Category: Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta sees all-star start list as Sagan, Viviani confirm

The Vuelta a España confirmed an all-star preliminary start list Friday in what could be the Spanish tour’s deepest field ever.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Quick-Step) were among the top names confirming their Vuelta plans just a day after Team Sky revealed defending champion Chris Froome and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas will be racing the Tour of Britain instead.

The 73rd edition of the Spanish grand tour will see a stellar GC field along with a growing number of stage-hunters and attackers honing their form ahead of the world championships. The combination should deliver an exciting race.

“I decided to race the Vuelta this year, as it fits perfectly into my preparations for the world championships in Innsbruck,” Sagan said Friday. “We’ll have to see how my crash at the Tour still affects me, but I feel I am on a good way back to my best.”

Vuelta officials released a preliminary start list Friday that’s deep on GC contenders headlined by four former Vuelta winners. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates) top the list.

Right behind them are Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Rigoberto Urán (EF-Drapac), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), the Yates brothers (Mitchelton-Scott), and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana).

A climber-friendly worlds course is seeing many Innsbruck-bound riders heading to the Vuelta to prepare for a run at the rainbow jersey. GC contenders like Daniel Martin (UAE-Emirates) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) will use the Vuelta as a trampoline to Austria.

“My preparation has been very different to the Giro d’Italia because like a few guys that will line up in Spain, I have one eye on the world championships later this year,” Yates said this week. “It will be interesting to see how my body responds but, as always, I’ll give it my all to achieve a great result.”

Even without Froome and Thomas, Sky will line up with Michal Kwiatkowski and David de la Fuente. Mikel Landa is still a question mark for Movistar after suffering a heavy fall at the Clásica San Sebastián.

Other confirmed names include Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe), Ion and Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), Enric Mas and Viviani (Quick-Step).

North Americans Michael Woods (EF-Drapac), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), recent Tour of Utah winner Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Ian Boswell (Katusha-Alpecin) are expected to start the Vuelta as well.

The race opens August 25 in Málaga with a prologue and loops around southern Spain for most of the first week. La Camperona and Lagos de Covadonga will highlight the second week, with an individual time trial in stage 16. Two hard days in Andorra cap the final weekend before the finale in Madrid on September 16.

Read the full article at Vuelta sees all-star start list as Sagan, Viviani confirm on VeloNews.com.

Analysis: The Vuelta is better without Thomas, Froome

Confirmation that Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas will skip the Vuelta a España means one thing — the Spanish grand tour just got a lot better.

The Vuelta is already the most entertaining grand tour to watch anyway. But without its two GC aces, Sky will not be riding to throttle the race into the ground. That means the Vuelta should be even more explosive than it would be anyway with its seemingly endless string of uphill finales, punchy finishes, and deep field.

With Sky sending its two top stars for a victory lap at the Tour of Britain instead of going to Spain, the Vuelta won’t see a fully loaded Sky train to mark and control every GC threat in the peloton. And that means it’s anyone’s race to win.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your view of Team Sky. The team seems to have just as many distractors as supporters, and after a rough and tumble Tour de France, both Froome and Thomas will likely welcome a bit of a grand tour respite.

If you’re a believer in seeing the best riders in the best races no matter what jersey they wear, you won’t agree that the Vuelta is better off without Froome or Thomas. In fact, it could have been fascinating to see just how well Froome or Thomas could have ridden in this Vuelta.

But after the spite and anger that engulfed the Tour last month, the Vuelta will be better off with a bit of a Sky breather.

Sky fatigue has set in across much of the sport, from rivals desperate to try to beat them to skeptical fans who don’t believe them. Race organizers and even the UCI are scrambling to try to find a way to loosen the stranglehold Team Sky has on the Tour de France and the yellow jersey.

As much that’s made about Sky’s domination, its reach only statistically extends to the Tour. Its grip over the Giro, Vuelta, and other races is much looser — Sky has only won one edition of the Giro and Vuelta during its run of six yellow jerseys in the past seven Tours — and Sky has never succeeded in dominating the classics the way it does stage racing.

The Sky team that came to the Vuelta most years was never the same Sky at the Tour. Even with Froome in the Vuelta, he was never quite the race-killer he’s been of late in the Tour. It took Froome four cracks at the Vuelta before he finally won it last year.

