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VUELTA’18: Ed’s Second Rest Day Round Up!

Vuelta Rest Day No.2: The 2018 Vuelta a España looks a little more settled as we go into the final six stages to Madrid, via Andorra. So far we have had some surprise wins and the battles on the final climbs have lived up to expectations. Ed Hood has been keeping an ‘eagle eye’ on developments in Spain – Simon Yates for the win, or is a Movistar ambush on the cards?

Valverde and Quintana are sitting on Yates’ shoulder

Read the PEZ Route Preview HERE and the PEZ Rider Pick HERE and the ‘Second Week Photo Gallery’ HERE.

Stage 10 – 2018 No. 60 for Quick-Step floors

Stage 10:
Elia Viviani makes it SIXTY UCi wins for Quick-Step Floors – 31 of those at WorldTour level – in an environment where riders can go a whole career without a win and where currently some 12 of the 18 World Tour teams are still on single figures for wins at this level. Remarkable. Fitting that the man who took the world’s best single day team to this total should be the Italian Champion, his own 16th win of the year. Instrumental in a whole host of these wins including Jakobsen’s Scheldeprijs win and Viviani’s latest triumph has been Danish Elite Champion, Michael Mørkøv.

Viviani and Mørkøv – team work

PEZ sage and commentator Viktor remarked; “it’s taken a long time for teams to figure out Michael’s strengths and use to them to best effect. . .” But that’s why Patrick Lefevere and his management team are the best. ‘Chapeau!’ Elia, Michael and Monsieur Lefevere. As one would expect on a sprint stage, the red jersey stayed put with Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott & England).

De Marchi – Clever and strong

Stage 11:
And ANOTHER break sticks. Alessandro De Marchi (BMC & Italy) is one of the sport’s work horses, a key man to have in a TTT; the tough ‘baroudeur’ stages in the Vuelta and the time of the season suit him well, this was his third stage win in the race to go with those of 2014 and 2015. My overriding memory of the man is at the Ponferrada Worlds in 2014, clear in a break of four well into the finale, his own team hauled the move back to set things up for Colbrelli who could do no better than 13th behind Polish race winner Michal Kwiatkowski. The big Italian was one angry man as he rode back to the Italian pits at the finish; not often the Azzuri get it wrong – but they did that day. Yates defended his jersey, again.

Geniez – Another for the French

Stage 12:
Alexandre Geniez continued AG2R’s Indian summer; Naesen took Plouay, Gallopin took a stage in the first week whilst Geniez was winning in the Marseillaise way back in January and here he is in September taking a Grand Tour stage victory. And this was the day of a rare occurrence – a Cofidis rider pulling on the leader’s jersey in a Grand Tour. Twice a former Spanish National Elite Road race Champion, Jesus Herrada gave Cofidis a rare day in the sun after surviving in the big break of the day. We knew it would be short lived but nice to see ‘the little guys’ having his day.

A very nice win for Oscar Rodriguez and Euskadi-Murias

Stage 13:
Into the really serious ascents and fitting that a man from the rugged Basque Country with a famous name on his chest should win and surprise the ‘Bigs.’ Oscar Rodriguez from pro-continental Euskadi-Murias was the man to have the commentators reaching for Google. But if we’d noticed he’d won the mountains classification in the Tour of the Alps ahead of Pozzovivo and Pinot perhaps we wouldn’t have been so surprised? Herrada held on to red but the feeling was that next day would be his last in the lead.

Stage 14 win and back in red for Simon Yates

Stage 14:
Simon Yates moved back into the overall lead in grand style with a stage win; he looks just that bit better than the rest – but we said that in the Giro? However, the opposition isn’t as strong here as it was in Italy and the skinny former World Points Race Champion from Bury, Manchester is half a season stronger and wiser. We knew he was in good form after that final stage exploit in the Tour of Poland which preceded the Vuelta. But how would he fare on the legendary Lagos de Covadonga stage on Sunday?

The French have had a successful Vuelta – Pinot stage 15 in Covadonga

Stage 15:
‘Just fine’ was the answer to that one, extending his GC lead and finishing third behind that dashing Frenchman, Thibaut Pinot who’s either brilliant or woeful – with little in between. The FDJ man joins the elite group who have win stages in all three Grand Tours and sits seventh on GC @ 2:10 – and he can time trial a bit. The Vuelta a la Français continues with Pinot’s win backing up team mate Molard’s spell in red; Cofidis stage win with Bouhanni and spell in red with Herrada not to mention AG2R’s two ‘brawler’ stage wins courtesy Gallopin and Geniez.

Lopez has been strong, but is that enough

Astana’s Colombian, ‘Superman’ Lopez (fourth overall) managed to put a scant two seconds into the Englishman and Valverde (second overall) continues to surprise, dropping just two seconds to Yates whilst the Spaniard’s Columbian Movistar team mate Nairo Quintana (third overall) again dropped vital seconds.

Uran – Just off the boil

The third of the Andean ‘Big Three,’ Rigoberto Uran is in eighth spot, 2:27 back on Yates – would you put money on him getting that back? Me neither, but on paper he’s the strongest ‘contrarrelojista’ and Tuesday sees the second joust with Father Time.

Steven Kruijswijk has an outside chance

There are few surprises at the top of the GC; Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNl-Jumbo) sits nicely in fifth spot at 1:29 and he’s not a bad time tester – but his Sunweb compatriot Wilco Kelderman is further down than we’d expected in 12th spot at 6:56 and seemingly out of it.

Enric Mas – Another string to the Quick-Step bow

Young Spaniard Enric Mas (Quick-Step Floors) is in a promising sixth spot @ 1:55 – but as Sky’s Italian sport director, Dario Cioni always used to tell us’ a “a Grand Tour is won in the last week.”

At least Richie Porte might finish!

The only three riders from our race preview of two weeks ago who we haven’t mentioned thus far are:
Richie Porte (BMC & Australia) who must have walked under a ladder just as he broke a mirror; a bad tummy saw him 97th in the Stage One time test and he dropped another 10 minutes today on Covadonga.

Aru – Not the rider he was in 2015

Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates & Italy) it’s hard to believe that this is the same man who won this race in 2015; 14th @ 8:9. I’m just glad I’m not the press guy at UAE and have to come up with something positive to say every day – that man is earning his salary.

Vincenzo Nibali – Next the World championships

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida & Italy) is way back but interestingly is PEZ sage and soothsayer Viktor’s tip for the ultra-hilly Worlds in Austria. Vik reckons ‘The Shark’ is treating the race as nothing more than preparation for a rainbow. Whilst the Siciliano reckons that Tuesday’s post-rest day time trial will decide the race because the climbers are so closely matched.

Yates has been the best on the climbs

It should be a good last week.

Until next Monday. . .

Will Yates be in red on Sunday?

It was November 2005 when Ed Hood first penned a piece for PEZ, on US legend Mike Neel. Since then he’s covered all of the Grand Tours and Monuments for PEZ and has an article count in excess of 1,600 in the archive. He was a Scottish champion cyclist himself – many years and kilograms ago – and still owns a Klein Attitude, Dura Ace carbon Giant and a Fixie. He and fellow Scot and PEZ contributor Martin Williamson run the Scottish site www.veloveritas.co.uk where more of his musings on our sport can be found.

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