Stage 19: Xàbia - Calp 37KM
What's It About?
Not what it was meant to be about. This was supposed to be a chance to shake up the GC, to really give those who have been hanging on in the mountains a shot at the race win, before the final mountain stage. But Quintana's tactical and physical dominance turns it into a damp squib. It's a long enough time-trial, at 37 kilometres, but even Chris Froome isn't capable of pulling back close to enough time for the victory.
ChrisF's Dirt and Rock Pairings
Where we never take things for granite.
The stage leaves Xavia and enters the Montgo Mountain Range. The main part of the mountain range is formed by marine rocks that are between 90 and 35 million years old (between the Late Cretaceous Period and the Eocene Period). The rocks tell a long geological story of over 200 million years, when an ancient sea by the name of Tethys existed, a precursor to the current Mediterranean Sea. Marine sediments were deposited in this sea over several million years that, with time, became the current limestone rocks that make up the mountain ranges in the Marina region.
From the summits we can see the Plana de San Antonio, an extensive sea plain formed 5 to 2 million years ago (in the Pliocene Period). This large plateau ends in front of the sea with a marine cliff. The coastline has a cropped outline, featuring coves and promontories, among which the San Antonio Cape deserves a special mention: it is an incredible natural viewpoint (declared a Marine Reserve in 1993), from which the best views and most impressive cliffs and headlands can be seen.
The entire coastline covered by this stage is scored by numerous holes and caves, created by the dissolution of limestone rocks brought about by underground water and marine erosion. Important caves in the area include the Moraig Cave, the Cova dels Arcs and the Cova de Les Rates Penates (in Moraira), important both for its archaeological deposit with remains dating back to the Bronze Age and for being the most important bat refuge within the Autonomous Community of Valencia, with over 2000 specimens.
You know when there's a time trial in the Vuelta, but they spice it up with a pretty long and steep climb that'll mess things up a little. Yeah, this is like that, but without the spice. It's as close to flat as you're likely to get in Spain.
The race winds from Xabia to Calp in a southerly direction, meaning a moderate, but constant headwind throughout the day.
Whom Does it Favor
The guys you'd expect. There are two favourites for the stage, and fittingly they ride for Movistar and Sky. Jonathan Castroviejo has been a domestique for Quintana all race, but here's where he gets a chance to go for himself. He got fourth place in the Olympics, just behind Froome, and in a somewhat depleted field, may definitely be considered to be the best "pure" time-triallist in the race. His main competitor will indeed be Froome, but he's got to be struggling by this stage. In a Vuelta where he had notably similar form, 2014, he really struggled in the time trial, and I can definitely see that happening again. Fabio Felline (him again!) and Luis Leon Sanchez should hope for top placings as well.
Pick to Win
Castroviejo. It's a good month for Movistar.