The race starts on Tuesday?
This is what a large part of the Vuelta a España peloton thinks.
The race hits Spain’s Basque Country for a fourth stage meant to shake up sleepy sprint days and a flight through Europe off the legs of runners, punchers and GC contenders.
“A stage with a probable sprint towards the finish line in a reduced peloton”, predicted Fernando Escartīn, collaborator of the race.
“Sprinters who know steep terrain will do well and have opportunities, but pure sprinters won’t be able to keep up if they speed up. Watch out for possible gusts of wind in the last part of the stage.
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Taking off from the Basque capital Vitoria-Gasteiz, the less than four hour journey to Laguardia is by far the toughest of the race so far.
Two graded climbs, plenty of ungraded green and a hilltop finish will see the mechanics switch cassettes during their rest bike routine on Monday.
A final kilometer climbing towards 10% provides a Vuelta trademark that Escartīn downplayed for what will be a rude Spanish welcome.
Tuesday’s Spanish-style Ardennes classic puts riders like Primož Roglič, Julian Alaphilippe and Alejandro Valverde in the frame.
Heck, any rider, whether a stage chaser like Ethan Hayter or a GC chaser like João Almeida, could win on a journey that suits so many members of the modern Swiss Army Knife platoon.
“Stages 4 and 5, it depends on how the climbs are raced, but there could be some good reduced sprints for me. I’m riding pretty well, so we’ll see what happens,” Hayter said. BikeNews during the weekend.
Greetings from the charming Basque Country 😃
— Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team (@qst_alphavinyl) August 22, 2022
That said, the Vuelta is just getting started and the time gaps are still slim.
GC riders might rather soak up the Basque Carnival crowd than hunt for early advantages by rescuing their sidekicks and watching the gruesome mountaintop finish set for Stage 6.
But if the Tour de France taught us anything last month, it’s that Grand Tour races don’t play by the rules.
The Vuelta is certainly not one to stick to a predetermined ‘script’. Roglič has won the red jersey on race day one on similar Basque terrain in the last two editions of the race.
Jumbo-Visma passes happily into the red jersey for the three days of the Vuelta so far, and Edoardo Affini won it from the Netherlands overnight.
Tuesday’s leg burner at Laguardia may mean Roglič is next to see red – whether he really wants to or not.
“I don’t really need it before Madrid,” he joked on Sunday.
Happy Edo! 😃 pic.twitter.com/HeZ32PjPMl
— Jumbo-Visma cycling team (@JumboVismaRoad) August 21, 2022