Thursday, 12 September 2013

Vuelta a Espana 2013 : Stage 19 Preview

THREE stages to go and it's all about the GC now.

Today's stage up to Pena Cabarga made a serious impact into the overall standings. Chris Horner is now just 3 seconds down on Vincenzo Nibali with Alejandro Valverde and Joaquin Rodriguez also managing to sneak a few seconds back on the Italian.

Tomorrow the route travels 181km along Spain's Northern coast from San Vincente Barquera to the Alto Naranco, just outside of Oviedo.

For most of the day the profile is fairly flat but it does pick up towards the back end and the days three categorised climbs all appear inside the last 40km.

The first two are both third category. First up is the Alto de San Emiliano, which climbs 6.3km at an average gradient of 4.6. This has it's summit with 32.7km to go.

Second up is the Alto de la Manzaneda. This is just 3.6km long but has a higher average gradient of 6.2%. And it's summit comes just 12.4km from the finish.

The final climb of the day is the second category Alto de Naranco, our finishing climb. It is 5.7km long with an average gradient of 4.2%.

In itself it shouldn't pose too much trouble to the peloton. However if the pace is high (which it undoubtedly will be) it will feel a lot harder and could cause some problems.

The stage could go one of two ways. It could be like I predicted today would happen. The GC boys may want the bonus seconds before the drama that will be Saturday.

However the more likely scenario is a break disappears up the road and gains enough time to fight it out for the stage win while the big names ride their own race.

For the likes of Valverde and Rodriguez to gain significant time they may have to go long. But that is very unlikely considering what awaits on Saturday.

So it looks like the status quo will be maintained and the destiny of the race will be decided on the dreaded slopes of the Angliru. Or will it?

Nibali may feel he cannot wait until Saturday. Horner is clearly the strongest climber and the much more likely to have success on the final climb. So will the leader attack?

It's going to be another stage that probably leaves more questions than answers. But in keeping with this wonderful race there is bound to be some serious action along the way.

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