Escaldes -- Lleida, 173km
What does a grand tour peloton do after riding an historically hard stage? That's easy:
scream at motos climb more mountains ride as slowly as possible for as long as you can get away with it.
Yes, we've reached that magical moment in the Vuelta a Espana, where nobody gives a shit about anything right now. Which in turn leads to opportunism and possibly even an exciting stage for the fans. Life is beautiful in that way. And with that I give you... Vuelta stage 12. Profile:
This stage is actually the shortest in a week of pretty long (mass start) stages, topping out Saturday at 215km. The clime of the Coll de Boixols should do little to slow things down since the peloton will already be going slow, and the remaining unrated climbs will go by relatively unnoticed.
This constitutes the fun part of the stage -- a chance to dream about traveling in western Cataunya from Andorra. Pretty neat route, once they leave the highway. You could do worse things with a Vuelta stage.
None. They need sleep. Speaking of which, how sucky are this week's transfers? Tonight, right now, the riders are resting in Andorra rather than on a bus, but they took a long ride there over the rest day, and the next week includes six longish transfers in eight days. So if you think the Tour de France guys might perk up as the race drags on, think again. But hey, at least it's a bus tour of Spain. Could do worse.
Minimal, though you never know. The top five riders on points are all among the very top of the GC, so it'll be up to someone like Kristian Sbaragli or John Degenkolb to take up the battle. Which actually sounds somewhat likely.
Omar Fraile did a fine job of consolidating his lead today, pushing himself out to the point where he just needs to match wheels on occasion and the jersey is his. Fraile is up to 55 points (to Landa's 25), and while there are plenty of points left, particularly on uphill finishes where Fraile won't figure, until someone sneaks up on the Caja Rural man, he's golden. Or spotty. And if there is a competition lurking out there, it doesn't start on this day.
Whatever the hell this jersey is about, it's currently held by Dumoulin just ahead of Aru. Nothing to see here.
The threshold question is sprinter or field, meaning a random breakaway consisting of anyone we aren't picking to win a jersey. I'm going with the field. So that narrows it down to about 160 guys. I'll pick a guy from MTN (Berhane?), a Colombian (Rubiano), and... Maarten Wynants, Laurent Pichon and Marcel Aregger. Aregger gets the win with a cheeky acceleration in the final 800 meters. That specific enough for ya? Enjoy!