After an exciting and unpredictable first week of racing, La Vuelta a España heats up with a difficult second week of racing that will surely shake up the general classification.
Stage 8: 177km Talavera de la Reina - San Lorenzo de El EscorialCredit: lavuelta.com
Much like Stage 5, Stage 8 is up and down all day with a tough uphill finish. Featuring two category 2 climbs, a category 1 climb, and several smaller hills, the stage finishes in San Lorenzo with a category 3 climb that features leg-breaking sections of up to 28%.
Joakim Rodriguez (Katusha) won in convincing fashion on a similar finish on Stage 5 and should be favoried here, as well. Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM), who finished 2nd on Stage 5, will be a rider to watch.
Stage 9: 183km Villacastin - Sierra de Bejar. La CovatillaCredit: lavuelta.com
Stage 9 begins with the category 3 Puerto de la Cruz de Hierro and continues on relatively easy roads until a mountain top finish at Sierra de Bejar. La Covatilla. This second mountain top finish of the Vuelta is a 10km climb that averages 7.4%.
Sandwiched in between a tough Stage 8 and a critical Stage 10, many expect a breakaway to go the distance in Stage 9. Expect teams like Andalucia Caja Granada, Movistar, and Euskaltel-Euskadi to send a man in the break. Additionaly, potential King of the Mountains (KOM) jersey winners like current leader Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and David Moncoutie (Cofidis) should be eager to join the break.
Stage 10: 47km Individual Time Trial: SalamancaCredit: lavuelta.com
The Vuelta's only individual time trial is perfect for the specialists- long and flat.
4-time world champion time trialist Fabian Cancellara (Leopard-Trek) should contend for the stage win against fellow time trial specialist Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), winner of the individual time trial in this year's Tour de France. On the GC side of things, expect Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Denis Menchov (Geox-TMC) to make up some of the time they've lost so far. On the negative side, keep an eye on Joakim Rodriguez (Katusha), who is coming off of a poor time trial result in 2010 which may have cost him the race. He will hope to limit his losses this time around.
The riders welcome the first of two rest days on August 30th after 10 stages of racing.
Stage 11: 167km Verin - Estacion de Montana Manzaneda
After a day of rest, the riders will jump right back into the thick of things with a day that features 4 category climbs and the third summit finish of the race. At 16km with an average of 6%, the final climb provides an opportunity for those who lost time in the time trial to fight back.
The final climb should be long enough for the GC contenders to swallow up the breakaway riders. The poorer time-trialing GC riders like Joakim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) may go on the attack in an attemp to gain back lost time.
Stage 12: 167km Ponteareas - Pontevedra
Stage 12 begins on mostly flat roads (by Vuelta standards), continues with two category 3 climbs at kilometers 55 and 88, and finishes on mostly flat roads until the finish at 167.3 kilometers.
The sprinters haven't had very many oppotunities so far, so expect a fight among Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo), Alessandro Pettachi (Lampre-ISD), Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano), John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad), and perhaps Stage 2 winner Chris Sutton (Sky).
Stage 13: 158km Sarria - Ponferrada
5 categorized climbs and a flat finish greet the riders today. The action begins with two early category 3 climbs at kilometers 15.3 and 34.6. After a smaller climb and a long descent, the riders will tackle the 10km category 1 Alto de Folgueiras de Aigas, whose summit does not even mark the halfway point of the stage. The day's fourth climb is its most feared: the category 1 Puerto de Ancares. This 11.8km climb has a few sctreches over 12%. After the summit of the Puerto de Ancares the riders will have over 60km and one category 3 climb to race before a flat finish in Ponferrada.
The Puerto de Ancares is a difficult climb, but an attack here would be risky with over 6okm from its summit to the finish. Vincenzo Nibali is one of the peloton's fastest descenders and pulled off a good move on a Stage 6 descent, so keep an eye out for him just in case. Otherwise, expect a breakaway that could include those who are fighting the KOM battle.
With a long individual time trial and a large dose of climbing, the Vuelta's second week will be crucial for the GC contenders while offering up ample opportunities for breakaways and one possible bunch sprint. Enjoy an exciting week of racing!