Vuelta a Andalucia 2016 – Stage 5 Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Vuelta a Andalucia 2016 – Stage 5 Preview

By David Hunter

San Roque – Penas Blancas 171km

andalucía 5 a

As announced a couple of days ago, the final stage is not as previously advertised! Instead of climbing Penas Blancas once, the peloton now have to tackle it twice. They first climb it from the north, then descend into Estepona, before heading back up the road they just descended. Don’t worry, there should be enough time for all riders to get down the climb, before the front group start to climb it again!

andalucía 5 ok

It does make the stage, a very demanding day in the saddle. The riders now have to face 3 cat 1 climbs. The weather forecast is much better than it was a few days ago, it should stay dry but fairly cold up the top of the mountains.

The first climb is a monster! In total, it’s 19.3km at 3.8%, with the opening 10.7km at 5%. The next serious bit of climbing is the first ascent of Peñas Blancas, 15.4km at 5%. This is the easier side, so it’s doubtful that any of the big favourites will get dropped. What then awaits them, is the climb we all remember from the 2013 Vuelta.

peñas blancas 1

14.5km at 6.6% is a proper climb! Once you get over the initial shock of the climb, the final 9km is actually quite steady. It’s the length of the climb that eventually breaks the riders. In February, this is a serious test of a rider’s form.

The descent of the climb, is perfect for a team like Movistar. They will know the road very well and Valverde is always keen to put rivals under pressure. It would not surprise me to see Movistar attacking on the descent and making life uncomfortable for Van Garderen and co.

The American landed a big blow today. Winning his first TT in Europe came at just the right time. He was looking great in Murcia and he certainly has continued that form. He was my favourite for the title, before the race started, and I have no reason to question myself now. Not only is he looking good, so are his team. In, Bookwalter and Sanchez, he has two men that should last a long way into the final climb, quite a luxury to have. It’s not often that BMC have the best team in a race, but this is one of them!

Team Sky usually are the strongest, but Poels will only be able to count upon the help of Nieve, when the going gets tough. Poels was disappointing today, but this stage is a different story. His climbing in Valencia, was as good as I’ve ever seen him, if not better. He is 20 seconds down to the American, but that is nothing on a climb like this. The Dutchman will still believe he can win this title, despite what others will tell him!

And then there is Valverde. He lost 22 seconds to Van Garderen, only 2 to Poels. That was an excellent TT by him, the others should be worried. He won this race in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He didn’t ride here in 2015. Given his record in Andalucia, he is a massive threat. The Penas Blancas climb isn’t too hard, he can sometimes struggle on the “super” climbs. He was the first of the big riders home, back in the 2013 Vuelta. His team could be a little stronger, but he’ll get a lot of help from Ruben Fernandez and Dani Moreno, 2nd back in 2013!

Wilco Kelderman is only 2 seconds back from Van Garderen. He has looked good throughout the race and will hope to last the distance. I have to be honest, I don’t see him ending the race on the podium. I think the big 3 riders will get the better of him. The same can be said of Jerome Copppel. I think the podium spots will be filled by a Spaniard, American and Dutchman, but in what order?

I’l come back to that later! The breakaway does stand a chance, thanks to no bonus seconds on the finishing line. However, all the big teams came here to win this stage. I would expect to see a number of teams contribute to chasing down any break, you might even see teams trying to place a rider, high on GC, in the break. That would force BMC into chasing and hopefully using up a few of their team.

I expect a big performance from Tim Wellens. He’s been looking strong, clearly he’s had a good winter. As I have said before, this year is when he wants to turn into a Grand Tour GC rider. Doing well on this type of climb, will certainly help to convince any doubters! The cold weather won’t bother him either.

Prediction Time

Van Garderen v Poels v Valverde. It really is a fascinating battle. We have the American who has never won a stage race outside of his home country. A Dutchman who just won his first stage race last week. A Spaniard who has won this race three times, plus lots of others! Yes, Valverde might be 35 years old, but he is quality. I think Valverde will have enough to take the stage win, but not the overall. I don’t think he can make up 22 seconds to Van Garderen. After going close in the 2015 Dauphine, Van Garderen will take his first stage race title, outside of America.

David Hunter

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