La Vuelta (st. 3)
Despite losing a handful of seconds against top GC contenders, Spaniard from Movistar Team climbs up to 4th overall, 32″ behind Roglic (TJV). Soler -now 9th, despite a late bike change-, Valverde (11th) still in contention.
/ Today’s route
The 2020 La Vuelta leaves Navarra and heads into the region of Castilla y León, which will visit at all three weeks of the race. Thursday’s stage three route went through the Soria province, over 166km starting in Lodosa and heading towards a mountain-top finish never used in the race: Laguna Negra de Vinuesa (Cat-1), over 8.6km at 5.8%. There would be only one categorized climb before that: the Alto de Oncala (Cat-3).
/ Weather report
Temperatures were cooler and wind didn’t affect the peloton as much as they did on Wednesday, with 13-14ºC after the Oncala climb and southwesterly gusts of 20-35kph. Just like in the San Miguel de Aralar climb yesterday, there was a slight chance of rain in the second part of the race.
/ Keys to the race
- After two opening stages where even establishing an early break was a stressful task, it went from the bang on Thursday, with five riders quickly opening a gap: Bagües (CJR), Smit (BBH), Donovan (SUN), Terpstra (TDE) and Van der Sande (LTS). Race leader Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma squad behaved as they did on Tuesday, keeping the leaders around four minutes ahead of the main peloton.
- Against the strong winds, several teams took to the front to reduce the gaps and gain some positions before the finale. Other than INEOS or EF Pro Cycling, which pulled at several points of the stage and contributed to catch the first break, Movistar Team covered Mas, Valverde and Soler with the work from Arcas, Verona, Oliveira, Rojas and Erviti. Their rhythm involuntarily brought back the early break and kept them in a good place before the second one -Ferron, Ourselin (TDE), Sáez (CJR) y Madrazo (BBH)-, was caught with the climb already started.
- At the foot of the ascent, with 9km from the finish, Marc Soler suffered an ill-timed mechanical incident which forced him to change bikes with Imanol Erviti. The Catalan was able, though, to bridge back and finish close (15th, +45″) to a first group of about ten riders, which only split at the final rush. Enric Mas, who even tried to make his move with 2km to go, finished in 6th place, 9″ down on winner Dan Martin (ISN), and sits in 4th overall, behind Roglic (TJV), Martin and Carapaz (IGD). Soler no wranks 9th, with Valverde, who conceded nearly a minute at the finish, remaining in 11th place.
Enric Mas: “I’ve felt really well, though I missed a little bit of punch at the end. It wasn’t a climb that really suited me, it was more of a steady ascent that got harder because of the pace we were riding at. I think there will be many climbs better for my characteristics in the upcoming weeks. I’ve also lacked that explosivity, that final spark I usually take a bit longer to find after the first week of Grand Tours. All in all, I’m happy with the result; it was a fast climb, with plenty of attacks into the last kilometers, and I was able to react well, so I feel OK about today.
“It was sad to see Marc suffering that puncture just before the climb – he was so unlucky. I think other riders, such as Chaves, suffered those mechanicals during the climb, so it’s just things which can happen. Let’s cross fingers none of us in the team come across those problems again during the race. Tomorrow? Yes, we know it will be a stage where the crosswinds could play a factor, though we don’t have the exact forecast now. There’s some teams in the peloton who do well at such stages, so we must race fully focused tomorrow.”
/ Upcoming goals
After three mountainous stages, La Vuelta will enjoy a first chance for the sprinters on Friday – or maybe not. The factor most feared by the riders in the 192km route from Garray to Ejea de los Caballeros, almost entirely on Aragón roads, will be the crosswinds. It has recently become a feature of La Vuelta, torn into several echelons at this or that stage – will it happen again tomorrow?
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport