Stage 10: Real Monasterio De Santa María De Veruela -- Borja, 36.7km ITT
Yes yes... it's the one time trial of great significance of this soon-to-be-awesome Vuelta a España. Speaks for itself. But... what the hell is this thing?
The course appears to gain about 350 meters (net) in the first 11km, including a single rated climb to the Alto del Moncayo, gaining 150 meters in 2.2km, or roughly a 7% average ascent. The Moncayo Massif is a pretty impressive piece of rock, but the route here only goes a short way up one flank. I'm sure GuillermoJ can tell us all about the preferred approaches as well as the beer selection at the summit, but he's busy riding right now. Anyway, the race then goes down... and down and down. The entire course is a net altitude loser, though very gradually in a manner that suggests it's more of a false flat than anything else.
Who's It Favor?
A little dissection time... Let's start with last year's final ITT at the Tour, the Embrun-Chorges stage. It was 32km and a bit more climby, but not entirely dissimilar:
OK, well half-similar. Since that Tour featured pretty much all the same guys as this Vuelta, it's worth noting the stage results:
- Chris Froome
- Alberto Contador, at 0.09
- Joaquim Rodriguez, at 0.10
- Roman Kreuziger, at who cares
- Alejandro Valverde, at 0.30
- Nairo Quintana, at 1.11
A few points...
- Huh? Nairo running poorly on a climbing ITT? OK fine, but remember, he was supposedly just working for Valverde at that point. Yes, he had emerged as a great climber at Mont Ventoux, but he didn't become a star until the completion of the Alps phase, of which this time trial was the beginning. So in his case, the results are less conclusive... I just can't tell you whether he was going all out for himself that day. My guess is yes, and he's a bit slower in the discipline than the others, but improving. So yeah, don't count him out.
- Contador almost matching Froome... I think we can expect the first 11km to be a very tight battle among the top GC guys. Contador can do this part of it very well.
- Froome, meanwhile, hasn't lost many time trials, and hasn't finished lower than third since the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico crono, well before he would have been at anything resembling his peak. Froome is great at pounding out a pace. A slight downhill pace? I'm sure he can manage. BUT! If powerful tempo is his advantage, this course may dilute his strength a bit. I don't want to overreact to the profile; my guess is that it mostly plays like a flat course. But losing 600 meters is a lot.
So who wins?
I'm sticking with Froome, but not by a large enough amount to matter. My guess is he is not first at the time check that they damn well better place atop the Alto del Moncayo, but he makes up time. Nairo loses the jersey to Contador... but again, just by seconds. None of this will matter much in another ten days.