We have to start betting ‘each way’ – yesterday we said; ‘Michael Matthews’ and he was third, today we said; ‘Nacer Bouhanni’ and he was second… And much as we admire the wiry Frenchman, John Degenkolb was 100% correct when he said of Bouhanni’s complaint about the German shutting the door on him; ‘on the right side there was only the barriers.’
An interesting name popped up today in third spot, Belkin’s Dutchman, Moreno Hofland – he was the 2012 Netherlands U23 champion and took three stage wins and the GC in the 2013 Tour of Hainan.
This year there was a close second to Boonen in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, a stage in the Ruta del Sol, a stage in Paris-Nice, the Volta Limburg Classic and two stages in the Tour of Utah – and that’s with his season severely compromised by a bad crash in the Tour of California where he broke ribs and vertebrae.
Watch for him when things flatten out, again.
Contador & Co. were at it again today, dynamiting the peloton late in the day; the ‘Bigs’ were too attentive to get caught out but it’s curtains for Garmin’s Hejedal and Talansky – both lost four minutes.
It’s possible to take that amount of time back – but very unlikely in a race as tight as the Vuelta.
It always has been a hotly contested affair and is the Grand Tour which has been won by the tightest margin – Eric Caritoux of France won by just six seconds from Alberto Fernandez in 1984.
And to endorse the closeness of the competition, 20 editions have been won by less than a minute.
The biggest margin in recent times is Toni Rominger of Switzerland’s 7:28 in 1994 – although Spain’s Delio Rodriguez did win by 30 minutes in 1945.
Impressive as usual in the horrible finale pace setting was Sky’s ‘automaton’ Vasili Kiryienka, whatever they pay him, it’s not enough.
Despite Quintana being in second place and Rodriguez only 34 seconds behind in 17th spot, both men have ‘worn the cloak of invisibility’ perfectly – you’d be hard pushed to know they’re in the race.
That will change tomorrow, Thursday – Stage Six, 157.7 kilometres from the tourist paradise of Benalmadena to La Zubia where those flat coastal roads will be but a distant memory.
The Alto de Zaffaraya is cat. 2 at 72 K then comes the cat. 3 Alto de Bermejal at 113 K with the finish atop the cat. 1 Combres Verdes which features 13% ramps.
There’ll be a break, of course – but it’ll go thermonuclear on that last hill with Nairo Quintana and Joaquin Rodriguez coming out of hibernation and Movistar having a second ace to play in Valverde; Dan Martin will be there too as will Chris Froome – with all of them seeking to find the chinks in Alberto Contador’s armour.
It should be a cracker.