A long stage in prospect for Friday, as the riders head 198km north-ish to position themselves for a weekend in the mountains. More surprisingly, there are no big lumps in the last 50km, meaning the sprinters... well, we’ll get to that. Anyway, strap in for a transition stage!
What’s it all about?
As I say, it is about getting to the right place - in this case, the environs of Seville - to set up for a weekend extravaganza through the mountains of Spain. The profile above tells a good picture of the stage - not too many hills, and those that do exist are early. If we were in France, we’d be thinking sprint. There’s just two problems with that. The first is that this is the Vuelta, and any self-respecting sprinter is somewhere else. The second? Well, look closely at the map. Do you see that lump at the end? That’s ASO getting all Vuelta on the peloton. Here, let me blow it up for you.
Nothing earth shattering, but enough of a bump to change things. For those of you who haven’t seen a Vuelta before, you’re probably thinking “that’s not too bad. At least in a suburb they’ll be on wide, straight roads without any obstacles.” Not so much.
Yeah, a roundabout, 90 degree bend and two more roundabouts in the last 1100m. Chuck in 36 degree heat and no forecast wind, after 198km (and 12 other stages) and you’ve got a sprint for the tough. Unless, of course, the break stays away. That’s always a possibility and there aren’t too many teams who’ll chase down a non-threatening break. On balance, though, I think this stage is too long, too hot, and too flat for them to stay clear.
Did you know?
Seville is somewhere I desperately want to go. Tapas, riverside walks, extraordinary history, a bit of late summer sun as Edinburgh comes over all autumnal... bliss. The fact is, you probably do know about Columbus’ tomb, and the Alcazar, and all that flamenco. Thinking more laterally... Seville oranges! You get them in marmalade, and that moves us back to Dundee, and things I know about.
You might not know that marmalade derives it’s name from Portuguese (as does vindaloo) in this case from “marmelo”, a quince paste. You probably know that James Bond, Paddington Bear, and several non-fictional people enjoy eating it. You definitely don’t know that, every Christmas, one of our house-guests used to put marmalade in his porridge, and my dad would seethe. You don’t need to know that to enjoy this stage, but I think it brings a bittersweet accompaniment, much like marmalade itself.
Pick to win
I’d have gone with Degenkolb, but in his absence I could see Adam Blythe springing a semi-surprise. This is the sort of finish he’ll enjoy and he’s riding well this year. It’d be the biggest win of his career and, after the Aqua Blue bus was destroyed in a fire on Wednesday night, it’d be great for the team, too.