Euskal Herriko 57. Itzulia
57th Vuelta al País Vasco
|2016 || CONTADOR Alberto|
|2015 || RODRíGUEZ Joaquim|
|2014 || CONTADOR Alberto|
|2013 || QUINTANA Nairo|
|2012 || SÁNCHEZ Samuel|
|2011 || KLÖDEN Andréas|
|2010 || HORNER Chris|
|2009 || CONTADOR Alberto|
|2008 || CONTADOR Alberto|
|2007 || COBO Juan Jose|
Top-10 previous edition:
|2||HENAO Sergio Luis||0:12|
1. Iruñea / Eguesibar-Sarriguren
First stage of this edition will start at the capital city of Navarre, Pamplona. With few difficulties, riders will have to climb 2nd category Erro twice and 3rd category climb Mezkiriz will follow after on. Considering they will still have 60 kms to finish, winner could be decided among fastest riders of the bunch. Last 3 kms in Eguesibar are very flat, only point to pay attention to is a 90 degrees bend when 300 metres left.Not a very interesting stage to start off with, start and finish in Pamplona, some climbs in the first part of the stage but it should end in a sprint. A couple of roundabouts and a sharp corner in the final km which could be tricky if wet, but normally this is an uneventful stage for the GC contenders.
2. Iruñea / Eltziego
Stage will start with a hard climb, Etxauri, 16 kms from the start. Riders will continue to Araba province later and next climb will be at km. 112, la Aldea, in a short get in and out to Navarre, but 60 kms yet to the finish line. However, stage hunters could have their chances attacking in some small hills or taking advantage of wind or bad weather conditions, as they could influence last kms. In case a big bunch arrives to Eltziego, we could see a very fast sprint, as last 3 kms are slightly downhill.The final of this stage looks a bit tricky but none of the hills are categorized and rightfully so, I've mapped the final 30kms and most of it is false flat. It is an opportunity for a stage hunter though, the lumpy terrain could be good to stay ahead of the peloton, but the roads are long and straight which is a disadvantage. Probably, we will see another sprint.
3. Gasteiz / Donostia (San Sebastian)
Stage between Gasteiz and Donostia is a hilly one. 6 hills in total, without rest in last 100 kms. From Udana to Mandubia and heading Santa Ageda after on (definitely, hardest climb of the day), strongest riders have enough terrain to start a break in first 3 climbs. Anyway, stage will probably decide during the climb and long descent of Andazarrate and climbing last hill of the day Mendizorrotz. Once they climb it, they have some false flat kms until they start downhill in Igeldo. We know that a few seconds difference in Igeldo can be enough to win in the finish line of the Boulevard.Interesting stage design, plenty of hills, but looking at the details it seems the climbs aren't too difficult. Andazarrate, the penultimate climb, is very gradual, 5.5km at 5.7%, with no really steep sections. The steepest part comes near the end though, with a gradient of 6.2% between km 4 and 5 and 7.8% average between km 4.0 and 4.5. This could be a launching pad for an attack.
I can't really find accurate data for the last climb, I've seen multiple profiles but the profiles from altimetrias.net are usually very good so let's go with that one. We have to ignore the final 700m on the profile though because the race doesn't go up that final stretch but continues along the road towards Igeldo. As you can see, the first part of the climb is the hardest, while the 2nd part is rather easy. On the official stage profile it doesn't look that way, but it seems there is quite a bit of false flat after the top, about 2 to 3 km, after which there's a rapid descent into San Sebastian. There is some flat at the end of the descent, around 3km. Interesting comment by the organizers in the official stage description "We know that a few seconds difference in Igeldo can be enough to win in the finish line of the Boulevard." Igeldo is around halfway through the descent, at the last point-of-interest mark on the profile. Maybe we will see the stage play out in a way similar to stage 1 of the 2014 Vuelta al Pais Vasco, when Alberto Contador had a 15 second gap to Alejandro Valverde at the top of the final climb with 7km to go and maintained that gap until the line, but the climb was tougher than it is here. The stage is definitely hard enough to cause a selection but I think we will see a sprint with a select group or a breakaway win.
4. Donostia / Bilbao
Riders will cross basque coastline from Donostia to Bilbao in this stage. Apparently quite flat with no mountain passes during first kms, road is more hilly than it seems. Orio, Itziar or Ereño hills, for example, won´t give riders any points, but will make them start suffering before climbing Sollube and Bibero. Both climbs have an average slope bigger than 8%, and winner will probably be one of the riders that shows his strength in the last climb before arriving to Gran Via avenue in Bilbao.Another interesting stage. The final climb before the finish is just over 4km long and has an average gradient of 7.8%. It is not the toughest climb and attackers could be discouraged by the 14km still ahead, of which 5 flat kilometers, but we will likely see some attacks here which will thin out the group. The scenario could be the same as in the previous stage, sprint from a select group or a breakaway/late attack.
