Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2021: Stage 9 (Puerto Lumbreras - Alto de Velefique, 188.0 km)

This is a proper mountain stage reaching the highest point of the race (Alto Collado Venta Luisa at 1970 m ASL). There will be no mountain stages until the next weekend so expect serious GC action tomorrow. The Velefique is easier in the second half but (hopefully) the race will detonate in its first part. Hopefully no more anticlimatic MTFs at the Vuelta.






Alto Collado Venta Luisa



Velefique:

 
After an easier-than-usual route so far, it's time for the queen stage (in theory at least, it has slightly more elevation gain than the Asturian stages) on the Vuelta's favourite position of the second Sunday. The previous mountains have produced very little in the way of gaps between the remaining contenders, if that doesn't change here it will essentially be a one-week race to decide the winner, but the profile at least has potential for major action.





The first quarter of the stage is straightforward, then the route rises in four steps to the Alto de Cuatro Vientos. The climb matches the profile below as far as the junction to Macael at 8k, then finishes with another 2.6k at 6.2%.



After the descent, there's one final sustained flat section before the hardest climb of the race so far, Collado Venta Luisa. This climb marks the highest point of this year's race, and unlike in 2009, the riders take it on from what is probably its hardest side (then again, that stage also featured a second ascent of Velefique). With only three ESP climbs all race, I'm somewhat surprised at it only being a cat. 1. Either way, it's the profile below minus the final stretch from the pass to Calar Alto.



The remainder of the stage is identical to the 2009 one, with Alto de Castro de Filabres (the profile below from the junction to Collada Venta Luisa onwards) as the obligatory link...



...to the start of Alto de Velefique, with 5k at 9.1% early on followed by more gradual climbing. It didn't cause large gaps in 2009, then again both the following stages ended on harder MTFs and that year's race was hampered by defensive racing in general, leaving cause for some optimism. Either way, it's the first 18.5 k of the profile below.

 
Jumbo while not probably able to easily control stages seem to have an adequate team not to fear this stage

Movistar lost Valverde who despite not really being a super aggressive rider in the Vuelta would have given them additional tactical options and the remaining team is not strong enough to isolate Roglic from a significant distance without Lopez or Mas committing to an attack from far out.

Ineos have to make a choice to sacrifice Carapaz or Yates as it is probably the only way to leave Roglic isolated and I feel that they won't make that decision yet.

Bahrain look weaker than expected from the top down so the best they can probably do is to put Mäder/Caruso in the break.

I hope to be wrong as usual, but I feel that this would be a wait and see GC shakeout stage without any major moves off the front.
 
I definitely don’t think of this stage as the queen stage: yeah there’s the total elevation gain, but a sizable chunk of that is accrued from the rolling terrain of the 1st 75 km and from the long shallow approach to Luisa before that climb gets steeper. And all that earlier stuff will be ridden at a pretty tranquil pace by the peloton. I think of the Covandonga stage as the queen stage ( or perhaps the day that follows).
 
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I definitely don’t think of this stage as the queen stage: yeah there’s the total elevation gain, but a sizable chunk of that is accrued from the rolling terrain of the 1st 75 km and from the long shallow approach to Luisa before that climb gets steeper. And all that earlier stuff will be ridden at a pretty tranquil pace by the peloton. I think of the Covandonga stage as the queen stage ( or perhaps the day that follows).
It's 100% the stage to Gamoniteiru.
 
Jumbo while not probably able to easily control stages seem to have an adequate team not to fear this stage

Movistar lost Valverde who despite not really being a super aggressive rider in the Vuelta would have given them additional tactical options and the remaining team is not strong enough to isolate Roglic from a significant distance without Lopez or Mas committing to an attack from far out.

Ineos have to make a choice to sacrifice Carapaz or Yates as it is probably the only way to leave Roglic isolated and I feel that they won't make that decision yet.

Bahrain look weaker than expected from the top down so the best they can probably do is to put Mäder/Caruso in the break.

I hope to be wrong as usual, but I feel that this would be a wait and see GC shakeout stage without any major moves off the front.
I think the final climb will be pretty aggressive because it's a good place to play the numbers game.
 
I think the final climb will be pretty aggressive because it's a good place to play the numbers game.
Yeah, seems like a sensible strategy. I still feel that other teams are not strong enough to isolate Roglic without attacking with one of their leaders first and I believe that Kuss/Kruijswijk will be there to chase down that first attack if it happens early.
 
Having rode a full Tour (for GC), plus the Olympics, I don't think we can expect much from Richie, both on this stage and for the rest of the race.

More likely that Yates will challenge Roglic, or Bernal if he wasn't too effected by covid. Other than that I still consider Landa a chance because of a) personal bias, and b) hasn't raced much this season and could get stronger as the race goes on.
 
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