The Australian Jay Vine is on fire, taking his second win in La Vuelta in a matter of days. This time he won from the breakaway, riding away on a new final climb from a quality break including Pinot, Landa, Taaramae, Soler and Lutsenko. Meanwhile in the GC group, Evenepoel dictated the tempo and performed at a high level again.
It was the second mountain top finish of La Vuelta 2022. The final climb was the challenging Colla Fancuaya (10.3 km, 7.7%), which included a 10%+ steep section in the middle of the climb. Despite the breakaway being loaded with climbing talent, stage 6 winner Jay Vine was the huge favourite if he could repeat his level from two days prior on Pico Jano, where he won from the peloton.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl paced in the peloton as Mikel Landa was 6 minutes back in GC and Remco Evenepoel had a good chance to win his first Grand Tour stage. It was a hard task to catch the break though, as Groupama-FDJ had Sebastien Reichenbach and Bruno Armirail who were pulling hard for Pinot and everyone else worked well together. Whilst Cavagna could hold the gap stable in the valleys, the calibre of the climbers in the breakaway meant that it was very difficult for Quickstep eat into the gap on the numerous 20 minute climbs, without burning their men before Fancuaya.
Vine was hunting for KOM points and was first on six different climbs today, building a huge lead in the KOM competition. The Australian had to spend some excess energy a couple of times going after points but for the most part crossed the KOM gates uncontested from the others, who were more focussed on the stage.
With the pressure of the Quickstep chase behind, there was not much opportunity for games in the breakaway before the final climb. Reichenbach paced initially and even Landa and the others rolled some turns before Vine attacked strongly on the steep section with around six km remaining. Vine soloed to his second Vuelta a España mountain stage victory, which very likely will not be his last win in Spain.
Stage 5 winner Marc Soler proved again that he has great form but could not challenge the Australian, who was probably underrated by other riders as they did not even attack him before the climb, especially FDJ who had three riders in the group. It would be a hard task to beat Vine in a w/kg battle such as this after his stage 6 win against top GC riders.
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Vine is estimated to have produced 6.00w/kg for 29:30 minutes on Collau Fancuaya, which was 2 minutes slower than the peloton’s time. Compared to Vine’s stage 6 performance on Pico Jano, where the Alpecin-Deceuninck rider won from the peloton, the w/kg on the final climb were not as high. This is understandable, given that Vine was in the breakaway from the very first climb, was alone in a flat valley with Soler for some time after the opening climb, and spent some energy chasing KOM points. The difference between his Pico Jano and Collau Fancuaya performances is estimated at around 0.6 w/kg, with the Pico Jano effort being 23 seconds longer.
In the peloton, Quick-Step was clearly intent on setting up an Evenepoel attack with Julian Alaphilippe and Ilan van Wilder. Due to TV issues there was no footage for a couple of minutes as Van Wilder began his pull. There are some questions as to if and where exactly Evenepoel accelerated but it is very likely the Belgian attacked after Van Wilder had ended his turn in the middle of the steepest kilometre.
When the tv footage returned, the Belgian was pacing hard like on stage 6 and dropping riders from his wheel. This time Enric Mas, Primož Roglič and Carlos Rodriguez were strong enough to stay in Evenepoel’s draft, with Rodriguez losing touch close to the end of the stage as the trio accelerated. Despite dropping late, this performance was the 21-year-old Spanish talent’s best climbing performance, losing only 13 seconds to the red jersey.
Evenepoel did an estimated 6.42 w/kg for 27:29 min on Collau Fancuaya and 6.95 w/kg for 11:33 minutes in the last 4.2 km when the TV footage stopped for some time. Evenepoel’s climbing level again was high but he probably should have attacked at the start of the steep section where Jay Vine attacked as, when you are the strongest, it is easier to drop rivals on steeper gradients where the drag is reduced. The Quick-Step train, despite quite an impressive performance, does not seem to be capable of setting a hard enough pace for Evenepoel, who went significantly faster after Van Wilder was finished. Despite the lopsided pacing, Evenepoel’s Collau Fancuaya performance is above the white trendline, which is a Grand Tour Winner’s trendline.
This trendline will feature in other rider’s graphs for ease of comparison and to see if a rider is strong on shorter or longer efforts. If a rider can perform multiple times above or close to this trendline then it is very likely he might win a Grand Tour if he is consistent enough throughout the three weeks and does not have a deplorable time trial.
Primož Roglič was much better today than in Stage 6, where Evenepoel dropped him. Roglič did an estimated 6.34 w/kg for 27:29 min, while on the rainy stage 6 it was 6.06 w/kg for 31:30 min.
Enric Mas once again proved he is in great shape staying together with Roglič and Evenepoel. The Spanish rider rarely attacks but there is good reason for this, when he is doing his career peak level whilst in the wheel of Evenepoel. Attacking risks going over his limit, blowing up and losing time to podium contenders such as Roglic or Rodriguez.
Tomorrow will be another climbing day, which will end with the only rampas inhumanas climb in this Vuelta, the mighty Les Praeres (3.8 km, 13.0%). Remco Evenepoel is very likely to set his pace once again and it will be harder to hold his wheel on such steep gradients. It should be again a chance for a breakaway to win but Quick-Step might pace for an Evenepoel win, who should be confident after his performance on the very steep Erlaitz climb in San Sebastian and the preceding two mountain stages.