It was inevitable that Froome would pull the plug on his grand tour run. The four-time Tour winner raced four grand tours in row — winning three on a trot and finishing third in last month’s Tour — so sitting out of the Vuelta is no surprise. And though Thomas might have been tempted to race the Vuelta, a victory lap around Britain certainly must sound a lot more appealing. And after two years of mostly negative headlines in the British media, there might be a bit of a PR push by Sky to bring Froome and Thomas closer to the British racing public.

Even without Froome and Thomas, “Sky light” will still be a factor, but it won’t be the race-crusher it was in July.

That’s not to say Sky might not win its fifth straight grand tour anyway. Michal Kwiatkowski and David de la Cruz — there is still no confirmation about Egan Bernal, but he is not expected to race — will carry the team colors.

Sky always brings a strong team to any race, but its demotion as the pre-race favorite will dramatically alter the tactical dynamics of the Vuelta. Without a clear favorite in the form of Froome or Thomas, Sky won’t be massing numbers at the front to dominate the race in the manner it does at the Tour.

That means the Vuelta should be dramatically less controlled and more dynamic.

Other teams will inevitably step into the Sky void and take control of the race. That weight will surely fall onto Movistar.

The Spanish team, however, will once again bring its three-pronged attack to the Vuelta and everyone saw how that worked out during the Tour. The Vuelta should be less complicated, especially with Alejandro Valverde eyeing the worlds and Mikel Landa looking hobbled following a nasty crash at the Clásica San Sebastian. Nairo Quintana will be the focus of Movistar, if not the entire race.

And even without Froome or Thomas, the Vuelta already has a stellar start list, combining the best of the Giro d’Italia and Tour plus some interesting up-and-comers.

The Vuelta has long become the redemption tour ever since it moved to its late-summer slot on the calendar in 1995. This year’s edition looks to be a who’s who of the banged up and embittered.

What is perhaps the Vuelta’s deepest start list in years includes Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates), Rigoberto Urán and Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac), the Yates brothers (Mitchelton-Scott), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), and the list goes on. Add the likely presence of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), and the Vuelta is the envy of the peloton this year.

Riders across the peloton use the season’s final grand tour to salvage something. Others come looking to prepare for the world championships. Anyone still without a contract is doubly motivated to show something. A few actually even put the Vuelta at the center of their season goals.

The final result is a fascinating, well-aged stew of fitness, ambition, motivation, and weariness against the bleating canvas that is late-summer Spain.

As a result, the Vuelta has emerged as the most engaging grand tour of the season for a variety of reasons. It consistently delivers the surprises and GC drama that the Tour could only dream of.

And without Froome or Thomas, the unpredictability factor just shot through the roof.

Read the full article at Analysis: The Vuelta is better without Thomas, Froome on VeloNews.com.

Sagan ready for Vuelta return after two-year absence

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is ready to return to the Vuelta a España, which starts August 25, for the first time since 2015.

Sagan has excluded the Spanish grand tour from his program in recent years. His typical worlds build-up included the Tour of Poland and the two Canadian WorldTour races.

“I still have some races left,” Sagan said Sunday. “I have Hamburg and the Vuelta, and we will see. I will try to fight for my best at the end of the season.”

Sagan will use the season’s final grand tour as a build-up to the world championships in Innsbruck, Austria, September 23-30. The course could be too difficult for Sagan to win a record fourth world title, but no one wants to count him out — including Sagan himself.

The 28-year-old Slovakian rider typically races a few one-day races and the BinckBank Tour, a stage race that began Monday and that used to be called the Eneco Tour.

Instead, Sagan’s post-Tour de France racing program includes the European Championships (230.4km) and the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg (220km) on Sunday.

He pulled out of Sunday’s European Championships, however, after 150km in Glasgow, Scotland. It was his first race since the Tour, where he won his sixth green jersey. Sagan said he was still feeling pain from his crash in stage 17 of the Tour.

“Despite the fact I still had a lot of pain in my back and hip, I tried and gave my best,” Sagan said in an Instagram post. “But I wasn’t in good shape and, unfortunately, after 150km of racing, I felt it would be best if I stopped, as it was becoming hard.

“It was a good training for the coming weeks but I still need to fully recover from my hard crash at the Tour de France, for the final part of the season. I’d like to thank the Slovak Cycling Federation, its staff, and all my teammates for their work today.”

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team would not confirm his participation in the Vuelta, but he has indicated in recent days that he’ll be in the field. Last week, he posted another Instagram photo with the caption, “Hola España!”