5. Bilbao / Eibar
This stage starting in Bilbao will be the hardest or the most mountainous of the race. Already a classical stage, as it ends in Arrate sanctuary, will have a not so known finish this year. After climbing twice the typical Izua pass, stage will finish climbing Usartza from Matxaria. This climb has an average of 10%, so strongest climbers will show there to try to win the stage, but at the same time, to try to distance their opponents for the GC.The classic Eibar/Arrate stage, with a twist. We will see a different, harder side of the Arrate climb this year. This side, the Matsaria side, has 2 really steep km with a gradient of around 15%. The heavier riders will be dislodged here by the real climbers. It is important for those who get dropped on the steep part not to blow up, because in the final part of the stage some seconds can still be regained versus the featherweight riders. There is 2km false flat and almost a km of downhill at the summit. I think we will see the best climbers arrive in a small group of maybe 2 or 3, possibly divided by a couple seconds, but it's hard to know how this finish will play out because we usually see the easier Arrate side in the race.
6. Eibar / Eibar
As usual, Itzulia will end with an individual time trial stage. 27 kms in total, riders will need to warm up well as they start climbing Elgeta. After descending direction Bergara, they will turn to Osintxu and will go to Eibar again to Untzaga square, completing a circuit that really fits time trial specialists if they do not waste too much energy in first climb. But also suitable for those riders that have shown they are in very good shapeTo finish the race we have the usual hilly ITT. It's not as hilly as last year, there is a fair bit of flat terrain, and it's also quite a bit longer. The climb in the first part of the time trial is 6km long at 6.6%, followed by a not too technical 6km descent and around 15km of flat roads. The winner of this stage will have to be a good climber and a good TTer, whether it will be a TT specialist that can limit losses uphill or a climber that can be among the fastest on the flat section remains to be seen.
Overall, it seems this edition is not as tough as previous editions. With the relatively easy first four stages it seems like the GC battle could come down to the final 5 kilometers of stage 5 and the final TT. It's refreshing to see a different, more selective Arrate side, it will give the lightweight climbers a chance to gain sufficient time over the TT specialists before the long time trial.
:* :* :*
*es #movistar Alejandro Valverde
*es #trek Alberto Contador
These two appear to be the men to beat. The Arrate climb should suit them very well and they can both ride a great hilly TT. Normally I'd say the TT should suit Contador slightly better, but Valverde is in amazing shape as we saw in Catalunya and in Andalucia, although it was a shorter TT, he was really close to the win and beat Contador by a few seconds. In Catalunya we saw him drop Contador uphill, perhaps the same could happen here. Contador is usually slightly worse in Catalunya compared to Paris-Nice and Pais Vasco though, but Paris-Nice was extraordinarily hard this year so he may still be feeling it in his legs. I can't really say who is the bigger favorite, my head says Valverde, my heart Contador. I could see Valverde take around 10 to 15 seconds on Arrate, after which it will come down to the TT. As we know, these days Contador delivers a better performance uphill when he is fresh and can ride without worrying about others, so I expect a great performance from him here. He has yet to take his first win this year and this is the perfect opportunity, if he wins here he would become the sole record holder with 5 wins.
*si #lottonl Primoz Roglic
*co #sky Sergio Henao
*fr #quickstep Julian Alaphilippe
3 different types of riders. Roglic will inevitably lose time on Arrate, but could slaughter everyone in the final TT. Henao is the complete opposite: he could use the climb to limit the damage in the TT, but he will need a decent buffer to win the race. Alaphilippe is kind of in between the two, he should go better on Arrate than Roglic and better than Henao in the TT. Still, I feel these three will need a lot of things to go their way to win the race.
*si #katusha Simon Spilak
*es #bahrain Ion Izagirre
*pl #sky Michal Kwiatkowski
*fr #ag2r Romain Bardet
Spilak is a dangerous outsider in my opinion. He is always strong in this period and if the weather is bad, he gains 50 Watts. With a great TT he could win the whole thing. I couldn't give him two stars though, because it's always hard to predict how he will do. Izagirre should in theory find a parcours right up his alley, but he hasn't impressed me very much this season. Kwiatkowski will like the final TT but he looks heavier this year which will have an effect on his climbing performance. Bardet will probably lose too much time in the TT.