Vuelta Rest Day Round Up: On the second rest day of the 2022 Vuelta a España, Ed Hood looks back on the last tough six stages in the north of Spain. Remco Evenepoel is in control, but there is still a long and hard road to Madrid over the next twelve stages.
Can Remco Evenepoel handle the big climbs?
The big question, apart from, ‘can Remco handle the sustained BiG climbs to come?’ was ‘has Primoz overcome the vertebrae injuries he sustained in le Tour?’
That’ll be a, ‘yes’ to the second question then – and he doesn’t even have the decency to make it look like he’s trying hard. . .
That looked easy
The Slovenian made everyone else look ordinary; and whilst ‘one early stage win does not make a lap of honour on the la Castellana in three weeks’ time,’ the Slovenian has struck the first blow in terms of time and psychology – ‘I’m the boy to beat!’ A good day for Primoz and his troops then – but also for the man who was second on the stage, ‘big unit’ Mads Pedersen taking second on a very tough finale ahead of men like Alaphilippe who thrive on this sort of finish. The Danish mastiff from Trek closed to within nine points of green jersey Bennett but is a better bet to come into Madrid in green due to his ability to handle the tougher stages better than the Irish ‘greyhound’ – but then, if you know your dogs, the best greyhounds always came from Ireland and they’re tenacious blighters.
Mads Pedersen – ‘Big unit’
Nice to see Antipodeans O’Connor and Hindley well to the fore, the former has a point to prove after his disastrous Tour and we already know that the latter can win a Grand Tour. INEOS are impressive too with five in the top nine – the up and coming, extremely versatile Hayter; Sivakov who has been on good form recently with a win in Burgos and second place at San Sebastián; Geoghegan Hart, anxious to prove his Giro win was no fluke and now injury free; joint race favourite, the resilient Carapaz and one of Spain’s few big hopes for the future, Rodriguez.
Geoghegan Hart with something to prove
The British team then has cards to play. Spain’s other big hope, Ayuso didn’t have a great day, looking shaky on the last big climb – perhaps just an ‘off’ day?
KOM, Joan Bou – Popular in the Basque Country
And it’s good to see an Euskaltel in polka dots, he’ll get a big boost from the hard core Basque fans on today’s five categorised climbs between Irun and Bilbao.
Stage 4 highlights:
If you’re a Fred Wright fan then you’ll be cursing that slippery Frenchman who wouldn’t come through in the final – but if you’re a Rudy Molard fan then you’ll be praising your man’s shrewd tactics, anyone but Wright to win from the break and grab those crucial bonus seconds, denying the FDJ man, ‘Rojo.’
So close for Fred Wright
Jumbo Visma having let the right mix head up the road to relieve them of that heavy red burden. But Fred gets the very nice consolation of the best young rider’s white jersey – but he’d sooner have had that first pro win. . .
Jake Stewart worked hard to put Molard in red
On the subject of young ‘Brits’ first pro wins, Jake Stewart grabbed his recently, earlier this month in Stage One of the Tour de l’Ain. Jake was in the winning break today and rode a very canny but ultimately unsuccessful final; knowing he was the fastest there but also knowing he probably couldn’t live with his breakaway companions on the last climb, he jumped them and grabbed a sizeable lead. The plan would have been to get caught just at the top, sit in and wait for the sprint and/or cover moves for FDJ team mate Molard – but big UAE Spaniard Marc Soler – a man who races very much on impulse – rampaged past, en route eventual victory.
‘Back in the day’
Jake subsequently cramped up; but for a Scottish dinosaur like me it’s great to see two young ‘Brits’ in a Vuelta breakaway. ‘Back in the day’ there were very few Brits in the mix, Barry Hoban, Mike Wright, Derek Harrison, Billy Bilsland and very few others.
Now, apart from Fred and Jake, there’s Ben Turner, Lewis Askey, Stevie Williams, Ethan and Leo Hayter, Ben Tullett, Matt Walls – not to mention the ‘next wave,’ young men like Sam Watson, Oscar Onley and Thomas Gloag. And all bold, attacking riders, not afraid in the slightest of reputations. It’s great state of affairs, just such a pity the GB race scene is so depleted.
A good day for Spain and Soler
It was a good day for the home nation, apart from Soler’s win, Burgos BH grabbed the mountains jersey with recent Volta stage winner, Vincent Langellotti. Yes, I know he’s from Monaco but the team is about as Spanish as they come. The Basque fans today were fabulous, no idiotic costumes or attention seeking, just hard core aficionados out in force enjoying the sport they love – CHAPEAU (TXAPELA in Euskadi)!
Basques – The best fans
Tomorrow’s first serious mountain top finish will put an end to Fred’s ‘rojo’ chances and probably those of Molard as we might just see the ‘Bigs’ involved in their first serious arm wrestling contest. . .