Sagan counts four stage wins from the Vuelta in 2011 and 2015. This year, the field will include GC stars Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).

The Vuelta opens in Málaga with a time trial and offers several mixed-terrain and flat-finish stages that could suit Sagan. The numerous mountains could also help him prepare for a fourth straight world title. The worlds course in Innsbruck includes around 5,000 meters of climbing.

“Peter is the three-time world champion — he will be there out of respect of the world title and the world of cycling,” Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila said during the Tour. “Peter will show up in the best possible condition he can.”

Read the full article at Sagan ready for Vuelta return after two-year absence on VeloNews.com.

Kuss set to make grand tour debut at 2018 Vuelta says LottoNL DS

Sepp Kuss is bound for Spain after his dominant overall win this week at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah. While the rest of his LottoNL-Jumbo squad in Utah will continue on to the Colorado Classic, the 23-year-old American is set to make his grand tour debut this August at the Vuelta a España.

According to LottoNL-Jumbo sports director Sierk Jan de Haan, it’s a decision that has been in the works for a little while.

“Our team, our directors, my colleagues, we decided this before Utah so we already saw that he was growing and doing well,” de Haan told VeloNews in Utah. “But what he performed here, it’s overwhelming.”

Kuss soared to three stage wins in Utah in addition to winning the overall by a healthy margin. He’ll hope to bring that climbing form to the Vuelta and take on his first three-week race as a pro, riding for LottoNL’s team leader George Bennett. The New Zealander rode to eighth overall at the Giro d’Italia this May.

“I think George will watching this performance of Sepp from Europe and he’ll be really happy that Sepp is in there in the squad,” de Haan said.

According to the Dutch DS, who also works closely with Kuss in training, the team saw promising signs of form at the Critérium du Dauphiné. That led them to plan for a big second half of 2018 for Kuss. That may have come as a surprise to all involved just a few months ago, considering the way things went for Kuss the spring.

As Kuss told VeloNews at the start of the Tour of Utah, the first few months of the season — his first few months as a WorldTour pro — were all about learning to suffer. De Haan said LottoNL kept confidence in the young climber, knowing he was developing despite the quiet results and the collection of DNFs.

It all seems to have worked out. In fact, he found time to smile while he was delivering his stage 5-winning ride on Saturday.

“There’s no better feeling in the world than dancing on the pedals up a climb,” he said after his second stage victory of the race. “I was having fun.”

That has shown in Utah. Kuss has been the dominant climber in a race with no shortage of climbing talents. He will have plenty more opportunities to dance on the pedals in the next few weeks.

The Vuelta will offer a whole new level of racing for the Colorado native, of course, but Utah does offer several advantages as an ideal tune-up race. It’s no coincidence that marquee names like Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Mike Woods (EF Education First-Drapac) came to Utah ahead of their Vuelta bids. Between the heat and the altitude, the weeklong race is a good primer for three weeks of racing in Spain.

It’s hard to know what to expect from a rider in his first career grand tour performance, but Kuss will ride into the Vuelta on the form of his life and with some tough racing already under his belt this month.

Considering his talents as a climber, Kuss has shown serious potential the past few years and has taken another big step forward this year. It remains to be seen what kind of rider he can develop into, but LottoNL’s decision to start him this August is a vote of confidence in what they have seen so far. For a team with a proven track record of developing young talents from across the spectrum of skillsets in recent years — riders like Primoz Roglic and Dylan Groenewegen — that’s worth something.

“You have to make a lot of steps before you’re at that spot and before you are a leader in the team,” said de Haas, “but when you look at the results of Team LottoNL-Jumbo, you see that we make a plan with this kind of rider and Sepp is one of them.”

Read the full article at Kuss set to make grand tour debut at 2018 Vuelta says LottoNL DS on VeloNews.com.

Mikel Landa not ruled out of Vuelta despite fractured vertebra

Mikel Landa has been released from a hospital Sunday following a crash at the Clasica San Sebastian, his Movistar team said. Despite a fractured vertebra, his team says he may still race the Vuelta a España.

The Spaniard was aiming to race his home tour, which runs August 25 through September 16.

Landa was one of several riders caught up in the pile-up less than 20km from the finish, which saw Team Sky’s young Colombian hopeful Egan Bernal suffer injuries to his face.

Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) went on to win San Sebastian, out-sprinting Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing).

Landa was diagnosed with “non-displaced fracture of the spinous process in his lumbar vertebra L1,” his Movistar team confirmed.

