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Vuelta Stage 18: Doom vs Fab, Cont'd

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There is no point in previewing stages for any other purpose other than trying to see which of two riders will win the Vuelta.

Calmer than you are
Calmer than you are
Jaime Reina, AFP/Getty

Stage 18: Roa - Riaza, 204km

Can I just take a minute to say what a privilege it is to be watching possibly the closest grand tour finish in history? Dumoulin and Aru aren't legendary stars (yet), but they are both fine young cyclists, turning themselves inside out day after day and delivering stunning, exciting performances. Just as Dumoulin has shocked the world with his gritty determination in limiting his climbing losses, so too has Aru shown the same strong mentality in both chasing down Purito Rodriguez the other day and in saving his chances in the final 10km of the Burgos time trial. I've been openly rooting for Aru, due to his heritage and more so to the fact that he and Majka are the only people who can save me from another disgraceful loss to Ursula in the Editors' League. But that's not Dumoulin's fault, and he would make a very worthy and inspiring winner if it comes to pass.

Stage Details

The race itself takes the Vuelta from Burgos over the border into Castilla y Leon, inching ever closer to Madrid. Transfers are shrunk down to manageable sizes. The mountains keep coming but in smaller portions too. They aren't likely to play a major role on this day.

st 18 profile

Your finishing climb is as follows:

Puerto de la Quesera

That's the Puerto de la Quesera, where whatever will be will be, of course. Obviously the main event is heavily influenced by a downhill finish of no small magnitude. Coming on the heels of so much hard work, the favorites are nearly certain to let go a breakaway. If you want to hazard a guess as to who will be in it, start with the bottom of the time trial results, eliminate anyone from Giant-Alpecin or Astana, and go from there. 204km is another long stage, even if the hard work is done at km 191.

Implications:

General Classification:

Vuelta red jersey

This is the entire purpose of doing stage previews now, so without further ado I give you... no changes. If Aru and company couldn't put Dumoulin away in the Picos de Europa, they won't have much chance of eliminating him up a mere 7% incline, with 13km of descending to close the gap. Of the four stages left, this and the final one are probably the least intriguing. Of course, when the number of seconds between the top two riders can be counted on the fingers of a sloth, anything can and may happen. But if Aru is plotting subterfuge, as he should be, he's probably thinking more about the next two stages.

Points Classification:

new Vuelta green

Now we're talking action. Purito (104 points) still leads one competition notwithstanding today's meltdown, but probably not for long. Dumoulin is in second place by a mere two points, which is interesting enough, but even more so is Alejandro Valverde two further points back, and poised to strike at any and all meaningless stage sprints following long climbs and descents. Doom has better things to do than fighting for green, but Valverde, the Green Bullet, does not. And if it's Purito vs Balaverde in a sprint, I'm afraid one of these guys has brought a knife to a gunfight.

Mountains Classification:

Vuelta KOM jersey

Done and dusted. Omar Fraile has this one salted away like an aging ham in a Castillian tavern. Overlooked in the mad GC battle was his unceasing pursuit of early KOM points on those mega-stages that dominated the last week, which is exactly how you go about winning this jersey. Congrats.

Combined Classification:

Vuelta white jersey

Purito still leads Dumoulin by a single point here, with Aru another five points adrift. So if he can continue doing whatever it is this jersey requires him to do, he should be OK.

Who'll win?

Definitely the field. From today's soft-pedalers come tomorrow's hardmen, and with that I'll say Blel "Cadrius" Kadri takes it over Pierre Rolland and Youcef Reguigui. No change on GC.