lunes, 19 de agosto de 2019

Noticiero El Big Picture del Deporte, Ciclismo: Cycling News, Opportunity knocks at Vuelta a España 2019 – Race preview

An open race

This doesn't mean that the 2019 Vuelta is going to be lacking in interest, however – not by a long shot. Rather, it makes this year's race a golden opportunity for new or new-ish faces to shine, for riders whose careers have never quite lived up to expectations to finally to make good, or for riders on the comeback trail to regain some much-needed momentum. Or, maybe, for Nairo Quintana to round off his time at Movistar by winning a long-awaited third Grand Tour.

  • Four years on at the Vuelta, the three teams that look, at least initially, most likely to dominate the overall battle are Jumbo-Visma, Mitchelton-Scott and Movistar.
  • Jumbo's line-up of Primoz Roglic and Steven Kruijswijk, with a solid line-up of lieutenants like George Bennett, Sepp Kuss, Tony Martin and Robert Gesink, could well make them the Vuelta's squad to beat. But Mitchelton-Scott have real strength in depth, too, headlined by Esteban Chaves and Mikel Nieve, whilst Movistar will be fielding no fewer than three Grand Tour champions: Giro d'Italia winner Richard Carapaz alongside defending world road race champion Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana.
  • After this year's tumultuous Tour, the expression 'trident of leaders' is probably banned from being used anywhere within a 50-yard radius of the Movistar team bus. But with three big names for the Vuelta, that remains one possible leadership strategy for the Spanish team, and quite how Movistar play their trump cards will arguably matter more this September than it did in July.
  • Astana's Grand Tour specialist Miguel Angel Lopez is sometimes inconsistent but never uninteresting as a racer.
  • Last but not least, there's Italy's perennial comeback kid-no-longer, 2015 Vuelta a España winner Fabio Aru at the head of UAE Team Emirates

Sprint battles

In the bunch sprints, the headline name is undoubtedly Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), presumably itching to put what has been an uneven and injury-blighted season so far on the straight and narrow in his first ever Vuelta a España. 

  • Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe), fresh from crushing the opposition with his three stage wins at the BinckBank Tour, will likely be Gaviria's most difficult rival in his own Vuelta debut, while Dutch national road race champion Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is another man to watch in the sprints.

Eight summit finishes

If the Vuelta's line-up looks very different to usual, the race route has maintained its signature feature of a seemingly unlimited supply of summit finishes, albeit reducing them from nine to eight from 2018 to 2019.

  • With no fewer than four of those summit finishes coming in the first nine days, it seems like a given that a climber will come to the GC-fore early on.
  • Stage five to Javalembre, with a single 12-kilometre-long climb after some approach roads through perpetually rolling terrain, may well see at least one or two GC contenders in trouble.
  • The first real crunch stage could be stage nine in Andorra – a 100-kilometre non-stop series of climbs ending in the brutally difficult Cortals d'Encamp.
  • The ascent of Los Machucos, on stage 13, is one of the most complicated climbs of northern Spain, both steep enough and long enough to do some real GC damage, as Chris Froome found to his cost in 2017.
  • Then there are two back-to-back summit finishes on stages 15 and 16 to El Acebo and Cubilla. El Acebo is regularly used in the Vuelta a Asturias stage race, but never before in the Vuelta, and it culminates what is probably the toughest single day of the entire race.
  • But the party ain't over even then, given that two more big days of climbing in week three could yet up-end the Vuelta GC yet again. On stage 18, the classic combination of Navacerrada, La Morcuera and Cotos in the sierras of Madrid represents a timely return to some of the best-known climbs from the Vueltas of the 1980s and 1990s. And stage 20 takes the Vuelta into the Sierras de Gredos in western Spain, where Bernard Hinault ripped the Vuelta apart in 1983 in what he would later describe as his hardest-ever Grand Tour win – and he took 10 of those.


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