He was concious and in stable condition throughout the aftermath of the crash. Medical staff immobilized him with a neck brace. He was taken to Donostia Hospital for examinations.

Movistar’s press statement said that he will require two to three weeks of rest to heal.

Despite that long layoff, he has not been ruled out of starting the Vuelta, his team confirmed on Sunday.

The 28-year-old Basque had targeted victory in the Vuelta after failing to podium at the Tour de France, where he finished seventh overall behind Welsh winner Geraint Thomas.

His teammates Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde — both former winners of the Vuelta — are also expected to target the three-week Spanish grand tour.

Read the full article at Mikel Landa not ruled out of Vuelta despite fractured vertebra on VeloNews.com.

Tour setbacks help bolster Vuelta start list

For every crash, illness, and abandon in July, the Vuelta a España start list gets that much better.

A rash of setbacks and bad luck during the Tour de France will see the 2018 Vuelta come up the winner.

The Spanish grand tour is less than four weeks away (August 25-September 16) and the Vuelta’s start list is starting to gain some heft. A rough and tumble Tour means a few riders will head to Spain in hopes of salvaging their season.

First up was Movistar, which confirmed over the weekend it will bring its three-pronged attack to the Vuelta — with Nairo Quintana, Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa — with the hopes that it will work better than it did in France.

“If nothing happens between now and then,” said Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué, “all three will race the Vuelta.”

Three big names recovering from crashes that took them out of the Tour are still on the Vuelta bubble. Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First-Drapac) is all but guaranteed to start, while Richie Porte (BMC Racing) is likely. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) was forced to undergo surgery July 31 for a back fracture he suffered on Alpe d’Huez and might not be ready in time for the Vuelta start. None of those riders have been officially confirmed.

The big question is what will Sky do. Defending champion Chris Froome is expected to take a break after starting four straight grand tours, and winning three on a trot, while recently crowned Tour winner Geraint Thomas is questionable. Tour sensation Egan Bernal is not expected to start.

Even without Sky’s “big three,” riders such as Sergio Henao and David de la Cruz can pick up the mantle. Michal Kwiatkowski is also expected to start, but will likely use the race to prepare for the upcoming UCI road worlds in Austria. Team Sky officials said Monday no decisions on the Vuelta are made.

“We still don’t know what Sky is doing,” Vuelta director Javier Guillén told Marca. “They have not confirmed which riders are coming.”

Teams across the peloton are still mulling their options but a few big names have been confirmed. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), and Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates), who all raced the Giro d’Italia, are expected to be in Malaga on August 25.

Sunweb will bring Wilco Kelderman, who fourth overall last year after he crashed and missed the Tour. Tom Dumoulin, second in both the Giro and Tour, will not race the Vuelta. Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin, third last year and ninth in the Tour, is also expected to race the Vuelta.

Astana is expected to bring last year’s third-place podium man Miguel Angel López and possibly Jakob Fuglsang while the Tour’s fifth-place rider Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett could be tapped for LottoNL-Jumbo.

Austria’s climb-heavy course for the world championships should see a few worlds-bound riders head to the Vuelta. It’s expected three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will return to the Spanish grand tour for the first time since 2015 to prepare for the more challenging course in Innsbruck. Bora officials said a final decision is not yet made.

“We need to see how Peter recovers from the crash and the Tour, and then we will see,” said sport director Patxi Vila, adding that Sagan also might want to take a run at the WorldTour points title. “We really need to see how he recovers from the crash.”

The Vuelta’s growing difficult has seen an exodus of the top sprinters who avoid the many climbs and uphill finales that mark the modern Vuelta. A few sprinters are expected to start, including Caleb Ewan, who was left off the Tour by his Mitchelton-Scott team, Danny Van Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek-Segafredo).

One name that will be missing is Spanish star Alberto Contador, who retired at the end of last year’s Vuelta with a victory lap in Madrid a day after winning on the Angliru climb.

The 73rd Vuelta starts August 25 in Malaga with an 8-kilometer prologue. The route stays in southern Spain for the first week and heat will be an issue. Mountaintop finales come fast and early, with uphill finishes in stages 4 and 9 before three straight mountaintop finales in northern Spain in stages 13-15. Stages 17, 19, and 20 see more summit finales, with an individual time trial in stage 16. The Vuelta finishes in Madrid with a bunch sprint on September 16.

Read the full article at Tour setbacks help bolster Vuelta start list on VeloNews.com.

