2022 Vuelta a España Stage 5 Preview

Irun > Bilbao 186.5km

Hands up if you want a breakaway stage? Two times up a climb that’s 4.2km at 8.2%, and last time up crests with 14km to go. As Thursday is an uphill finish, I would expect to see a large break fight out the stage win, allowing Jumbo-Visma to give away the red jersey. I don’t see any team wanting to chase and set up a potential sprint, not with Roglič looking ominously strong. The climb is too hard for Pedersen and Ineos have too many protected riders to chase all day. It’s also a good day for someone wanting to take the KOM jersey.

Weather

Hot but with a threat of storms. According to some forecasts, there will be a lot of rain around for the end of the stage, but some forecasts predict it will stay dry.

The Climb

It’s a tough climb, with lots of incredibly steep sections. The average is 8.2%, but it looks much harder than the numbers suggest. The downhill run for home isn’t technical, there shouldn’t be any splits. This climb was used in Itzulia early this year, the day Martínez took a sprint win, but they now climb it from a harder side. 

Tactics

Nearly every team will be looking to get someone in the break, it could take a long time for it to establish. Being close on GC isn’t going to be a problem, Jumbo-Visma will be more than happy to give away the jersey, as long as it’s not to a genuine GC contender. With 54 riders within 2 minutes of red, many will sense the chance of a lifetime. 

The problem for many riders will be getting in the break, then the added issue of getting over the climb at the head of the race. As the stage ends with 14km of downhill, it’s possible to make up a little time on the descent, but not a huge amount. That means the winner of the stage will need to be able to climb, but those same riders will find it hard to get in the morning break. It’s the same old problem for climbers looking to win stages like this in a grand tour, getting in the break is a nightmare. The only hope they have is if a large group rolls off the front, then we’re likely to see some climbing talent within.

Back in the peloton, there will be attacks from those who lost significant time in the TTT. 4.2km at 8.2% isn’t hard enough to see gaps between the main contenders, but Jumbo-Visma aren’t going to mind if someone 1 minute down on GC takes back a few seconds.

Contenders

Julian Alaphilippe – legs clearly at where he would like them to be, but I still expect him to improve throughout the race. It would not be a surprise to see Alaphilippe in the break, but given his current form, he might not be able to finish it off.

Bob Jungels – lost a heap of time today, but it’s very hard to work out if he simply sat up and coasted in. He was brilliant in the Tour de France, if he’s close to that level, he has every chance of winning this stage.

Luis León Sanchez – he’s one of a long list of riders who’ll be eyeing the red jersey. He sits 1:02 down on Roglič, this is a huge chance for him to get in the break and fight for the red jersey. He impressed in the Tour de France, and someone with his experience has every chance of holding that form for this race.

Fred Wright – he’s in the exact same position as Sanchez, maybe we’ll see both of them in the break just like in the Megève stage at the Tour. Wright is enjoying a purple patch, he’s been brilliant since the start of July. With a couple of options for this stage, Bahrain look to be in a very strong position. Wright is yet to take a professional win, but you get the sense it’s only a matter of time.

Santiago Buitrago – okay, he might be perceived as a GC threat, but I’m not so sure. The little Colombian has enjoyed a fine season, but will Jumbo-Visma really be worried about someone who finished 12th in the Giro? If the break is chased down, Bahrain will be one of the teams with numbers in the front group, they’ll look to attack and stop it being a sprint.

Jesús Herrada – he’s brilliant in the medium mountains and this stage is exactly that. The Spaniard was very good in April, May and June but recent performances haven’t been up to that level. He’ll be hoping to find some legs and challenge for the win.

Jan Bakelants – the experienced Belgian is a crafty rider, and I mean that in a positive sense. I would say he’s good across most disciplines in the sport, but not brilliant in any particular one. This makes winning bike races quite hard, but he finds ways of beating better riders, he’s got a great tactical brain. His recent win in Wallonie was his first for 6 years, and his first since his horrible crash in Il Lombardia. He might be 36, but he can still show the youngsters a thing or two.

Thomas De Gendt – the breakaway King. He’s trying a different race schedule this year, he didn’t ride the Tour de France before tackling the Vuelta. It can be hard to tell where his form is, he pulls the pin when he knows it’s not going to be his day. This is a good looking stage for him, Spain has been a happy hunting ground throughout his career. 

Alexey Lutsenko – was in today’s break, he’ll likely try again tomorrow. Luts ended the Tour in great form, if he makes the move he’ll be the favourite to win. 

Robert Stannard – form is good, the stage is one he’ll like. Not only does he cope with steep climbs, but he has a very fast sprint.

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