On-board cameras – Stage 5:
Any man who says during his post-race interview that his victory means; ‘he’s going to get a Corvette’ gets my vote.
Jay Vine has the watts
Jay Vine – a direct endorsement of the mantra of the modern cycling team; ‘if they have the watts/kilo that’s all we need to worry about – we can sort out all that race craft, bunch racing and other stuff later on.’ GCN pundit, Dan Lloyd described Vine as a, ‘Watt Monster,’ but he looks about 15 years-old. Credit to the Australian; the mountains and rain of Cantabria are about as far as you can get away from a ‘P##n C##e’ – I still can’t bring myself to write it – where them Zwift Guys do their thing. On the subject of the weather, it remained me of an average day in Scotland. . .
Remco then – whilst as now INEOS DS but former Italian Time Trial Champion and fourth place finisher in the Giro used to tell me; ‘a Grand Tour is won in the third week,’ and we haven’t even finished the first week yet, the 22 year-old Belgian made a bold statement with his move to take ‘rojo.’
No ‘jump’ or ‘savage acceleration’ just a display of sustained power to distance some of the best Grand Tour riders of the generation. Whether he can sustain that all the way to Madrid is the big question but it’s certainly making for an entertaining race. And for a, ‘non GC team’ the W##f P##k – same as P##n C##e for me, I can’t write it – made a good fist of things for their leader.
Roglič – Who has my jersey?
On the subject of, ‘best Grand Tour riders,’ Primoz Roglič was reminded that when you wear dossard number one then the song the rest sing to you is that old Donny and Marie Osmond number, ‘I’m Leaving it all up to You.’ But the Slovenian was nonplussed by the way the way the stage had played out, he’s well aware that it’s a long way to the Paseo de la Castellana.
Not a great day for Carapaz
As far as the GC goes, INEOS still have three in the top 10 but it wasn’t a good day for joint race favourite Carapaz who dropped nine places to 19th at almost three minutes. The home nation is well represented in the top 10 though with, ‘just difficult to drop,’ Enric Mas taking third on the day and moving in to third place on GC.
Big future for Rodriguez
Spain’s big hopes for the future, UAE’s Ayuso and INEOS’ Rodriguez both rode well – remember that the former is still a teenager – he took fourth on the stage and is now fourth on GC whilst 21 years-old Rodriguez took ninth on the stage and moves up to eighth on GC. It’s to be hoped that if he makes the rumoured big bucks move to Movistar in 2024 his progress doesn’t stall. Stage Seven, breakaway or sprint? Since we left The Netherlands it hasn’t been boring, that’s for sure.
Stage 6 highlights:
3e Fred Wright: professional since 2020, 23 years-of-age; strengths – youth, enthusiasm, big watts, good finish, good against the watch.
1e Jesus Herrada: professional since 2011, 32 years-of-age; strengths – experience from a decade in the peloton, excellent climber with a decent finish – and GUILE.
Win for Herrada, 3rd for Wright
Barry Hoban commented on my social media post about today’s Vuelta result – Baz won eight Tour de France stages, two Vuelta stages, Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Bourges, I could go on but you get the picture, he’s a man whose comments you listen to and respect – thus;
“Hi Yi Yi ….Over confident Fred …Learn the lesson …I like your way of riding ….But! …more craft, mate.” The man himself said; “People say; ‘You should have gone from the back’, but it’s easier said than done. It’s hard not to let the emotions get the better of you. You have to keep a cool head. But I think as soon as it clicks and I learn how it’s done it’s going to get a lot easier. It’s hard when you want it so bad – I think that’s why I went a bit earlier because I see the finish line and I think, ‘I’ve got the best sprint here, I’m just going to go for it . . .’” Then he went on to say; “I’m feeling great and ready for more breakaways! It means a lot to everyone on the team as well to get that win on the board. I just needed to play the sprint a bit better but it’s all learning, so I’m sure there’ll be more opportunities. I’m not going to lie, I’m really gutted. But I have to stay positive, because it’s coming, it’s definitely coming. . .”
Too much too soon for Fred Wright
A management consultant I once worked with said; “It’s always better to have to slow down someone who’s over enthusiastic, rather than trying to speed someone up who’s not enthusiastic.” Slow down just a little then Fred – but not too much, Amigo.
Remco and Quick-Step in control
There was no change on GC, the ‘Bigs’ minds are on tomorrow and Sunday in Asturias; beautiful scenery, lots of nice cows – and hills. . .
Winner’s emotion – Stage 7:
“Dear Mr. Madiot, just a few words to thank you, Bruno, Sebastien and Thibaut for giving me such a nice, steady ride into the finish climb today, my second stage win and the mountains jersey – Bonzer! High five! Jay.”
