Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013 Vuelta A España Race Preview


The final weeks of summer are upon us, and that means it is time for the third and final Grand Tour of the season. The 2013 Vuelta a España arrives to fill up those last weeks of summer with the promise of 21 stages of thrilling racing filled with mountains, mountains, mountains. The route of this 68th edition of the race is similar to last year’s, with plenty of uphill finishes for the climbers, and just one individual time trial of 38k—and it includes some climbing.

The Pro Tour’s top climbers will come out to try and capitalize on the favorable parcours. This is not a race like the Tour de France, where excellent time trial skills are required for GC contenders. This tour favors pure climbers. Along the 3359-kilometer route the riders will travel counter-clockwise around Spain from Galicia to Madrid. Forays into Andorra and France will showcase some of the challenging mountains the riders must conquer.


Valverde, Rodriguez and Nibali lead the list of favorites
Top overall contenders for the general classification include: Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Domenico Pozzovivo, Carlos Betancur, Sammy Sanchez, Dan Martin, Michele Scarponi, Sergio Henao, Chris Horner, Roman Kreuziger, Rafal Majka, Bauke Mollema, Laurens Ten Dam, Ivan Basso, and more.


The mountainous race route gives short shrift to the sprinters with just six or seven stages looking like viable sprint finishes. Accordingly the sprinters’ field is relatively slim. I am looking at Gianni Meersman, Tyler Farrar, Michael Matthews, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Maximiliano Richeze, Greg Henderson, Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg, Theo Bos, Daniele Ratto, Daniel Schorn, Juan Antonio Flecha, Barry Markus, Andrew Fenn, Geoffrey Soupe and Leigh Howard--and a few others.


Of course, Philippe Gilbert will be on hand hunting a stage win or two. He is one of several Classics-type riders who will like the punchy, short uphill finishes that winnow out the flat sprinters. Look for the likes of Grega Bole, Bartosz Huzarski, Thomas De Gendt, Simon Gerrans, Zdenek Stybar, Angel Vicioso, Anthony Roux, Maxim Iglinskiy, Luis Leon Sanchez, Andrey Grivko, Rinaldo Nocentini and Domenico Pozzovivo-among many others--to go hunting for stage wins.

Some riders will be focused on reaching top form for the World Championship races in September. Don’t be surprised if a few of the GC candidates, time trial specialists, sprinters and strong one-day racers seem to underperform, or drop out before Madrid. The Vuelta is not everybody’s primary goal.


In an effort to cover more areas of the country (last year’s edition stayed primarily in northern Spain), the race organizers have had to include some long transfers for the participants. The two rest days will bring some relief after stages 10 and 16--the latter coming after three difficult stages in the Pyrenees.

The race begins with the 27.4k team time trial, which should establish some GC time splits right off the bat. Stage 2 features the first mountaintop finish on the category-1 Monte da Groba, so the overall contenders will need to come to the race already in good form. As usual, the toughest stages are saved for the final week, before the final bunch sprint into Madrid.

On paper, stages 14 and 15 look like the hardest of the race, but the penultimate stage finishes atop the brutal “Beast of Asturias”, the notoriously steep Angliru, and it could prove to be decisive.

13 mountain stages are listed in the official guide. Twelve are uphill finales.
I see nine mountaintop finishes, and three or four smaller uphill finishes.

Six or seven stages are left for the sprinters.

A few stages may be won by breakaways, but among them I would guess that stages 9 and 19 offer the best chances for a successful escape.

The uphill finishes are:

August 25, 2013
Stage 2 – Pontevedra – Baiona. Alto do Monte da Groba
August 26, 2013
Stage 3 – Vigo – Mirador de Lobeira / Vilagarcía de Arousa
August 31, 2013
Stage 8 - Jerez de la Frontera - Estepona. Alto de Peñas
September 1, 2013
Stage 9 – Antequera – Valdepeñas de Jaén
September 2, 2013
Stage 10 –Torredelcampo – Güéjar Sierra. Alto de Hazallanas
September 7, 2013
Stage 14 – Bagà - Andorra. Collada de la Gallina
September 8, 2013
Stage 15 – Andorra - Peyragudes
September 9, 2013
Stage 16 - Graus – Sallent de Gállego. Aramón Formigal
September 12, 2013
Stage 18 - Burgos - Peña Cabarga
September 13, 2013
Stage 19 - San Vicente de la Barquera - Oviedo. Alto del
September 14, 2013
Stage 20 - Avilés - Alto de L’Angliru

Some of the tougher stage profiles:

Stage 10

Stage 14

Stage 15

Stage 20


The Jerseys
Time Bonuses are available at the finish lines on all stages except for the two time trials. The time bonuses are 10, 6, and 4 seconds respectively, for the first three stage finishers. Time bonuses are also given out at the intermediate sprint points: 3, 2, and 1-second bonuses for first through third.

The points jersey contenders will receive points for top-15 stage finish positions and intermediate sprints as follows:

Stage finish position:
1st            25 points
2nd            20
3rd            16
4th            14
5th            12
6th            10
7th            9
8th            8
9th            7
10th            6
11th            5
12th            4
13th            3
14th            2
15th            1

Intermediate sprints:
1st            4 points
2nd            2
3rd            1

The climbers’ jersey competition awards KOM points for the 39 categorized climbs, according to finishing position, as follows:

[Highest climb of the race—comes on stage 14]

1st   20 points
2nd   15 points
3rd   10 points
4th   6 points
5th   4 points
6th   2 points

  [Above Category]
1st  15 points
2nd  10 points
3rd   6 points
4th   4 points
5th   2 points

1st   10 points
2nd   6 points
3rd   4 points
4th   2 points
5th   1 point

1st   5 points
2nd   3 points
3rd   1 point

1st   3 points
2nd   2 points
3rd   1 point

I will post regular updates throughout the race, so keep coming back!
I will also post my picks around the time the race begins.
Enjoy the race, and please feel free to hit me with any comments or questions.

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