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Vuelta Stage 16 Preview: Don’t Stop Believin’

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And some people think dressing in lycra is embarrassing.....
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Pravia to Alto de la Cubilla. Lena (144.4 km)

Consider this a transition stage— from the Vuelta going from quintessential Vuelta with short and steep summit finishes to it turning into Tour-lite with the peloton taking on a final climb known as the Asturian Galibier. Even though the steep climbs are essentially finished for this Vuelta by the time the race reaches the final climb of this stage, it doesn’t mean that this stage or the rest of the Vuelta is easy. Still, with two minutes and twenty five seconds, Roglic’s lead looks insurmountable.

Le Etapa

El Perfil:

Vuelta Stage 16 Profile

The highlight of the stage is the final climb— the Alto De La Cubilla, aka the Mountain of the Bucket, aka the Asturian Galibier. It’s a climb with Alpine scenery and an Alpine feel, long and steady at 17.8 km at an average gradient of 6.2%. Let us not stop believin’, though, that someone will try a long range attack as the preceding climbs of Puerto de San Lorenzo and Alto de la Cobertoria could provide good springboards. The Alto de la Cobertoria in particular, which summits approximately 44.5 kilometers before the finish and offers 7.9 kilometers at 8.7% and then a gnarly descent with many kilometers over 10% would be a fine place to attack for any rider who has physical attributes similar to Ol’ Bessie from the Stage 13 preview.

The Cobertoria descent:

Descent of the Cobertoria

¿Quién Ganará?

To answer the question, let’s go with say..... Dylan Teuns. Now, let’s talk about the GC.

After a Stage 15 that showed no cracks in the leader, here’s the top 10 in GC:

  1. Primoz Roglic
  2. Alejandro Valverde 2:25
  3. Tadej Pogacar 3:42
  4. Miguel Angel Lopez 3:59
  5. Nairo Quintana 5:09
  6. Rafal Majka 7:14
  7. Nicolas Edet 9:08
  8. Wilco Kelderman 9:15
  9. Carl Frederik Hagen 9:44
  10. Hermann Pernsteiner 11:39

Even by Vuelta standards, that’s not the strongest top 10 which only serves as evidence that the field of contenders this year has been weaker than usual. No Froome. No Doom. No Yateses. No Thomas. No this year’s Tour winner. In fact, there’s no former Tour winner whatsoever. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Roglic is dominating. And barring a complete collapse a la Simon Yates in the 2018 Giro, Roglic has the red jersey wrapped up. Valverde is the closest to him at almost two and a half minutes down and probably isn’t much of a threat in the upcoming stages with longer climbs. Pogacar looks content with the white jersey and a podium position and will be focused on preserving his 17 second lead over Superman. Quintana looks like he somehow swapped ages with Valverde. Majka, whose exciting stage wins in the Tour are long in the past, is one of the borangest general classification riders and will probably ride to preserve his 6th place. And yet somehow, I remain hopelessly optimistic that we’ll get to see a come back and some exciting racing. I think that hopeless optimism is a necessary trait for any cycling fan. It’s why we can tune into a flat, 250-odd kilometer Tour stage on the off chance that a breakaway of pro-conti riders actually makes it. It’s why we may laugh at but ultimately empathize with Carlton Kirby’s “Joy for cycling fans globally” when Iljo Keisse stole one from the peloton. It’s why we’ll keep on watching this Vuelta despite the apparent ski jumping Slovenian stranglehold. Despite knowing better, we won’t stop believing. Cue the famous piano chords...

Just a ski jumper

Living in a lonely world

He took a Bianchi

Going to Espana

Just an old doper

Born in Las Lumbreras

He took a Canyon

Going to Espana

A neopro on a steep increase

The smell of sweat and bicycle grease

For a time they can share the podium

It goes on and on and on and on

Don’t stop believin’

Hold on to that feeling

Superman, Nairoman

Ohohohohohohhhhhhhhh