Thursday, 5 September 2013

Vuelta a Espana 2013 : Stage 13 Preview

TODAY was meant to be a day for the big bunch sprint and so it proved with Philippe Gilbert denying my pick, Edvald Boassen-Hagen.

Tomorrow however shouldn't see many of the quick men at the finish.

Starting at the town of Valls the riders will travel 169km in total to Castelldefels, just south of Barcelona.

The parcours will actually see the peloton roll through the finishing town after 108.7km. But it is the remaining 60km which will seal the fate of the sprinters.

There are two climbs en route, the first is the Coll de la Torreta, a 3rd category climb which starts just 13km into the stage.

At 10km long and with an average gradient of 5.8% it will be bit of a wake up call to the peloton but won't be hard enough, and comes way too early in the stage, to decide the destiny of the stage win.

It could well decide the make-up of the days break however.

The second climb will play a huge part in the outcome of the day.

The wonderfully named Alto del Rat Penat appears in front of the field with 54km to go. It is a mere 4.5km long and because of this it is only classed as a first category climb.

It's gradient however will strike fear into some. It has an average of 10.6% and hits ramps of between 14% and 16% in the middle two kilometres.

That will be more than enough to send the sprinters scurrying into the safety of the 'bus' and will see a very reduced field cross it's summit.

Expect attacks here. The likes of David Arroyo of Caja Rural and any of the Euskatel riders although Igor Anton seems the one with the most attacking intent so far in this race.

The big favourites will know there is a long run to the finish and with the race heading into the Pyrenees on Saturday they may not want to expend too much energy.

If one of them starts to suffer though, that could change.

The road then heads steadily downwards as we head back to the coast and Castellfedels. It may allow some to get back on and anyone with a half decent sprint may find themselves favourite for the win.

Into this bracket would be the likes of Gianni Meersman, Dominik Nerz and Reinhardt Janse van Renesburg.

The final few kilometres are along the sea front and so wind may be a factor, although current forecasts suggest only a slight breeze.

With 3km to go the road swings inland, past the 1992 Olympic Rowing strip and towards the final 300m.

I mention the final 300m for two reasons. One there is another roundabout to cross and once you have the road kicks up, not massively but enough to dull the legs.

It's going to be a fascinating stage and is really difficult to pick a winner.

I think there might be bid by someone like Alejandro Valverde. With bonus seconds on the line he may see this as an opportunity to win back some time on Vincenzo Nibali and the likes. Same applies for Nico Roche.

Don't be surprised to see the likes of Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara contesting the finish. Martin had a little go today and they may see this stage as a chance to test their legs one more time prior to the world championships. Both will be dropped on the climb but both will be more than able to get back on.

Even prior to his win today my pick for the day would have been, and still is, the current world champion  Gilbert. He hasn't had the best of years in the rainbow bands but there were signs he was improving before he unleashed that wonderful sprint today.

He was pipped to the line on stage 7 and this finish will suit him as today's did. If he can get over the climb in a fairly good position and then get himself into a good group, he could easily make it back on and spring a double celebration.

In fact don't be surprised if his major challenger may be the man he defeated today, EBH. It's definitely coming for Eddie and if he can use today's disappointment as motivation, then he will be close again.

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