.

Michael Matthews has been the quickest around and with some sprinters having already gone home, he will go into this stage as favourite.

Again the likes of Lampre's Maximiliano Richeze and Omega-Pharma-Quicksteps Gianni Meersman should make top 10 without too much problems.

Also look out for the likes of Geoffrey Soupe, Tyler Farrar and Ramon Sinkledam from Argos-Shimano.

However I'm going to go for Edvald Boassen-Hagen.

Now I know that may seem like a strange choice. He hasn't been having an impressive tour so far considering he left the Tour de France early due to an injury.

He hasn't achieved a top 5 in a sprint yet either and today's TT wasn't up to his usual high standard. But I do think that on a day like tomorrow he could produce a strong enough effort to snatch a good result.

But then I was wrong today!

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