Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2022, stage 17: Aracena - Monasterio de Tentudía, 162.3k

After today's shenanigans, tomorrow forms the start of a triptych of obvious breakaway opportunities. Which is crazy in a race that has had seven successful breakaways already. As for the GC battle, it probably isn't hard enough to separate the strongest riders.




We have two uncategorised climbs in the first half of the stage as the race leaves Andalusia by crossing the border with Extremadura.




After that, there's endless Spanish flat (also known as rolling terrain with a decent kicker from time to time) before we reach the final climb. It's the easiest MTF of this year's race.
 
Because it isn't the most interesting stage, I'd like to draw some attention to the performances of the wildcard teams so far. I think it's a strong contender for the weakest collective performance in the history of the current system, with Euskaltel mounting a challenge for the single worst team to contest a modern GT. None of these teams have made the top 6 of any stage so far!

Stage top-10s:
Burgos - 3
Euskaltel - 0 (!)
Kern Pharma - 2

Best stage result:
Burgos - 7th (Langellotti on stage 5, Ezquerra on stage 13)
Euskaltel - 11th (Canal on stage 2)
Kern Pharma - 10th (Adria on stage 5, Berrade on stage 13)

Best-placed rider on GC:
Burgos - 22nd (Cabedo)
Euskaltel - 35th (Bizkarra)
Kern Pharma - 24th (Parra)

Highest position in a minor classification:
Burgos - 19th (Okamika, points)
Euskaltel - 22nd (Bou, KOM)
Kern Pharma - 6th (Parra) if we count youth classification, but 57th (Garcia Pierna, points) if we don't with not a single KOM point scored all race

And for the statistics that reflect slightly less poorly on these teams:
Team classification (out of 23)
Burgos - 12th
Euskaltel - 14th
Kern Pharma - 15th

Days in the lead of any classification:
Burgos - 3 (Langellotti, KOM)
Euskaltel - 1 (Bou, KOM)
Kern Pharma: 0

Days in the breakaway (out of 14 - must be ahead of the peloton for at least one third of the stage to qualify):
Burgos - 9 (2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16)
Euskaltel - 9 (3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16)
Kern Pharma - 5 (2, 3, 5, 11, 14)

Days there wouldn't have been a break without the wildcard teams participating: 2

Combativity awards won (out of 14):
Burgos - 3 (Bol, stages 2 and 11; Diaz, stage 9)
Euskaltel - 2 (Bou, stage 13; Mate, stage 16)
Kern Pharma - 1 (Miquel, stage 3)

IMO, this is a great sign that it's time for additional requirements to the wildcard system. Teams that are lower than the sum of WT and PCT teams (34), should not be eligible. Currently Kern Pharma is 41st, Burgos is 61st and Euskaltel is 63rd. For context, the the highest-placed continental team is in 25th, and 12 of the 13 other PCTs are ahead of them. The 13th is Novo Nordisk, so literally every eligible team that doesn't consist solely of diabetics would add more to the race (in theory).

Also, Caja Rural are in 31st, which shows that even for teams from home nations, being at the mercy of the organiser isn't necessarily preferable to some sort of merit system.
 
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Because it isn't the most interesting stage, I'd like to draw some attention to the performances of the wildcard teams so far. I think it's a strong contender for the weakest collective performance in the history of the current system, with Euskaltel mounting a challenge for the single worst team to contest a modern GT. None of these teams have made the top 6 of any stage so far!

