Well the sprinting is done for the time being, and what a sprint it was to send us into the mountains. Sam Bennett’s old bugbear, positioning, came back to haunt him as he took the wrong route through a roundabout and was practically sprinting from a kilometre out to make up for it. Even so, he came within centimetres of stage winner Fabio Jakobson. Man of the match however was Max Richeze: the best leadout man in the world showed his credentials in pulling Jakobsen two bike lengths clear of the field before the sprint proper even started. Credit to Bennett though: even in defeat he proved how fast a sprinter he has become. Anyway, he will move from fighting for the win to fighting to survive on this, the race’s first summit finish.
The Vuelta is more than willing to give us a summit finish early, with stage five being even relatively late for the opener. The stage itself is classic Vuelta: a few tame enough climbs early on, saving most of the real hardship for the finish.
That finish? Not an easy one at all. The stage climbs to almost two thousand metres without making any kind of a fuss about it with an eleven kilometre climb at seven per cent. That figure doesn’t really tell the whole story though, the profile is much more instructive.
Really, it’s more like eight kilometres at eleven per cent which means it cannot avoid splitting the field into pieces with the big contenders coming to the fore. The stage doesn’t really look conducive to a breakaway win so we should see a real GC shakeup with the stage win at stake.
Nairo Quintana will take the red jersey if he can stay in the front group and given his stage win on Sunday he must be counted among the favourites. However, the best climber on the day will win this and for the sake of my sanity, that simply can’t be Nairo Quintana. Miguel Angel Lopez is the bookies’ favourite and it’s a sensible one but I don’t trust him to deliver after his Giro. Primoz Roglic suffered no apparent injury on Saturday and as I’ve said before, I think he’ll dominate this Vuelta. Therefore I reckon this stage is his. Tadej Pogacar will finish in the front group.