September - Altitude - Froome

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Plenty can happen in 9 days, just ask a Melbourne demons supporter. That will be all reference to the poor supporters who have suffered enough the last 11 years... It feels like this Vuelta has been going for months but we are only at the first rest day. With the best part of two weeks of racing to come, I’m going to need a holiday myself after this three-week spaghetti western.

 

Team sky has done what they always do and control the race like that power seeking teacher at school. Warren Barguil got sent home by his team for not following orders, something that the Arsenal board should have done to Arsene Wenger years ago. And Quickstep has put in an amazing first week of a Grand Tour, like always with a team sheet that showed no real clear evidence of being able to do so, but like Port Adelaide this year, they have yielded success. With Nico Roche in third place on the general classification after nine days of racing, it just goes to show, anything is possible in this last chance saloon for the riders in the last Grandy of the season.

 

For me, the highlights so far have been the two prodigious talents of Chaves and Alaphilippe putting their injury infected seasons behind them with incredible performances in the first nine days. It could have been so easy for them to write their season's off, get healthy for next year and start again. Chaves looks to be the only rider who can take the red jersey of Froome at the moment and Alaphilippe has been the most aggressive rider so far, with his “bull by the horns” style of racing netting him his first Grand Tour success. Contador’s performance since his stage 3 hiccup has been reminiscent of his 2009 hay-days and Froome is showing us he is in better shape than he was in July. But will he come crashing down in the last week like the Demons final hopes did (sorry)? Time will tell.

 

With some incredibly tough racing to come with decisive days on stage 11,14,15,16,17 and the last massive showdown on the Angliru on stage 20 this bike race is only just getting started which is a crazy thought after the excitement we have had already. No wonder no genuine sprinters signed up for this god forsaken race! Stage 11 is a proper day of climbing with two massive climbs in the last 50k of racing with plenty of favourites to have their GC dreams dashed here. I think after stage 15 and 16 we will know who isn’t going to win this Vuelta. At only 129km, stage 15 will be one the hardest of the race, finishing with a 30km climb! The accent of the final climb starts at 710m above sea level with the stage finishing at 2510 m above sea level. I hope you’ve packed your climbing legs for that one boys. With a 42km TT on stage 16, the pretenders will be weeded out by days’ end Tuesday week. I think Nibali will get better as the race wears on as he always does, helped by the fact that he didn’t do the lap of France in July. Team Sky and Chris Froome have to have a shocker of a day between here and Madrid, don’t they? If they pull this off it will have to be on par with Arsenal's Invincible season in the 2003-04 Premier League season, so good for so long, I just don’t think so! But if anyone can do it its Froomey. Time to stick my neck out. Nibali for the win in Madrid. We will reassess that dangerous call on the next rest day!

 

See you back at the social club!

C.Flakemore