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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España stage 7 preview: A big chance for the breakaway

The 2022 Vuelta a España has been fruitful for the breakaway so far and stage 7 is another very good opportunity for the win.

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The opening week of the Vuelta a España has already been very good to the breakaway and stage 7 could be another prime opportunity for the escapees to take out a stage win.

A big win has already gone to a breakaway with Marc Soler (UAE Team Emirates) claiming stage 5 as Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) earned an opportunity to wear the red jersey for a second time in his career.

Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) also took the win from a break on the Pico Jano summit finish of stage 6. Though his win was not a true breakaway win, as he attacked from the GC group on the final climb after missing the initial move earlier in the day, we can put that one in the win column for the attackers.

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The general classification saw a big upheaval Thursday on the first big mountain test with Remco Evenepoel (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) surging clear to take the red jersey. He holds a 21-second advantage over Molard, who just about held on to keep second overall on the Pico Jano, with Enric Mas (Movistar) at 28 seconds back.

Evenepoel and Mas made big gains on the likes of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), and Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe). Those that lost time to the Belgian and the Spaniard will be hurting and be keen to claw some of that time back, but they will have to wait at least a day to have a go.

A clear-cut breakaway day

While some stages can go either way between the escape and the peloton, this stage from Camargo to Cisterna seems designed to be a clear-cut breakaway day. It’s too difficult for the sprinters in the peloton but not challenging enough to be a platform for a proper GC fight.

The first category Puerto de San Glorio is the only classified ascent of the day and starts shortly after the halfway point of the stage, though the riders will have been climbing steadily for about 30 kilometers by the time they reach the official start of the climb.

With undulating roads, yet nothing too challenging, opening up the stage the breakaway is unlikely to make any real headway until it gets to this climb. The GC riders will be more than happy to let them go — provided nobody too dangerous is in the move — as there are bigger fish to fry over the weekend.

The Puerto de San Glorio is a steady 22.4-kilometer ascent that averages 5.5 percent. The easiest gradients are at the foot of the climb with it hovering below the five percent mark in the opening six kilometers.

From there, it gradually gets harder, and it hits a maximum gradient of 11 percent soon after the halfway point in the climb. Anyone who is starting to struggle will be happy to find the terrain easing off in the last two kilometers before the summit.

It should prove sufficient to shed the heavier sprinters in the peloton and allow a group of plucky escapees to build a substantial gap on the peloton. With it looking so likely that an escapee will take the stage honors Friday, it should be a sizeable group that goes up the road.

Once the riders hit the top of the Puerto San Glorio, it’s almost all downhill from there with just a few small rises near the town of Riaño.

The intermediate sprint comes in the latter part of the stage with just 22 kilometers remaining. With just nine points separating Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mads Pederson (Trek-Segafredo) in the fight for the green jersey, a stage such as this one could prove vital.

Pederson is a better climber than Bennett and he could potentially muscle his way into to the breakaway. If the Dane does manage to get into the move, he’d have the opportunity to mop up 20 points at the intermediate sprint. He’d also be a favorite for the stage win if he did get in the break, where he could add a further 20 points to his tally.

Bennett’s best hope is that Bora-Hansgrohe can keep a lid on Pederson going over the San Glorio and that the breakaway is big enough to mop up all of the available points.

With the final kilometers of the stage a pan-flat run into Cisterna, there will be a tactical battle between the fast men in the break and those that don’t poses a sprint in their skillset. Stage 6 will possibly be the last chance for the breakaway to take a win in the first week with two tough summit finishes to come over the weekend.