2022 Vuelta a España – Stage 18 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

By @EchelonsHub

(Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

The breakaway took the glory as expected on stage 17, as the hilly finale provided for a lot of spectacle into the Monasterio de Tentudia. Rigoberto Uran took the win after controlling his rivals in the final ascent, and outsprinting Quentin Pacher and Jesus Herrada in a gruelling uphill sprint which followed an all-out attack from the Spaniard. In the peloton Enric Mas rested Evenepoel again but with no success, as João Almeida took some time on his rivals.  

Positive: Uran taking a big win and jumping into the Top10 after a successful breakaway.  

Negative: Nothing to note.  

The Route

A very tricky day at stage 18, with a start in Trujillo which will see the riders travel north through a very straightforward and simple empty road, and then a second half which will see all types of ascents.  

91 (4.3Km, 5.9%) and 85 (1.5Km, 10.3%) will be the first serious climbs of the day, with a lot of steep gradients involved in what can be a very treacherous section of the day, suited to explosive racing. However the action should come in the ascents to the village of Piornal.  

Don’t be mistaken, the Alto de Piornal will be ridden twice but both climbs – and the descent – are completely different. The first climb will feature 13.6 kilometers at 5%, with bonus seconds at the summit which comes with 41 kilometers to go. A fast descent will follow, with a small run-in to the final ascent. 

For the second time, in a switchback-packed climb, the Alto de Piornal will be climbed now via Valdastillas, with a total of 13.3 kilometers at 5.6%. It’s not the longest climb of the race, or the steepest, but it is tough and comes at the end of a hard day and race. It’s an explosive climb, however one where team support and depth can also play wonders. The riders will go all the way up to the village where the finish line will be placed.  

The Weather

The temperatures will drop slightly however the wind will get stronger. Although it’s mostly expected at high altitudes, there will be moderately strong wind from the west, leaving the riders exposed in what should be a fast start to the stage. both ascents of Piornal will be full of switchbacks, however the general tendency will be of a head-crosswind in the first and a tail-crosswind in the second.  

Breakaway chances: 70% 

Virtually every mountain stage has been won by a breakaway and this should be no exception. Although the GC is likely to blow up in the final climbs, the stage will only be won by a GC rider if at least one team commits to controlling the gap. That has not been seen so far, and there are few reasons to believe that tomorrow it will change.  

The Favourites 

The GC fight will be the main component of the day. The big question lies on Remco Evenepoel and if he can keep his best legs another day. This set of climbs will suit him well, however the gradients aren’t too high and in the last large summit finishes he has not been able to follow the best, leaving him at small risk of losing time if he doesn’t follow the right wheels. Nevertheless, with the absence of Roglic his mission is slightly easier now, but Enric Mas keeps showing strong form and will be testing the Belgian.  

The battles behind though are just as interesting at the time being, with Juan Ayuso now in podium position, and having Carlos Rodríguez, Miguel Angel López and João Almeida within the space of two minutes. Everyday breakaway can also win considerable time; Thymen Arensman, Rigoberto Uran and Ben O’Connor can directly threaten the podium positions if they manage to sneak into an early move.  

The win however should likely be in the breakaway once again. This is a day for the climbers, puncheurs and rouleurs are more unlikely to succeed this time around. Jan Polanc, Marc Soler, David de la Cruz, Richard Carapaz, Tao Geoghegan Hart, Mikel Landa, Thibaut Pinot, Jay Vine, Chris Harper, Mark Padun, Kenny Elissonde and Marco Brenner are in my eyes the main names to take into consideration.  

As most other stages it will be about the feeling in the day. There are names such as Carapaz and Landa who at their best are superior climbers to the rest, but form varies a lot between all riders, as does fatigue levels, and in the third week that becomes crucial to the result of all stages.  

Inside The Bus 

This morning I talk to… 

#168 Antonio Tiberi – Let’s give it a shot Antonio. We have to try and fight for the stage, so you and some of the other guys will try to get in the break, with some of our faster guys to help you get in front in what should be a fast start. The climbs will suit you, they are fast but long, try to save as much as possible for the final ascent and be wary of attacks – important to follow the wheels in this one.  

#167 Mads Pedersen – You’ve done your job Mads, no need to save energy here, just save your legs for the upcoming days.  

#226 Lukasz Owsian – We’re eyeing stage 19, so tomorrow try to keep your powder dry, so that we have as many cards as possible to play for in that day.  

Prediction Time 

⭐⭐⭐Pinot, Carapaz, Vine 

⭐⭐Evenepoel, Mas, De la Cruz, Polanc 

MA.Lopez, Almeida, Ayuso, Soler, Hart, Landa, Harper, Elissonde 

I have hinted him to win today and I will do again tomorrow. If Pinot was in the breakaway today he would’ve likely won seeing how he kept up with the GC group on the final climb. He absolutely has the form, just has to be in the right move. If he does, he will not be easy to beat tomorrow.  

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Rúben Silva

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