Stage win No. 2 for Jay Vine
I tuned in to the stage with around an hour to go, I was aware of the parcours and when I saw the time gap and composition of the break I thought to myself; ‘this is only going to end in one way.’
Thibaut Pinot – Best days behind him?
I like Thibaut Pinot, he rides with his heart and is a RACER, but I fear at 32 years-of-age his best days are behind him? It’s a little bit of an urban myth that Vine stepped out of his ‘P##n C##e’ and on to the saddle of an Alpecin team bike. As a youngster he dabbled with cricket and rugby before he started riding an MTB to school, he started watching cycling on TV and was inspired by Il Lombardia. He first appears on the palmarès websites in 2018 with fifth in the Tour of King Valley in his native Australia. In 2019 he was third in the New Zealand Cycling Classic, the race won by Aaron Gate of New Zealand who picked up no less than four gold medals at the recent Commonwealth Games. Vine was also competing in MTB races, a discipline which sharpens bike handling skills. The 2020 season saw him fifth in the Herald Sun Tour in Australia, the race won by Giro winner, Jai Hindley.
Jay Vine Zwifting
His eye opening full pro debut – as a result of his Zwift Academy Programme win – came in the Presidential Tour of Turkey – second on the ‘Queen’ stage and on final GC. He ended the year with a third place on a Vuelta stage. This year he started strongly with a second stage place and the mountains jersey in the Etoile de Besseges; was second overall again in Turkey and in Norway – but his season was always about the Vuelta. Two great wins but he owes today’s to FDJ.
Remco rode well and Mas was still there at the end
That early first rest day is confusing, it’s difficult to take in but we still have TWO weeks of racing to go. Remco rode well again, I think that the doubters ‘negs’ about his being able to go the distance are a big motivating factor for him.
Roglič keeping his powder dry?
Movistar’s Mas rode like Mas does; ‘just difficult to drop’, but it’s good for the home nation to see him second on CG; compatriot Carlos Rodriguez rode well too, moving up to fourth at just 21 years-of-age for INEOS; Spain’s other, ‘great white hope,’ UAE’s Ayuso slipped one place to sixth but at 19 he’s here to learn. Race fave Roglič knows that; ‘a Grand Tour is won in the last week,’ and is bidding his time. Joint race fave, Carapaz shed another five minutes – he’s already thinking about that first EF bank transfer. It wasn’t a good day for his team mate, Sivakov either he dropped out of the top 10, losing three minutes plus on the final climb. A good day for Pedersen though – he suits green.
Pedersen suits green
More Asturian ascents on Stage Nine and another mountain top finish – naturally. . .
Stage 8 highlights:
I know I’m supposed to be impartial but my English buddy, gone Native Flandrian, Ian Whitehead and I are big Wanty fans; we have a little catch phrase we add when we post a picture on social media of the latest Wanty success – and there have been plenty this season, 23 in fact – ‘Those Wanty Boys!’
One for ‘Those Wanty Boys’
It seemed like a strange move for a climber like Louis Meintjes, a ‘pure’ climber to join the Belgian team but the team’s hard core, ‘race to win’ ethos has rubbed off and the man is re-born – CHAPEAU. The finish was on one of those ‘goat tracks,’ so hated by PEZ soothsayer and Mentor, Viktor but it did make for compelling TV viewing.
A very strong Evenepoel
And whilst I keep banging on about ‘Grand Tours are won in the third week,’ and ‘it’s still a long way to the Paseo de la Castellano,’ Remco is defending ‘rojo’ with a vengeance. All of his GC rivals ceded time to the Belgian today, albeit that look of focused determination at the bottom of the finish climb had become a mask of pain by the top.
The future of Spanish cycling – Ayuso and Rodriguez
A great day for Meintjes and Evenepoel then and also for the home nation with Ayuso riding the final strongly putting time into Mas and Rodriguez to move up to fifth on GC just three seconds behind Rodriguez whilst Mas is still second but now at 1:12 on Remco – three Spaniards in the top five, ‘muy bien!’
Not a total disaster for Roglič
Not such a good day for INEOS though, Rodriguez apart, with Geoghegan Hart crashing late in the day and dropping to 12th overall @5:51, Sivakov moved up two places to 10th but at a distant 5:39. Carapaz? As a horse racing aficionado friend of mine used to say when his latest ‘hot tip’ had gone wrong; ‘they’re still out looking for him, with lanterns!’
A good way to finish the first week – A Wanty win
Rest day tomorrow then the time test – Remco or Primoz? But like it says on the tin; ‘Red jerseys give you wings. . .’
The final K of stage 9:
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