Stage top-10s:
Burgos - 3
Euskaltel - 0 (!)
Kern Pharma - 2

Best stage result:
Burgos - 7th (Langellotti on stage 5, Ezquerra on stage 13)
Euskaltel - 11th (Canal on stage 2)
Kern Pharma - 10th (Adria on stage 5, Berrade on stage 13)

Best-placed rider on GC:
Burgos - 22nd (Cabedo)
Euskaltel - 35th (Bizkarra)
Kern Pharma - 24th (Parra)

Highest position in a minor classification:
Burgos - 19th (Okamika, points)
Euskaltel - 22nd (Bou, KOM)
Kern Pharma - 6th (Parra) if we count youth classification, but 57th (Garcia Pierna, points) if we don't with not a single KOM point scored all race

And for the statistics that reflect slightly less poorly on these teams:
Team classification (out of 23)
Burgos - 12th
Euskaltel - 14th
Kern Pharma - 15th

Days in the lead of any classification:
Burgos - 3 (Langellotti, KOM)
Euskaltel - 1 (Bou, KOM)
Kern Pharma: 0

Days in the breakaway (out of 14 - must be ahead of the peloton for at least one third of the stage to qualify):
Burgos - 9 (2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16)
Euskaltel - 9 (3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16)
Kern Pharma - 5 (2, 3, 5, 11, 14)

Days there wouldn't have been a break without the wildcard teams participating: 2

Combativity awards won (out of 14):
Burgos - 3 (Bol, stages 2 and 11; Diaz, stage 9)
Euskaltel - 2 (Bou, stage 13; Mate, stage 16)
Kern Pharma - 1 (Miquel, stage 3)

IMO, this is a great sign that it's time for additional requirements to the wildcard system. Teams that are lower than the sum of WT and PCT teams (34), should not be eligible. Currently Kern Pharma is 41st, Burgos is 61st and Euskaltel is 63rd. For context, the the highest-placed continental team is in 25th.
It's also a problem with the UCI points system though, and a problem of the Spanish calendar still recovering from the financial crisis gutting the calendar a decade ago. The French and Belgian teams have myriad one day races and flat stage races to pad the point stats with a half decent sprinter which just aren't available on the Spanish calendar. Plus, of course, the problem that in the later part of the season teams like Lotto, Movistar, ISN, EF and BikeExchange are flooding the smaller races in the hunt for points and denying these teams a chance at the type of races they would usually be able to get some good scores in, like the lesser Spanish one-dayers.
 
It's also a problem with the UCI points system though, and a problem of the Spanish calendar still recovering from the financial crisis gutting the calendar a decade ago. The French and Belgian teams have myriad one day races and flat stage races to pad the point stats with a half decent sprinter which just aren't available on the Spanish calendar. Plus, of course, the problem that in the later part of the season teams like Lotto, Movistar, ISN, EF and BikeExchange are flooding the smaller races in the hunt for points and denying these teams a chance at the type of races they would usually be able to get some good scores in, like the lesser Spanish one-dayers.
There are continental teams from the Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK and Norway ahead of Burgos and Euskaltel. All of those countries have a smaller domestic calendar than Spain, and don't have the advantage of being from continents with really cheap points on offer like an Asia Tour team does. The smaller races in Italy, a country with a similarly-gutted calendar, are also being flooded by the WT teams now, yet the Italian teams (hardly guiding examples in terms of results) are holding up much better. And the shortcomings of the UCI points system are there for everyone. There is simply no excuse to be this far down on the rankings as a ProTeam.
 
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There are continental teams from the Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK and Norway ahead of Burgos and Euskaltel. All of those countries have a smaller domestic calendar than Spain, and don't have the advantage of being from continents with really cheap points on offer like an Asia Tour team does. The smaller races in Italy are also being flooded by the WT teams now, yet the Italian teams are holding up much better. And the shortcomings of the UCI points system are there for everyone. There is simply no excuse to be this far down on the rankings as a ProTeam.
TBH Burgos are kinda a nothingburger team. They have some obvious payriders there. Euskaltel don't have the same regional devotion as they did in the days of the original team, and definitely I think Caja Rural got done dirty by the Vuelta organisers this year, they're the best of the Spanish domestic teams.

As for the Italian teams, there's only 2 of them now, I think that's part of the problem as well, the few races where the Spanish teams are suited (their non-WT calendar does not reward the same kind of riders as the non-WT calendar of many other major cycling markets) they're pinching points off each other, whereas in Italy they've already been doing that for a while with only the strongest surviving, so Bardiani and Drone Hopper are OK, and the other teams have either died or dropped down to Conti.

