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Vuelta a España Vuelta a España 2023, stage 13: Formigal - Col du Tourmalet, 134.7k

Time for this Vuelta to really get serious. For who will this day be unlucky number thirteen?
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The stage starts from Formigal, the favourite destination of both Chris Froome and Primoz Roglic. A whopping 3.3% of the stage takes place in Spain, which is somehow nowhere near the record (stage 14 in 2016 had its official start approximately 100 metres from the border). These 4.4 kilometres are the final 4.4k of Puerto de Portalet.
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And that will be the last we see of Spain for a fair while. By the time we return, four out of five ESP climbs will have been raced and the GC battle should be looking very different. Speaking of ESP climbs, Aubisque is up next, following the long, shallow and untechnical descent of Portalet.
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The descent, as always, is interrupted by the short ramp up to Soulor.
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We then descend to the north for a return to a climb that had a rather spectacular GT debut last year. Spandelles probably won’t see an equivalent to Pogacar’s final roll of the dice this time, but will still play a big part in ensuring the race is reasonably selective prior to the MTF.
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After a narrow descent and a long valley section, it’s time for the decisive part of this stage. Somehow, the western side of Tourmalet hasn’t been seen on TV (it did feature early in the queen stage of Occitanie in 2021 though) since Pinot beat Alaphilippe here in the 2019 Tour, when it was also an MTF. The gaps were fairly disappointing that time, but this stage does have a significantly harder run-in. In any case, this is unquestionably the biggest and most important test of the race so far, and surely the point where we find out who the true contenders are.

Oh, and we have the potential for Libertine’s worst nightmare: Kuss winning, in red, on a Tourmalet MTF. Hide your kittens.
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A late second week stage up Tourmalet after only minor skirmishes (and a TTT and ITT) beforehand.
A surprise leader and a strong time trialist as best placed GC favorite. The strong time trialist will be once again surprisingly dispatched. Team Soler will set the pace over Soulor. Landa will dangle at the back of the group in the end and Jumbo will set a controlling rhythm for a few kilometers. Marc Soler will drop back with a co-leader. Bernal and Buchmann will fight for the stage win.
 
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Tomorrow at least 20+ riders in the breakaway. However, their win will depend in how the GC contenders race in the peloton. I'd say the breakaway will take it just because the GC contenders will try to save energy because of the 2 brutal stages in series.
Really hard for the break to take this one. With most of the start being downhill, it’s likely the move only goes on Aubisque. That leaves zero flat for the break to build a lead because the peloton isn’t softpedalling the valley between Spandelles and Tourmalet, so the peloton would have to do an impressive amount of sandbagging on the climbs for the gap to be big enough for anyone to hold on on Tourmalet. Unless we get another break with GC threats, that is.
 
So this is the stage we've been waiting for. GC situation tactic-wise is fascinating. What degree of aggressiveness will JV apply? Without Kuss the situation would be simple - drilling hard tempo or an all-out attack, possibly even sacrificing Skeletor's chances (for hard work or a long-range attack) to crack Remco. But what will they actually do now? Riding aggressively increases the chance of Kuss fading and Remco passing him (if he's strong enough), riding passively reduces the chance of Rogla (or Vinge) to overtake Remco (while Kuss may still crack one day).
 
Breakaway, with someone from 10-20th gaining Landis amounts of time, Jumbo I think will play this passive, they don't need to attack at all as they're in control in red and I'm not sure QS have the horses.

UAE I think are playing for UCI points, might see an attack in the last few K.

Someone from Landa De La Cruz, Carthy, Buitrago, Rubio, Thomas.
 
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This could be an epic stage and will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the race. The SQS superdoms had better bring their A game to this as I expect both Jumbo and UAE to at least try something on Spandelles. Most likely Vingegaard and possibly one of the UAE riders (my guess is Soler) will attack off the front and try a long ranger. There is no point in either of those teams having all of the cards and not playing them to their advantage. So I don't see a simple drilling exercise all day in order to set up a final climb attack for their designated leader. If UAE and Jumbo try getting a few satellite riders up the road then I think this will form a part of the overall plan.

I don't think Vingegaard necessarily has the watts required to make a long range attack stick so Remco and UAE might be best to just let him hang out there in the hope that he blows up on the Tourmalet. But who exactly will do the chasing when he has to be closed down and will they take the risk of letting him go initially either since he is a TDF champion after all. This is what I hope see happen anyway as it will be intriguing to see the reaction from the other GC contenders. It could set the whole stage up for Roglic to pounce and ride into red.
 

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