Heat - Schultz - Punting - Breakaways
By night 4 of a boy’s holiday abroad, you're probably due for a night off the turps, the same can be said about the 4th day of the Vuelta. After a big TTT, a stressful day in the crosswinds and an exciting stage in the mountains of Andorra, we were given a more subdued stage into Tarragona yesterday, which I’m sure the riders were pleased about. Although let’s be honest, it was still the best part of 5 hours of racing in the scorching Spanish 38c heat. And trust me, it always looks easier from the comfort of your living room with a hot chocolate and a box of pizza shapes for your grazing needs.
It was one of the limited chances for the very few fast men in this year’s race, so the outcome of a bunch gallop was inevitable. As equally as inevitable was the result of a few riders who get themselves in the day long breakaway for a death march in the searing heat. One was our very own Nick Schultz. A rider who every young Australian cyclist should use as a template for success. If you are as committed as you think you are, look at what this man has done. He made Europe his home and hasn’t looked back. Check out our article by A. Clements on the Caja Rural rider from Brisbane to be announced in due course.
With the break of 5 establishing a 5-minute lead, Team Sky took to the front of the bunch to keep things from getting out of hand. With the gap stretching out to 7 minutes, we saw the teams of the sprinters take control of the head of the bunch with Quickstep, Aqua Blue, Lotto and UEA all invest some firepower to the chase. With the breakaway group became 2, with 75km remaining, the hopes of the escapees snatching the stage from the sprinters was all but dashed. With the chase in full swing, from Quickstep and Aqua Blue, the bunch was at times single file towards the back, contradicting all talk of this stage being a spin in the Spanish sun! Naturally with the fighting for position in the last 20km, the break away, who for some reason started attacking each other, were caught with 8km to go and we were presented the first genuine bunch gallop of the Vuelta. With Quickstep the most organised team in the final kilometres, eventual stage winner Matteo Trentin looked favourite. With our stage favourite Blythe locked on the wheel of the Italian with 2 km to go, our prediction looked good and I started to register for a Sportsbet account thinking we have picked 3 winners in 4 days, however when he got lost in the carnage in the final few corners I moved my mouse over the Sportsbet tab on my browser, closing the window. With a few more teammates in the finale, it could have been a different scenario for the former British champion.
For me, todays chance is a good day for a strong break away to go to the line. 175km with 5 categorised climbs, with a Cat 2 in the first 25km providing a good launching pad for the likes of Majka, De Marchi, Barguil, Warbasse, S. Clarke, Jungles and Fraile to be hunt out the early break. Orica-Scott and Sky will be the teams left to control the race although Orica may take a more aggressive approach and put Haig or Verona in the break to put all the responsibility on the British registered squad. This will be sure to be a doozey of a stage climaxing with a 3.4km at 9.7% to the line. If it’s the favourites going for the win I expect Chaves to take the chocolates and as a result take the leaders red jersey off of Froome. In saying that Froomey hasn’t had the pleasure of throwing his hands in the air on the road all year so he may be looking to bring the drought to an end today. Real tough one to pick- I'll go Fraile from the break and Chaves from the GC group.
See you back at the social club