The 2015 Vuelta a Espana is poised on a knife’s edge after Joaqin Rodriguez managed to ride away in the final kilometers to take Stage 15’s summit finish at Alto del Sotres, gaining 15 seconds on race leader, Fabio Aru.
With Rodriguez also taking out the 10 second time bonus, the young Italian now holds onto the red Leaders Jersey by just 1 second going into tomorrow’s mountain stage.
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)
2. Rafael Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0.12
3. Dani Moreno (Katusha) +0.14
4. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0.15
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0.15
6. Mikel Landa (Astana) +0.18
7. Esteban Chavez (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0.20
8. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) +0.24
9. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0.29
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R-La Mondiale) +0.41
1. Fabio Aru (Astana)
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) +0.01
3. Rafael Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +1.24
4. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecine) +1.25
5. Esteban Chavez (Orica-GreenEDGE) +1.34
6. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +2.08
7. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) +2.19
8. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +2.25
9. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3.00
10. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) +5.07
The 2015 la Vuelta a Espana‘s three days of reckoning continue tonight as the peloton tackles another high altitude mountains stage. Join The Roar for live updates and commentary of Stage 15 from 12 midnight (AEST).
The 175km stage covering three climbs may seem like just another day in the saddle for this particularly ruggard Vuelta, but there will be just enough Spanish spice in this stage to see the duel for the red jersey heat up once again.
After a more or less flat start to the day, the race will kick into gear 100km in with an intermediate sprint at the foot of the second category Alto del Torno and then the third category climb to Ortiguero.
While those two peaks will loosen some of the sprinters from the main bunch, the climax of the stage up the Alto del Sotres, at the 163 km mark, is the kind of summit only a climbing purist delights in.
The 13km climb opens with comparatively gentle slopes of 7-10 per cent gradient before flattening off for a kilometre of respite at the halfway mark, it is then that the fun – and attacks – will begin.
The second half of the climb ramps up and keeps getting steeper and steeper, peaking at 13 per cent right at the finish line.
Depending on the mood of the peloton it could be a great chance for a breakaway rider to snag a win, with a tough final week coming up the major teams may choose to rest for the day rather than drive the pace along the early flats and climbs, giving an escape the chance to build up a significant lead.
Come the Alto del Sotres though any potential ceasefire among the GC contenders will be well and truly off.
Look for the lightweights like Fabio Aru, Joaquim Rodríguez and Rafael Majka to really put pressure on third placed Thomas Domulin, particularly as the road ramps up towards the summit of the Sotres.
Domulin has been admirably stubborn in sticking with the mountain goats in the peloton but his place looks far from assured and today’s stage will be one of the many tests he faces in the coming week.
As I said today could well be one for the breakaway, making it a real lotto draw as to who could win, but for the fun of it I’d say Steve Cummings from MTN-Qhubeka, as he showed at Stage 14 for the Tour de France he has a habit of picking just the right moment to attack.
In the General Classification battle I’ll pick Fabio Aru to attack and gain a few extra seconds over his challengers, these kind of extra steep slopes seem to suit him well and he needs all the time he can get heading into the Time Trial later this week.
But over to you Roarers, who do you think will take the stage? Let me know in the comments and join us from 12 midnight for live commentary and race updates.