Some of you out there, the loud voices of Twitter, think the Vuelta is already over. Let me tell you, this is something completely different from the past 12 stages. Despite PCS not being the very aware culturally, they do have a stat, that I admire. The PCS-score. Now, we go from medium mountains to the high mountains. Buckle-up.
Welcome to the Pyrenees. 135 km, 4400 climbing meters.
A detailed analysis of the route
Everyone starts on the rollers. Everyone wants to be at the front on the descend. Break does not form here. Here, you have the opening cat-3 and the descend. If wet, the descend can cause problems. Otherwise, everything should be together for Col d’Aubisque.
Col d’Aubisque. The last 10 km are the toughest, with 8.2% avg.
What follows is 23 km of descending. Some of the best scenery in the world is right here on this descend. Not overly technical.
Time for Col de Spandelles. With bonus seconds on the top! Crazy to think this is one of the easier climbs of the day.
Then, a descent and valley to Tourmalet from the southern side. The valley is just 16 km long.
Col du Tourmalet. It is the Col de la Loze of La Vuelta. A much bigger game changer than the time trial.
It looks to stay dry without much wind either. Perfect conditions.
How will the stage unfold?
It all depends on Jumbo-Visma. They are way ahead everyone else when it comes down to tactics. Also when it comes down to team strength. What is their objective? To get in an even better position overall than they are now. So, how do they go about their business.
After thinking about it, I think they will wait until the Tourmalet. Simply because they do not need to do anything before that. On Tourmalet, they will set up a train. The order of that train is not written down, I think that will unfold on the road. Is Kuss on his best of days? How about Vingegaard – he is by far the best here when he peaks. Roglic looks to be the safe option, he is looking very strong. When they are down to three riders, one of them must attack.
What will the rest do? UAE has a good team, the second best. It is a good stage for the diesel Almeida, while we will see how Ayuso has recovered from his crash. I’m sad to inform you, Soler will not play a big role unless they somehow figure out a way to get him in the breakaway.
Most of all, it looks like a shitty position Evenepoel is in. Surrounding by all sides and he does not have a good history on long climbs.
Kuss – all he really has to do is defend. That could mean two things. He uses Roglic and Vingegaard to follow moves and cancel them. Second option is he attacks himself, it does not really feel like the others bother. They should. Remember who smashed a TDF peloton up the other side of this mountain? He sits in a good position.
Roglic – if you ask me, currently, he has the best chance of the JV riders to win this stage. Usually, I would have argued his diesel would go well here, but there were concerning performances in the Giro d’Italia on longer climbs. Is he a better version of himself than he was back in May? I think he is.
Vingegaard – it is not often you find someone from Jutland being positive despite underperforming heavily against the clock. Tomorrow is his playground, only Pogacar comes close on a good day. I think he will move up a few places tomorrow in the GC. If that is by finding the Tour-legs or supporting his leaders, I do not know. But he is the best in the world on days like this.
Evenepoel – big test tomorrow. Not his cup of tea. The same questions I had for the Giro d’Italia will be answered tomorrow. How will he go? I don’t think he will go well.
Ayuso – had a crash the other day, looked bad. He jumped back on the bike and got going. The TT was not a very good effort either. It just seems he is missing a little bit.
Almeida – I expect a big performance from him tomorrow. The diesel will have time to get warm. I think he will be the best of the UAE riders.
Mas – sitting 1:40 behind Evenepoel, 2:50 behind Kuss. Tomorrow is one of those days he flies under the radar and moves up in the GC.
Buitrago – breakaway hope #1. Giro d’Italia stage 19 is the reason why.
Thomas – breakaway hope #2. Looks strong again. I don’t need to remind you of his palmares.
Bardet – breakaway hope #3. Same goes for Bardet. He likely has been saving himself to win on home soil.
⭐⭐⭐ Roglic, Mas
⭐⭐ Kuss, Almeida, Ayuso
⭐ Bardet, Buitrago, Evenepoel, Thomas
Who will win?
Jumbo-Visma. I will rather be stubborn (and wrong!) than bandwagoning. A stage win for Jonas Vingegaard. This is simply different terrain to the past 12 stages.