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.
The best analysis bar non.
A HUGE couple of days coming up for Remco Evenapoel. Fulfilment of promise if he wins today ( or Gaps GC contenders) and beats Roglic tomorrow. Then its about the three week factor… can he sustain it? Mas, who would have been Remco’s no 2 for this tour and given Roglic much to think about is vindicated by jumping to the best team option for him. Ayuso ,at 19, looks a bit up and down but when he’s up – what a talent! His TT will be interesting. Like Patrick calling it early… “Ayuso the chosen one!” Tbh this Vuelta is giving us a forecast for the T de F 2023-2025 GC, perhaps if we also add Tom Pidcock in as well.
Loving the analysis as ever and your conversations are generating for me questions on five individuals + the UAE team more specifically. I have thrown in a business question for the UCI too despite my expectations the status quo will remain. Anyway;
1) Can Remco hit a level equal to Pog/Vin 2022 T de F? Based on thus far, he is not quite there yet. He would lose bonus seconds to them at the summits so he has to be more selective in his attacks and may need similar climbing outputs to Vingegaard to win against POG. Given his characteristics as a rider and the strength of his team would he be satisfied with winning this Vuelta with no stage wins? If he is, it completes his transition to a three week stage racer but his nature and ego suggests he will want to stamp on this tour at some point. He may have been tentative till now being unsure of himself and Roglic’s strength. His choices to how he uses his own resources in the coming 4-5 days, will be telling, particularly as he cannot afford to write proverbial cheques his legs cannot cash in week three now. For me, if Remco can win here then further refine his preparation in Spring 2023 on top of the compound gains he has clearly already made for this GT then that sets up an exceptional level of contenders for 2023-26 Tour De France. It could be a Golden age of Cycling! Off course, there are so many if’s and buts to this though. It makes this Vuelta the most ‘prophetic tour’ of the year….
Remco’s preparation appears to be, at least equal to that of the UAE training too. TJV do appear to have a training edge. All their riders are peaking and at potential when they need to be and that is not an accident. However, Remco will not have others helping him with any double mindedness in the coming 2-3 years where as Pogacar for his brilliance may need management intervention to make team roles crystal clear. (Ayuso / Almedia).
2) In some ways how UAE manage the leadership and support staff and alter their culture is the biggest talking point for the 2023 season. They need to change. Will Ayuso press home his advantage over Almedia in the UAE pecking order? Will have many bad moments in his first GT at 19? What will his TT be like in the middle of GT. Can he win a stage? He will give the UAE management some headaches in the coming years… or jump ship? Can UAE show a good level of professionalism through this Vuelta. Congrats to Soler btw. Most pertinently will they make managerial changes and training changes to counter Vingegaard at the Tour… perhaps hire LR for strategy – a very smart move against the strongest team…TJV… For me, UAE are the ones that must change something and this winter but not necessarily on the tx market (perhaps one additional roleur). Their approach is the main thing. The focus needs to be on the leadership and support staff. It would be wasteful (costly) laziness for them to think the 2022 T de F is a one off and they have the most gifted rider of generation. Things will not be equal… other teams noteably TJV have an edge and will make Pog pay. How he at still just 23 reacts and gives direction now will shape his legacy. It could be the difference to him between 3-4 and 6-7 Tour de France titles. If he stays well and up right. Had Roglic not dipped on Stage 20 T de F and crashed in 21 Pog would be a sublime talent but the team would have been forced to change more quickly. I hope the UAE bankrollers take a progressive standpoint. One change may need to be a decision about his schedule. For example, don’t expect POG to win UAE tour in 2023… surely Ayuso would oblige and challenge Adam Yates? Even with changes it is not certain he would defeat Vingegaard.
3) Roglic – can he eek back 20-30 secs on the TT against Remco then launch some carefully chosen (researched) attacks in the closing 2-3ks during the final weeks climbs to snatch back this GT? Will his legs betray him in week 3 or will there be some minor redemption to his 2018 podium loss at and GC loss at the T DE F in 2020. If he doesn’t win here is that it for him GC wise? Will he be left focussing on GC for the Giro and Vuelta as like a Simon Yates in future years?
4) Vine… if he doesn’t lose 13 minutes….! He would not be let go and Remco’s climbing output is marginally the best in this peloton BUT not by that much!! VINE has the two stage wins! If he can put together a TT for his own sake on Monday then he is a contender. In a team initially dominated by a one day superstar that now boasts one of if not the best finisher…how will Decuenick Fenix evolve… are they an aide to Vine or is his training and great form occurring in spite of the team?
5) Hindley and Geoghan Hart and Sivakov are good barometers here. They are not at the level of Evenpoel and note-ably Mas who has improved. It suggests the Giro due to being before the tour has been easier to win that than the Vuelta since 2019. Some may argue this is unfair but Roglic had the form but messed up in 2019 and subsequently has held things together at Vuelta having been disappointed at the tour each time. He beat Valverde/Pogacar in 2019, Carapaz in 2020 and the Giro winner Bernal in 2021.
6) Do the UCI leave the calendar unchanged or is the Giro’s position before the tour consigning it to the up and coming riders or GC riders who may target at to 5 or 10 in the Tour. The Vuelta has the potential to attract top level contenders if they have fallen or failed early enough at the tour.
Be interested to hear the guys thoughts on the notion of changing the Grand Tours to 2 weeks each with GC riders riding all three. This would enable a Grandslam to be achieved by a rider targeting all three. It may create a growing sense of coverage for the season and increase some revenue. However, it takes away the third week which many would say is what makes those Tours Grand. ASO would fight it as they would lose out with the lopsided pedestalled position of the Tour diminished. As a business concept it has legs with GC riders battling in a series but the political hurdles are many and there is still a traditionalist position that must be addressed. A two week tour is worthy of note though as we can see a pattern in the winning of Grand Tours. Essentially the first 2-3 Summit finishes the contenders get to show who has the brought the best all out performance. BUT LA, Froome, Pogacar (Stage 8) Vingegaard (Stage 11) only have one or two of those bullets per Grand Tour. They are often then defending by riding at a similar level to their challengers in week 3. Then there are alternatives to this, note-ably Roglic, whereby a third week decided the race as he floundered. He succumbed in 2019 Giro and most dramatically the 2020 Tour De France despite being the strongest in the first part of the race (nearly all of it tbh). Jai Hindley would understandably disagree with this viewpoint too.
Apologies for this long post. Laid up in bed so extra time on my hands. Be really interested to see others views on some of this and off course Patrick and Benji who are informed by the excellent data collected by LR too.
Guys, genuinely, you are the one stop shop now for advanced analysis on top level bike racing! Huge appreciation for all the work that goes in behind the scenes to inform conversation that top DS’s should be espousing. You are developing something that can (and has) changed the sport.