Thursday’s stage 6 was a classic Vuelta a España day. On paper, it wasn’t crazy — five lower-category climbs over 204.4km. But on the road, there were plenty of spicy ingredients to make for a wild day of racing. A big break got away, and the peloton was worried. Sky kept them close, and on the final climb, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) launched a suicide attack. Chris Froome (Sky) followed. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) did too … Until he crashed. The Vuelta is always full of surprises, so let’s roundtable!
What was your first reaction when you saw Contador attack the final climb?
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Fred Dreier, @freddrieer: Here goes Contador with another YOLO attack to rile up the Spanish fans! I assumed it would go nowhere because of the long flat section to the finish line, but I wasn’t all that surprised. El Pistolero is probably attacking people in the buffet line.
Spencer Powlison, @spino_powerlegs: I was skeptical at first, but when I saw how much effort Contador was putting in, I started to wonder if maybe he was crazy like a fox. Sure, there’s a long flat to the line, but if he has a couple key GC guys (ahem, Mr. Froome) and some motivated stage-hunters, then why not?
Andrew Hood, @eurohoody: I thought, ‘Bertie, what are you doing?!’ And then I remembered my colleague, who said something very astute: “Alberto only has one job in this Vuelta; to make sure Chris Froome doesn’t win” … and then it all made sense.
Caley Fretz, @caleyfretz: Venga! This is what bike racing should look like.
Was Contador’s attack worth the effort or all show, no go?
Fred: All show, yes, but not entirely no go. He is trying to get that confidence back after laying an egg on stage 3, and I think that revving his engines like that and dropping everyone is one way to bring back the spirit.
Spencer: I think it was definitely worth the effort. Okay, maybe there’s a little play for TV time, and of course the Spanish fans — any cycling fans really — couldn’t get enough. It’s a smart move though, given how much ground Contador has to make up in the overall.
Andrew: Of course not, but does that even matter? Alberto is on a greatest hits tour. This is his last race (unfortunately); he’s going to make a show of every stage. Tomorrow ends today (insert your favorite James Bond movie title here).
Caley: Heck yeah it was. He isolated Froome for the second time in this Vuelta. How many times was Froome truly isolated in the entire Tour de France? Zero. Now Contador just needs some of the other contenders to step up.
Would Contador’s group have stayed away if van Garderen hadn’t crashed?
Fred: No. They were too far from the line. My guess is the pack of contenders would have brought them back.
Spencer: Maybe not, but it certainly would have had a much better chance. Remember that Axel Domont and Carlos Betancur also went down. So if all three stay upright and ride with the group, that means BMC, Movistar, and Ag2r all will not chase. Given how the final three-man group stayed away in the final, it seems possible.
Andrew: No, but they were putting everyone on the rivet. And that’s essence of the modern-day Vuelta. The show for the show’s sake — viva la Vuelta!
Caley: Unlikely. It was a big group behind, and a highly motivated one. Up front, Froome wasn’t going to do much work and Contador needed more than just van Garderen to help him out.
After six days of racing, who do you pick for the final Vuelta podium?
Fred: Froome, Chaves, Nibali
Spencer: Froome, Nibali, Contador
Andrew: Froome, Froome, someone else
Caley: Froome, Chaves, Nibali.