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Vuelta Stage 10: Back To School Day

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Sprinters look to teach each other a lesson they’ll remember

Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Stage 10: Salamanca VIII Centenario Universidad de Salamanca — Fermoselle/Bermillo de Sagayo, 177km

Welp, the party is over. In the US, another Labor Day holiday is behind us (or about to be), and it’s time to get serious about life again, as we do each fall. Somehow our school schedule led us to see this process as a sort of vocational rebirth, where students start a new grade and the rest of us stop messing around, for a few months at least. Spring was the actual rebirth, of course, but we were too busy messing around and/or studying to notice. So we begin in September instead.

Fall means a lot of things. Unfortunately one of those meanings is where you fall off your bike, so in recognition of cycling superstitions we have also coined the name autumn. And Autumn doesn’t start for a few more weeks. But it’s coming soon, which I know because my tomatoes look great and I officially can’t eat any more zucchini. And because my kids are going back to school Tuesday, it feels like everything is different now.

How that relates to the Vuelta a España is difficult to say exactly, but they too are resting today, in the city of Salamanca, and will start a new cycle of their own tomorrow. One that goes on for a full six days, before another rest. Which seems like not much of a cycle. We will get to that later.

What’s It About?

The tenth stage from Salamanca to Fermoselle is about two things: sprinting, and recovery. And long names. In fact, I think the name of the stage, by the time they’ve added in all the pertinent details, is longer than the stage itself. A mere 177km in the saddle, under not-that-sunny skies and moderate temperatures, is what the race will come back to, a nice smooth reentry into the madness of professional three-week stage racing.

Course Details

Mappa:

Vuelta stage 10

Profile:

Vuelta st 10 profile

This is pretty flat country. Like most stages, they make a beeline from a charismatic village or small city to a stunning national park, past a hydroelectric dam and reservoir, before eventually stopping in another charismatic village or small city. There is a rated climb, the Alto de Fermoselle, but from the profile you can see that it’s really just the climb out of a chasm that the peloton will have fallen into, and maybe if they are carrying enough speed they can just jump over it and not have to climb at all. If there were a rider’s union, they could probably lobby the Vuelta into building a nice big ramp outside Trabanca for this purpose.

Did You Know?

This stage will be the first in cycling history to start from a temporal concept rather than an actual place. The starting point is described as the 800th anniversary of the Universidad de Salamanca. For logistical purposes, the riders will be asked to transport themselves to the university grounds, but while the details are hazy, they will somehow be transported to a place called the 800-year anniversary.

This could get very interesting. First of all, physical manifestations of time are always tricky, even worse than Dutch road furniture. It’s one thing to fall over a block of cement you didn’t anticipate, but it’s another thing entirely to fall into a rip in the time-space continuum. Then there is the cosplay. I am not sure how all 800 years will be represented at the start, but somehow the founding of the Universidad de Salamanca happened in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition. My guess is that once the day’s breakaway is formed, they will be outfitted as Muslims and Jews fleeing the country, while Team Sky sit on the front of the pack, in hot pursuit, holding a giant cross. This is how you spice up a flat stage of the Vuelta on a Tuesday. Personally I’ll be rooting for the breakaway. If they do get caught, all I can say for sure is that the race will take a lot longer while they pretend to burn Thomas De Gendt at the stake.

Whom Does it Favor?

The sprinters, whoever they are. We’ve had two sprint stages, the internet tells me (I was offline), and the winners were Elia Viviani and Nacer Bouhanni. The former is a good bet on such a stage, while the latter has surpassed all forecasts for how long he’d stay in the race. World Champion Peter Sagan is around too, honing his form for his annual Rainbow Ambush, and when the rest of the teams proceed to round up the usual suspects, we will be talking about Giacomo Nizzolo, Simone Consonni, Michael Morkov, Danny van Poppel, and Matteo Trentin. So one of those guys, as long as they don’t fall into the chasm by Formoselle.

Pick to Win

Elia Viviani. Nowadays, Cycling is nothing if not completely repetitive.