Movistar will bring three-pronged Tour attack to Vuelta

What didn’t work in the Tour de France will be Movistar’s plan of attack at the Vuelta a España.

The Spanish team fell short of its Tour ambitions, but it will stick with the same game plan. Movistar will bring its unconventional three-pronged attack that fell short at the Tour and will hope it sticks at the Vuelta.

Team boss Eusebio Unzué confirmed to VeloNews at the finish line of Saturday’s stage 20 time trial he will take all three of his leaders — Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and Alejandro Valverde — to the Spanish grand tour that starts August 25 in Malaga.

Movistar’s so-called “tricefalia” will ride again.

“If nothing happens between now and then,” Unzué said, “all three will race the Vuelta.”

Movistar fell well short of its ambitions for the Tour. The team won a stage in the Alps with Quintana and claimed its fourth team prize in five years, but it was never a serious threat for the yellow jersey in Paris.

“We came here looking for more than we have been able to achieve,” Unzué said. “It was a brilliant stage victory for the team with Nairo, but in the general classification, we had hoped to be able to be on the podium, but that was not to be.”

Some early crashes and losses proved costly to the team’s larger goals of trying to dethrone Team Sky.

Quintana recovered from a stage 1 setback when he broke two wheels to win his first Tour stage since 2018. The Colombian suffered from heat and a late-race crash to finish 10th overall, his second-worst Tour result since his dramatic runner-up debut in 2013.

Valverde fell short of his goal of winning a stage despite a daring long-range attack that put him momentarily into the “virtual” yellow jersey in the Alps. The veteran, who is targeting the worlds in Innsbruck, will use the Vuelta to hone his form.

Landa suffered from a heavy crash in stage 9 but fought back to a team-best seventh after finishing fourth last year with Team Sky. Both he and Quintana will target the overall at the Vuelta.

Two riders in the top 10, a stage win, and the team prize would be satisfying for most teams. Movistar left the Tour wanting more, however, and vowed to take on the Vuelta even more aggressively.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzué:

VN: How is the balance of the Tour for Movistar?
EU: We came here looking for more than we have been able to achieve. It was a brilliant stage victory for the team with Nairo, but in the general classification, we had hoped to be able to be on the podium, but that was not to be. And I don’t want to explain it all away or attribute all of that to bad luck — which we’ve definitely had with the crashes for Mikel and Nairo. But we’ll move forward thinking about the things we have managed to achieve.

VN: How did the three-leader plan work out for the team?
EU: Starting with three leaders, they’re three guys who can contest the general classification; it’s not a problem of three leaders. If any of them had emerged at the top we would have supported him. It’s not a problem of three leaders. It’s just that our three guys, who were on a good level, were still far from the level of the best riders in the race.

VN: Sky came with two leaders, so sometimes it works …
EU: Sky could have had three leaders too, had it not been for Bernal’s crash. It’s not a problem of three leaders. They’re quality riders. They haven’t been able to achieve everything they’re capable of. Like I said, I’m not going to blame bad luck for not being where we should have been. Sometimes that’s just sport. Today we were a bit off in this time trial and maybe we’re paying for doing a lot of work in many key days, which is probably why Mikel and Nairo were both a bit far off from the times we think they could have had in normal times.

VN: How do you beat Sky?
EU: Sky’s a great team and this year, again, they have the strongest rider. [Geraint Thomas] is a guy and a rider that has never had much luck in the grand tours but nevertheless has been the most brilliant and most consistent rider. He’s taken two stage wins so you can’t take absolutely anything away from him. He’s been the dominant rider with a team to protect him.

VN: Movistar has a strong team, too, but couldn’t reach the podium, why?
EU: The squad doesn’t make a rider stronger. A rider has his level. Yes, the team is important, if you’re indeed the best. The team isn’t going to make you stronger — your level is what it is.

VN: Is Sky’s financial cloud a big advantage?
EU: To have the chance to spend what you want and then achieve your goals, you just have to congratulate them. It’s more than just great riders. It’s the science and their system and they way they prepare. Each year it’s easier for them to achieve something at the Tour and harder for the rest of us.

Read the full article at Movistar will bring three-pronged Tour attack to Vuelta on VeloNews.com.

Giro d’Italia director calls for swift verdict in Chris Froome drug case

• ‘Justice takes too long as doesn’t help any rider,’ says Vegni
• Giro result will stand despite uncertainty, whoever wins

The Giro d’Italia race director has called for a swift conclusion to Chris Froome’s anti‑doping case, claiming it is taking too long for cycling’s governing body to reach a verdict.

