Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Stage 11 Time Trial Preview 2013 Vuelta a España

"The old man" Horner in red again
Stage 10 of the Vuelta a España featured a steep summit finish where Radioshack’s Chris Horner earned his second stage win of the race, and reclaimed the red jersey of overall race leader as a bonus. To the other top GC contenders the American’s relentless attack with about 4.5k to go must have seemed too early to stick. It was not until almost 2k to go that Vincenzo Nibali responded with a move of his own to chase down the plucky American.

Nibali finished 48 seconds behind Horner, and :14 ahead of Valverde, Basso, Rodriguez and Pinot, with Nicolas Roche another eight seconds back. Daniel Moreno struggled on the climb, lost the race lead, and dropped down to 6th place.
Leopold Konig and Ivan Basso swapped places, Konig moved down from 7th to 11th place, and Basso up to 7th from 11th. The Italian Cannondale leader moving up as a result of the very good form he has been showing in the mountains.

You can see there was a lot more movement in the standings than after stage 9. Many riders made either significant advances or losses based on their performance on the final climb up the Alto de Hazallanas on Monday. Notably, beyond Horner moving into the lead, and the other “rearranging” of the top five, Thibaut Pinot of FDJ found the big climb to his liking, and he moved up ten spots to 8th place overall. His higher aspirations may find trouble next weekend however, with stages 14 and 15, as more descending will be on the menu—Pinot’s big weakness.

Maybe the good news that Spanish team Euskaltel Euskadi found a buyer in formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso, gave the riders some renewed pep (although reportedly the riders did not receive the good news until the end of the stage). The team can continue next season, albeit with a new name, home base, and probably new kits. The familiar bright orange Basque-based team saw Igor Anton, Sammy Sanchez and Mikel Nieve all finish inside the top 15, and move up significantly, into (or very near, in Anton’s case) the top 20. A good time trial on Wednesday could see Sanchez move up into the top 15, but a top 10 spot at this point looks to be a pretty tall order for the Spaniard.

Here is a table of the top 40 riders in the General Classification after stage 10. Again, the last column shows the number of places each rider has moved up or down in the standings since the previous stage.

Stage 11 on the map

One thing that I am enjoying in this last Grand Tour of 2013 is the conspicuous absence of a single dominant rider who lays waste to the entire peloton en route to a predictable blow-out win (see Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins at the last two Tours de France). It is very possible that this race may not be decided until the very last climb up the Angliru on stage 20.

Stage 11 Individual Time Trial:

Stage 11 profile

The stage-11 race route

After the first rest day and the long transfer north, the riders will take on the 38.8k individual time trial in Tarazona. The course basically has the riders climbing for the first half and descending for the second. The roads are not steep, but are inclined enough to favor the climbing time trial specialists like Stef Clement, Dario Cataldo and Marco Pinotti, over the flatter TT experts like Fabian Cancellara and Kristof Vandewalle.

The final 5k profile
Among the GC contenders for this “race of truth”, I expect to see Valverde and Nibali, as well as Konig, Majka, and Kangert outperform the purer climbers like Purito and Pozzovivo. But there is little question as to my pick for the win.

My pick to win the stage 11 TT: Tony Martin of OPQ.

My dark-horse pick is not so much a dark horse as a non-GC favorite: Dutchman Stef Clement of Team Belkin.

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