SSSRSSP has gone to Italy, France, and Belgium. While the rest of the cycling world is focused on Belgium this week, we’re taking a trip to Spain and can add an extra “S” to the name. Welcome to Shawn’s Shit Small Spanish Race Shit Small Preview.
Often times races named after riders have very little relation to the titular cyclist. You’ve got the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race *FN 1 (usually won by a sprinter), the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali (short stages, no climbs, and no cigarettes?) the Memorial Marco Pantani (Italian SSR sprinter territory), the Davide Rebellin Young Guns Challenge, the Bo Hamburger, Taco Van der Hoorn, and Davide Malacarne Vegan-Olympics, and the Odd Christian Eiking Totally Normal and Secular Road Race. *FN 2
The Gran Premio Miguel Indurain defies that trend. Miguel Indurain is much like his eponymous race-- not flashy, but reliably good. Big Mig was a Spanish superstar on the road but famously publicity shy. A Spanish journalist once reportedly said of Indurain, “I wonder if his wife knows who this man is who sleeps beside her.” When Big Mig’s official biographer, Alisdair Fotheringham, had to put together ten “interesting” facts about him for the publisher and he included that Indurain was nicknamed “Torpedo” in school due his love of submarine sandwiches and that he is a “very good card player,” you know you’re not dealing with a Sagan-esque personality.
So rather than writing some extraneous shite about the race history, since, like Big Mig, there is not much interesting to report besides the racing, *FN 3 let’s get right to the race itself.
Shit Small Spanish History
This will be the 20th edition of the GP Big Mig since this race turned professional. Twelve of those twenty editions have been won by Spaniards, with many of the current or recently-retired Spanish stars having added this race to their palmares-- Valverde, Purito, Sami Sanchez, Dani Moreno, and Ion Izagirre having won recently. Last year the race was won by the perfectly-acceptable Yates-- Simon.
Shit Small Spanish Course
Here’s the profile of the race:
The first half of the race is generally flat (well, at least “flat” for Spain). The second half of the race is a constant up and down.
The finish of the race has changed this year-- ending on the flat Inmaculada boulevard. In the previous editions it has finished on the muur-like 900 meter climb to the Basilica de el Puy. This year, the riders will climb up to the Puy from another direction about 2 km from the finish and then make a dangerous, steep, and twisty descent to the free-of-sin finish. (The descent is so dangerous that the organizer, the Club Ciclista Estella, had to put a warning in both Spanish (“descenso peligroso”) and French (“descente dangereuse”) in the road book. Hopefully Simon Yates has boned up on his foreign language skills, as there is no English warning). The final 15 kilometers look like this on profile, including the Eraul climb (3.7 km at 6%), the unclassified Alto de Muru, and the Alto de Iberra.
That last uphill and downhill section will look something like this, but since the organizers decided, in very Spanish fashion, that it was not important to include street names in the road book, this is only an approximation:
Shit Small Spanish Contenders
Do you remember 1998? For me personally, that was the year I graduated high school. That was the year that Bill Clinton argued he did not lie about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky based on what the definition of “is” is. That was also the year that Google was founded. The big movie releases were Titanic and Saving Private Ryan. Britney Spears and ‘N Sync released their first singles in 1998. Prince’s “Party Like It’s 1999” could still be sung in the future tense.
Also in 1998, Francisco Mancebo won the first professional edition of this race. Guess who’s riding this race 20 years later? No silly, it’s not Jesse “The Body” Ventura, who was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998. It’s Paco Blood Bags himself, going for unprecedented victories in a race 20 years apart.
But really this race is going to be decided by the World Tour teams. Last year, the top 11 riders were all from WT teams and 18 of the top 20 were WT teams. There were 5 WT teams last year while there are only 3 this year.
The outcome of this race turns on whether Alejandro Valverde decides he wants to become a León de Flanders. He’s currently on the startlist for GP Big Mig, and if he does not stay in Belgium, he’s the top contender. Movistar will be bringing Nairo Quintana, Winner Anacona, and 2 Carlos Bs to support him.
Valverde’s biggest competition will be Simon Yates, who won this race last year and looks in top form right now. Mitchelton-Scott have the strongest team in this race-- with Robert Power, Jack Haig, Carlos Verona, and Mike Nieve to support Yates.
Katusha are still a World Tour team in name. They are bringing former winner Simon Spilak, Ilnur Zakarin, and Nathan Haas. Neither Spilak nor Zakarin has looked on great form yet this season. Haas has looked better, but is one of the most frustratingly inconsistent riders in the peloton (and luckily I was not lured in by his 5th place Oman siren call to pick him in vds).
Direct Energie brings a merry band of ball handlers with Lilian Calmejane as their protected rider.
Other than that, Mauro Finetto may be able to get a decent placing for Delko Marseille Provence KTM. He was 5th in GP Industria & Artichokes. Euskadi rider Garikoitz Bravo was one of the two non-WT riders that had a top 20 finish (14th) last year.
SHIT SMALL SPANISH PREDICTIONS
This is a Valverde vs. Yates showdown. But let’s assume that the big boys are busy marking each other and some of the WT team helpers get away. I’ll go with a podium of:
1. Robert Power
2. Lilian Calmejane
3. Carlos Betancur
1 Which, thanks to Larrick, I now know is named after the “Great Ocean Road” and that the “Great” is not a superlative placed upon the race by Cuddles.
2 Totally cribbed from one of the best vds team names-- calvini’s Totally Normal Christian Eiking.
3 There is a common thread of many of the winners of this race regarding something that we do not discuss in live threads on this site. Simon Yates, Angel Vicioso, Alejandro Valverde, Simon Spilak, Samuel Sanchez, Matthias Kessler, Francisco Mancebo, and Stefano Garzelli have all won in the past. And Big Mig had the original salbutamol positive back in 1994. But we’ll leave that topic for another time.