Maybe those Spanish teams should go and fill their boots at the small Turkish races or race a calendar that nobody else does, looking at Bolton Equities in 25th and Terengganu in 30th. Or, perhaps better off, if some of those elite amateur races in Spain would take 1.2 or 2.2 status to allow some of these teams to enter and pick up some cheap points without Movistar and co taking the points off them, like fifteen years ago when you had the Circuito Montañés, Vuelta a León, Cinturón a L'Empordà, Vuelta a Extremadura and so on all holding UCI status.
 
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As for the Italian teams, there's only 2 of them now,
Negative, you have Bardiani, Drone Hopper and Eolo. Not a big difference compared to Spain.

Maybe those Spanish teams should go and fill their boots at the small Turkish races or race a calendar that nobody else does, looking at Bolton Equities in 25th and Terengganu in 30th.
There's a reason I didn't mention either team in my list of CTs above Burgos and Euskaltel, however it should be noted that Bolton won the Tour of Hellas GC this year with Gate. The only Vuelta wildcard team that has at least an equal-sized win is Kern Pharma, with Garcia Pierna's Spanish ITT title and Adria's Occitanie stage. Burgos only have a Volta stage and the Estonian title, while Euskaltel haven't even won above the .2 level yet this year.
 
Negative, you have Bardiani, Drone Hopper and Eolo. Not a big difference compared to Spain.
Fair, I forgot about them because they're relatively new, I was thinking back to the era when alongside CSF and Androni you had Acqua e Sapone, Ceramica Flaminia, CarmioOro, LPR Brakes and Scinto's mob, all of which have gradually fallen by the wayside.

There's a reason I didn't mention either team in my list of CTs above Burgos and Euskaltel, however it should be noted that Bolton won the Tour of Hellas GC this year with Gate. The only Vuelta wildcard team that has at least an equal-sized win is Kern Pharma, with Garcia Pierna's Spanish ITT title and Adria's Occitanie stage. Burgos only have a Volta stage and the Estonian title, while Euskaltel haven't even won above the .2 level yet this year.
Yea, Hellas has a better field than I recalled actually. For the most part though there are a few of these races with higher UCI status but pretty limited fields, the equivalent of back 10 years ago when people like Serebryakov and the Iranian motorbikes got up to the WT because of points criteria. Some of those teams like Burgos and Euskaltel should probably have worked harder at taking on a few of those races and targeting them for points. Certainly probably they would have done had they not already got their Vuelta invite.

I remember talking with a Continental Pro many years ago who was very critical of the system back then where there were several "Continental Professional" teams that were pure amateur teams who paid a few thousand euros for a licence so they could ride national tours when they were upped from .2 to .1 or .HC, and that ProContinental teams' licences cost a huge amount more because of the increased calendar opportunities, so essentially for a lot of the smaller ProConti teams over the years, like Andalucía, OnePro, Scott-Marcondes César, PSK Whirlpool, Amica Chips-Knauf, Funvic, Holowesko-Citadel, Verva-ActiveJet and Drapac, it was a hell of an expense for the hope of a possible invite to a monument or a GT, and one or two small WT races a season - max. If they weren't Spanish (and in Euskaltel's case specifically Basque), it's an expense Burgos and Euskaltel probably wouldn't be paying.
 
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Surely Mas has to go for it now
I'm not entirely sure if you say that with sarcasm or not, but yes he can end up 2nd if he attacks/tries to drop roglic. I don't think he can endanger Remco but it is an added bonusas it doesn't hurt trying.
I also wouldn't be surpised if Ayuso tried something, to get closer to podium (or win a stage) just in case...
Remco has been letting others ride and is seels to be fully committed on his jersey not on stage wins, so i think he will let Ayuso go.
 

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