Following stage 12’s summit finish atop Peñas Blancas, the Vuelta a España returns to flatter terrain on Friday’s stage 13, throwing the sprinters another bone before a spate of upcoming climbing stages.
The race from Ronda to Montilla is undulating but lacks any categorized climbs. The final-kilometer fast-men will fancy their chances after what have been relatively few opportunities during the race, and will instruct their teams to keep close tabs on the breakaways in the hope that everything comes back together before the finish.
However, the 168.4 kilometers in store should offer hope to the escape specialists too, with the jagged terrain likely to see a move slip away and get the opportunity to build some sort of buffer.
Those who fancy their chances will hope for a bigger move than that of two days previously. Stage 11 to Cabo de Gata had just three riders up the road, making it easy for the sprinters’ teams to control their gains and to bring them back well before the finale.
- Vuelta a Espana stage 11: Kaden Groves wins bunch sprint to land first grand tour win
- Vuelta a España stage 12: Richard Carapaz wins on Peñas Blancas, Remco Evenepoel survives crash scare
- Vuelta a España: Danny van Poppel again thrust back into grand tour sprint role
Former professional Fernando Escartin gives the break more than a passing chance of staying clear.
“Although the first part of the stage is more meandering, the second part is practically flat. Accumulated exhaustion following Peñas Blancas may pose a problem for the sprinters,” he said. “The most explosive riders will have to make their teams work hard in order to control the arrival at the finish line.”
Sprinters under pressure to deliver on limited opportunities
Those who will hope for a huge gallop into the first-time stage finish of Montilla include Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo), who is well clear in the battle for the green jersey but lacking the stage win he has been hunting since the start of the race. He was second on stages 2, 3, and 4 and fifth on stage 11.
He’ll also eye the intermediate sprint located 14km from the finish.
Stage 11 winner Kaden Groves will be keen to notch up a second success, not least because his BikeExchange-Jayco team is trying to fend off WorldTour relegation. Danny van Poppel (Bora-Hansgrohe) is aiming to land up the second Vuelta stage win of his career and will be encouraged by his second place behind Groves in Cabo de Gata.
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates), Dan McLay (Arkéa Samsic) and Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) were also in the top-10 on that occasion, Merlier netting third, and will all want to seize their chance prior to the flurry of mountain stages to come.
The general classification riders will aim to keep out of trouble. Julian Alaphilippe and Evenepoel himself both had falls in recent days, sliding out on the slick roads, and this will reinforce the need to be attentive, stay upright, and remain safe.