La Vuelta (st. 15)
José Joaquín spends long time into early, unsuccessful break, then gets in the mix at bunch sprint after six hours of racing, in rainy, cold, windy conditions.
/ Today’s route
One of those days which, considering its characteristics, could mean everything in the race – or just be not as decisive. A marathon stage, the longest in the event, over 230km from Mos to Puebla de Sanabria, with up to five categorized climbs -the last of which, the Alto de Padornelo, would be completed with 18km to go- and lots of little ascents.
/ Weather report
Strong headwinds from the east -a sustained 25-30kph- made the race organisers anticipate the start of the stage by half an hour (a rare 10.05am, La Vuelta used to see the peloton rolling together even after 1pm). Unfortunately, the riders didn’t avoid the rain this time, falling over the route during the second half of the stage. Temperatures ranged between 8ºC at the ascents near Sanabria and the 18ºC at the start. And to make things even harder, there was some fog at the top of the final climb.
/ Keys to the race
- It took again so long to consolidate an early break, with lots of moves in the initial flat section (42km were covered into the first hour of racing, despite the block headwind) and a 10-man attempt finally opening a gap after the climb of San Amaro (Cat-3), 60km from the start. José Joaquín Rojas joined a move which both the Murcian and yesterday’s protagonist Marc Soler tried to make. Alongside ‘Rojillas’ where Cattaneo (DQT), Schultz, Stannard (MTS), Sánchez, Aranburu (AST), Power, Donovan (SUN), Costa (UAD) and the eve’s stage winner, Tim Wellens (LTS).
- Jumbo-Visma and Bora-Hansgrohe, in the early stages, and Trek-Segafredo, at the second half of the stage, kept the bunch under control and reduced the gap of a break which got to a maximum 6′. The wear and tear as a result of the headwind and the incoming rain took its toll into a breakaway which ended its ordely cooperation at Lubián, about 30km before the end, with several attacks that also saw Rojas trying to get alone in the lead. Cattaneo would end up opening a crucial -yet eventually not winning- gap over a break which was caught, José Joaquín included, at the Padornelo downhill, with 11km left.
- As Cattaneo was also caught near the end, the stage came down to an unexpected sprint, a finish less dangerous than normal due to the selection in the field and also to the fact that the GC times were taken with 3km to go, as the jury had to make a section narrower due to an oil spill near the finish. Philipsen (UAD) won as Rojas, despite his long break, got himself a very nice 11th place. The GC remained intact, with Mas in 5th and Valverde in 8th.
/ Upcoming goals
Only three stages remaining in La Vuelta – and in the 2020 season (which will see its final women’s event, La Vuelta Challenge, kick off on Friday, too). The men’s race will travel to the rural Extremadura area of Las Hurdes during the 162km stage 16 between Salamanca and Ciudad Rodrigo, which features the ascents to El Portillo (Cat-2) and El Robledo (Cat-1). The latter will be crested with 36km left, though some little hills will be placed after its descent. Another interesting day for the GC contenders…
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport