The Vuelta 2016

Bill Boddy

Professional layabout
The Vuelta a Espana is back with us again. It differs from the Giro d' Italia and the Tour de France in a number of ways, the most noticeable that there are very few stages for sprinters. This year there are ten stages out of thirty which finish with a climb, some very severe. Also this year the race started with a Team Time Trial which has resulted in a few oddities with the leader's jersey which in this case is red. There are nine riders per team, the same as the Giro d' Italia and the Tour de France. It is hard to call it a tour of Spain since almost all the stages are in the northern quarter of the country and one of the stages is almost totally in the Western Pyrenees.

The first stage took place last Saturday being the 28.7 Team Time Trial. The whole team starts, when they reach the finish the time is taken from the fifth rider of the team to cross the line; these five riders are given the same time. Any riders after the first five take their own finishing time. It had to happen, the strongest two teams, Sky and Movistar, both finished with a time of 30 minutes and 37 seconds, Sky being given the win from their fractions of a second; gap times are all 00.00 seconds so just what divided the two teams we simply do not know. The slowest of the 22 teams was Lampre Merida with 32 minutes 45 seconds, the slowest rider was Perrig Quemenuer at 6 minutes and 3 seconds, which leaves tightly backed bunches of riders sharing the same times. The Red Jersey was awarded to Peter Kennaugh.
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Day Two.

This started off with the Red Jersey being the only one in use. The stage was 160.8 km, from the off there were a number of attempts at gaining a lead which could be held on to but in the end they all failed. The bunch at the start of the final kilometre consisted in 158 riders but as ever the teams fought to get their sprinter in position for the the final metres; in this case the winner was Gianni Meersman of Etixx-Quickstep. The Red Jersey was taken over by Michal Kwiatkowski; a few kms from the end of the stage Peter Kennaugh asked Kwiatkowski if he would like to be in with a chance for the leader's jersey, an opportunity which he accepted; when it came to the final sprint Kennaugh led him out to finish in fourth position which raised sufficient points for Kwiatkowski to take over the lead despite their being on the same time as nine other riders.
Day Three.

The first of the stages to have a climb at the end. And what a climb, maximum 30%, short, sharp and nasty.

Early in the stage seven riders broke away on a very hot day which caused problems for the riders. The breakaway group had a number of breakups on the climbs which started about halfway through the stage. They splintered on both the main climbs but kept on reforming, eventually Geniez (FDJ), Serry (Etixx-QuckStep) and Pellaud (IAM Cycling) joined together in a group as the others fell back. The maximum lead of the breakaway had been over five minutes, with the tightness off the field they would have been the top three in the General Classification. SKY were as usual in charge of the peleton but with Tinkoff close behind. The breakaway was only being reeled in very slowly, by the start of the final climb they were still two minutes ahead with less than two kilometres to the finish.

But then they hit the climb. Movistar attacked immediately very quickly leaving Froome some eighteen or twenty seconds behind together with Contador. Meanwhile up at the front Geniez had gone for glory leaving Serry and Pellaud to fall back into the hands of the big names. Fernandez (Movistar) sprinted away from the Quintana (Movistar) and Valverdi (Movistar) in his wake (by the way "sprinted" is only relative, a better description might be "less slow"). The cameras were focussed on these two groups, Geniez held on to take the win by twenty one seconds from Fernandez followed at a further two seconds by Valverde, Froome and Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange), then two seconds later Quintana. Contador trailed in some fifty four seconds behind the winner. Serry came in twenty first at one minute twenty seven whilst Pellaud was thirty second at one minute thirty, this shows the viciousness of the climb.

Fernandez took over the leader's jersey, it seems that he had been rewarded for his hard work by being allowed to go ahead of Quintana.

After the stage Froome said that he had not been worried when he was dropped at the start of the climb as he knew he would catch the Movistar riders by the top. The odd one was Contador, his heart rate monitor showed that his heartbeat rate had reached two hundred and he was feeling very thirsty so he eased off for safety reasons. Apparently this can happen to riders when the circumstances just happen to dictate that this occurs. Maybe someone has the medical knowledge to explain what happens.
This is the top 5 as of today;

General classification after stage six:
1. Darwin Atapuma (Col/BMC) 21hrs 45mins 21secs
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +28secs
3 Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +32secs
4. Nairo Quintana (Col/Movistar) +38secs
5. Esteban Chaves (Col/Orica) same time

It seems Froome has positioned himself to win the Vuelta this year ...
It looks like this year's title will be a 2-horse race between Froome and Quintana from this stage on with Valverde having but the slightest chance to clinch it. I still think it's Froome advantage at this time. Will see how things pan out in a week or so.
Is this on Sky Sports ?

No eurosport or highlights on itv 4
Been meaning to post on here for a few days but not much GC has happened & work + motorsport f1 gp2 & btcc has got in way.

Last few days some fantastic toe to toe battles between quintana & froome. Nice to see quintana has refound his form & were getting the battles we were hoped for but was disappointed at tour de france
I as hoping to be able to post something each day but other things intruded. However, having said that we have only really had three days when anything of note has happened, in each case it has been the last fifteen or twenty minutes. This seems to be how it is nowadays, the peloton let a few lowly riders go and get anything up to ten minutes lead. They then usually hunt these riders down and may or may not get them. If it is one of the hilltop stages the riders have a ridiculously large lead 5 km from the summit and finish five minutes behind.

Meanwhile Quintana and Froome battle it out, followed by Valverde and maybe Contador. And that is it. Four hours of waiting for fifteen (if you are lucky) racing. Hopefully on Saturday and Sunday when they are in the mountains with multiple climbs someone will take a chance and go near the top of the second one and we could see a real fight. But I have the feeling that the teams are too strong for that and that the leaders will sit there until the last 3 minutes and then go.:(

SKY are not out for anything but a win for Froome, they don't even have a sprinter in the team. But they do have a team of riders who will fight to the last for the Froome win.

MOVISTAR are there for Quintana, or Valverde if necessary, they also want the team prize.

Contador is there in the hope one of the Tinkoff riders may turn into a climber who will nurse him as well as the above two teams nurse their leaders. He has also been hampered by a crash.

Leopold Konig of SKY has been showing very well, he seems to have taken over as the Senior Ward Nurse for Froome whilst Kennaugh has dropped a little to Senior Sister.
I forgot to add:

Katusha is one team which seems to be seen in nearly every shot and one whose riders seem willing to try anything. They deserve a mention for their efforts.
I could never be that lucky. I did apply for a Hyundai ticket to be in one of the lead cars for a day in the Tour of Britain though; unluckily my name didn't come out of the hat.
There were two things which SKY had to do.

1. Froome had to keep so close to Quintana that it looked like they were on a tandem.

2. The rest of the SKY team had to keep so close to Froome that it looked like they were all joined at the hip.

So what happened?

Froome fell asleep, when Contador attacked he took no notice and didn't seem to realise where either Quintana or his team were. The team seemed to be still rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. It is very difficult to see how Froome can win now, he needs his best time trial ever and his best mountain ride ever.

Somehow Nibali did it in the Giro but he was at the top of his form as a climber and the opposition was not as high quality.
I would have loved to have been in the sky bus after that stage. Collective ball dropping on a huge scale. For Froome to have no one with him is scandalous.
The ridiculous thing is that early on up the penultimate Froome was in a group at 2:45, i.e. from there to the finish he lost out by 5 seconds. Had he been awake to the break he would have been on the podium.
I cant believe Froome & his team fell asleep. Just assuming that because leaders usually stay let a breakaway go they could just ease in. But also this isn't a 1 off because quintana did this at giro d'italia few yrs ago & took 5 mins from uran
Incidentally something like 70% of the riders were slower than the 10% time limit and could have been excluded. The organisers found a rule which says that in extreme cases exclusions can be overriden. At most there would have only been 2 SKY riders left in.
They were too slow. If you finish in more that 110% of the winners time for the stage you get excluded. A bit like F1 qualifying but with more leeway.
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