Mauro Vegni was speaking in Jerusalem before the race begins on Friday. He claimed he had no regrets about inviting the four‑times Tour de France winner to compete.

Related: Chris Froome steers straight course as he prepares for Giro d’Italia

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Chris Froome says report of plea bargain over failed drug test ‘completely untrue’

• Team Sky rider denies he is willing to accept six-month ban
• Froome still committed to finding reason for failed test at Vuelta

Chris Froome has denied he is ready to accept a six-month ban from cycling by admitting negligence following his failed drug test last year.

The four-times Tour de France winner reacted to a claim in an Italian newspaper that he was preparing to accept the six-month sanction as a plea bargain on the advice of his wife, Michelle, who is also his manager. The article suggested he would agree to an “acceptance of consequences” deal in order to avoid the case reaching an independent anti-doping trial.

Related: Chris Froome’s failed test will be the end of Team Sky, warns Floyd Landis

Continue reading…

Vuelta route: Short mountain stages remain key ingredient

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The Vuelta a España kept an explosive ingredient in its route recipe for 2018: a short summit-finish mountain stage.

When organizer Unipublic raised the curtains Saturday on the 20th and penultimate stage to be held in Andorra, everyone perked up, remembering 2016 when Nairo Quintana upset grand tour king Chris Froome en route to Formigal.

It is not unheard of to include six mountain passes over 1,000 meters in a grand tour stage, but squeezing those into 105.8 kilometers complicates life for some and opens up opportunities for others.

Of the nine summit finishes the Vuelta a España named, the final one could be the most challenging. It will certainly be decisive with only a flat sprint stage in Madrid on Sunday.

In Andorra, the principality nestled in the mountains between Spain and France, the stage will climb 4,000 meters. The first “small” pass over the Comella is followed by Beixalis, Ordino, again Beixalis and Comella, and a summit finish to Coll del la Gallina.

Race director Javier Guillén wanted to end the 2018 route on a high. In 2016, he did so on the Aitana climb. In 2017, Alberto Contador celebrated his final professional victory on L’Angliru. As per tradition, the race finishes with the final day on Madrid’s flat roads.

Guillén told AS Saturday that the idea is “nothing is resolved until [la Gallina] and that it can change everything.”

The Vuelta experimented with a similar stage in 2016 but used it near the end of the second week. After one kilometer, Team Sky’s Chris Froome found himself isolated without teammates. Rivals Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador attacked. He never saw them again and lost the Vuelta over the short 118.5 kilometers.

Froome said this year that he learned “two aspects” from 2016 that he took forward: “have numbers at the front so my teammates can control and, my reasonability, making sure important rivals don’t go clear without me following.”

The Vuelta organizer included a 129-kilometer stage to Sierra Nevada in 2017, but that failed to shake up the overall classification quite the same.

The Tour de France rolled out its own short stages recently as well.

In 2017, the Tour’s 101-kilometer stage to Foix, Alberto Contador, Mikel Landa, and Nairo Quintana all took turns attacking and forced race leader Fabio Aru to defend all day. For 2018, the French grand tour will go a step further with stage 17, a 65km race with more than 3,000 meters of climbing.

“You start and you can almost see the finish line,” Quick-Step sport director Brian Holm told VeloNews. “It’s like doing a criterium and a BMX and cyclocross race together, riders just going mad.”

The Gallina ingredient in the Vuelta’s recipe may fail to change the overall, but it is guaranteed to rattle the foundations before Unipublic awards the final red leader’s jersey and trophy in Madrid.

The Tour’s Foix stage added a much-needed balance with the long, 200-plus-kilometer stages through France’s heartland. Last year, organizer ASO included eight days over 200.

“The long stages are part of cycling’s story, but I think that in modern cycling you get much more out of short stages with just two mountains,” team Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué told VeloNews.

“Like you saw in Formigal in the Vuelta or in the stage to La Planche des Belles Filles in the Tour, which wasn’t very long, but raced all-out.”

The Vuelta in 2018 only includes one stage over 200, the 208.8-kilometer hilly stage in Galicia mid-race.

“There are short and explosive finishes, high-mountain stages, and in the middle, there are stages that nobody can say are transitional,” Guillén told Zikloland.

“They all contain something, they all have a reason in the end. The race can be lost on any day.”

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