Friday Group Ride #182

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It is late to run a prediction thread for the Vuelta. Things have happened in Spain. Dramatic things. The stuff that makes Grand Tours so Grand. And yet, we haven’t discussed the Spanish race in this forum. All week our good friends Charles and Patrick have been stoking the flames of the thing like Eugene Christophe’s young assistant. If you have not “tuned” in, then you have missed the craic, the part of watching a race that makes it a socially constructive and celebratory event. If you HAVE been following by LiveUpdate, then please do the right thing.

And so, here we are. Astana won the opening team time trial (TTT). On Stage 2, Nicholas Roche reminded us that he is still riding bikes professionally and is still, on his day, really good at it. Then Chris Horner became the oldest ever Grand Tour stage winner when he crossed the line at Mirador de Lobeira in Stage 3. Katusha’s Daniel Moreno attacked and won on the final climb in Stage 4, before Michael “Bling” Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge opened the sprint battle with a win in Stage 5. Stage 6 saw Tony Martin perpetrate the most brilliant, gutsy, painful solo break that most of us will ever see/remember, only to see it end in tragic failure a few meters from the line. Michael Morkov was the horrible jerk who stole the win from him.

Finally, today, Zdenek Stybar continued to prove that he has something very real to offer on the road by besting World Champ Philippe Gilbert in Stage 7 to Mairena de Aljafare.

Vincenzo Nibali is in the leader’s jersey, maybe too early. Michael Matthews is in the sprinter’s shirt, with not a lot of sprint having happened. And Nick Roche is in the climber’s kit. The top of the GC is clustered closely with 18 riders within a minute of the lead.

There, now you’re caught up.

This week’s Group Ride asks, who’s going to win? How’s it going to happen? If Nibali wins, it will be his third Grand Tour win. Will it make him a contender for a race like the Tour? Or is the gap between what he’s done in Italy and Spain larger than it looks from the top step of the podium?

Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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5 comments

  1. SusanJane

    Nibali is super motivated if nothing else by a Giro/Vuelta double. But I have a sneaky feeling that there will be others who rain on his parade even if it is arid Spain in August. Contador proved last year that the waiting game has extreme risk but also extreme reward. Nibali is much too early in the leader’s jersey — no doubt about that. The stages have conspired against his “gracefully” giving it away which is a similar problem to Rodriguez last year. The stress and time required really do take away from the in-race concentration and constitution. I think Nibali is doomed. The question is with the others. I’d love for Chris to make his mark at a grand tour but he has no hope of winning. Valverde? Ha. Sorry, I’ve never thought he had the top step in any hotly contested race. Uran? The guy’s good but is he good enough? Basso’s a top 10 rider now, never to see the podium again. As for Nicolas Roche… he’s a big question mark. I really don’t know enough about the guy to know if he can make the podium. I say that there are other sleepers in the peleton willing to take the risks and go for broke. Nibali is a target and not that much better then the others. This is one great Vuelta.

    Nabali and the Tour? I don’t think it’s possible for anyone who wins another grand tour not to go try to win in France. The team and sponsors demand it. Besides it’s worth a shot. The tour is no longer the providence of the god-like. But then again they would have to win against Froome.

  2. The Tashkent Error

    Robot, calling a stage winner “horrible jerk” is not very classy, no matter how much tongue is in your cheek. How about the whole Argos-Shimano team? Or Rasmussen who injected pace into the chasing bunch 1km to go, taking a pull for Farrar (like he was going to win, lol)? Perhaps Cancellara, too, who dragged them to Martin in the last 100m. Once you go that route, where do you stop? :)

  3. R.S.

    Horner!!!! Let Wisdom, and brashness prevail! The times I have been around Mr. Horner, He has always called his shots and never held anything back; the older he gets, the more accurate he gets- gotta love it!! Let there be fireworks….!?.

  4. Javelin

    Interesting questions…

    I think Nibali has yet to stamp his authority on this race (I’ve not seen the highlights from today yet, so I could still be called out on that one). I’ve not seen anyone I really fancy for the overall, which makes me think it could stay tight all the way…I wouldn’t give Nibali much chance against Froome and Sky though – Astana just isn’t strong enough.

    I take your point about Markov, and felt gutted for Martin – during interview he looked close to tears…it would have been respectful of the peloton not to go full gas for the finish, but when careers are at stake and the big boys are missing (no Greipel, Sagan, Kittel or Cavendish, who I think should refocus as a classics rider – and I think he will – why else join a team in Belgium?) it’s hard to blame a middling rider like Markov for going for the win – he probably needs the money!

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