2022 Vuelta a España Stage 8 Preview

Pola de Laviana > Colláu Fancuaya 153.8km

The first proper mountaintop finish of the race. Remco is in the lead after a dominant display on Thursday, but the race is far from over. This stage will see a shake down in the GC, it’s a big day in the battle for red.

Weather

Cloudy sun and the temperature will stay under 25 degrees.

Key Points

For the first time in the race we have a climb at the start. Alto de la Colladona is 9.1km at 5.3% and is a cat 2 effort, it gives the climbers a chance of getting a strong group off the front.

Puerto Colláu Fancuaya is the final climb of the day, it’s a proper mountain test. In the road book it’s classified as 9km at 10.1%. This is the first time it’s been used in the Vuelta, it’s always good when the organisers find new climbs to use. The climb features many sections above 10%, the rise to the line hits 14%. The final 4.5km of the climb looks like a little mountain path, it’s narrow and the road surface is horrible, but it might have been sorted ahead of the race. Expect to see big gaps at the end of this one.

Tactics

QuickStep are in the race lead, but they don’t have the team to control the stage, there’s no way they’ll chase the break. If GC riders want to win the stage, they’ll need to get their teammates to chase down the morning move. 

Once we get on the final climb, we’ll have to see if teams with multiple options on GC will be able to put pressure on QuickStep. In terms of climbers, the Belgians have Masnada, Vervaeke, Van Wilder and Alaphilippe but they lack a super domestique like Sepp Kuss. When the pace is lifted, I don’t think we’ll see QuickStep riders left to help Evenepoel, but he didn’t need them on Thursday. When in this position, attack is the best form of defence, that’s exactly how I think we’ll see him ride. Ineos and Bora are the teams with multiple riders still high on GC, they are the ones who can potentially put pressure on Evenepoel, but it will be very hard.

What about Roglič? I think we were all surprised to see him lose so much time on Thursday, but was it just a bad day? Back in 2020 he had a bad day when the stage ended on Formigal, also a stage where it rained, but he still bounced back to win the red jersey. He’ll hope for something similar this year, but there’s no guarantee it happens. Abandoning the Tour with a back injury isn’t ideal preparation for the Vuelta, it might be that he’s not 100%.

Ineos are in a good position, Sivakov, Rodríguez and Geoghegan Hart all finished in the chase group on Thursday. To put Evenepoel under pressure, one of these riders will have to risk it all and attack early, they can’t wait for the red jersey to put in his big dig. 

Movistar will also be looking on with interest. Enric Mas was the only rider able to follow Remco the other day, after a poor season, that was great to see. Okay, he didn’t come through and do a turn, and was dropped in the closing metres, but it was still a very positive sign for the rest of this race. They don’t have the team to make the race, but if Mas can follow the best, he’ll put himself in contention for the red jersey.

This is also an important day for the KOM jersey, with lots of points on offer. We’ll start to see which riders are looking to target this classification, it’s currently wide open.

Contenders

Remco Evenepoel – after his impressive performance on Thursday, he starts as the big favourite. QuickStep won’t be chasing to set up a stage win, that duty will be up to other teams. In races earlier this season, he struggled when the gradient went above 10%, but then came San Sebastian, where he was magnificent on the steep stuff. It’s hard to tell how he’ll perform on this climb, but the indications are positive and he’ll be confident of putting time into his rivals.

Primož Roglič – at the end of this stage we’ll know if he has a chance of winning fourth consecutive Vuelta. It’s impossible to tell if he’ll bounce back from Thursday’s disappointment, I’m not sure he’ll be able to follow Remco.

Pavel Sivakov – he usually copes well with steep gradients, I think he’ll be the best option for Ineos. Beating the likes of Evenepoel will be very difficult, but this is a chance for Sivakov to start getting close to the podium.

Enric Mas – was excellent on Thursday, and this type of climb would normally suit him better. When the gradient gets over 10%, he’s one of the few riders in the world who excels. Can he beat Remco?

Juan Ayuso – was brilliant on Thursday, but I don’t think he’ll be challenging for this one.

Jay Vine – breakaway hopeful number 1. His performance on Thursday was stunning, I have no idea how he held off a charging Evenepoel. If he makes the break, he’ll be hard to beat.

Santiago Buitrago – breakaway hopeful number 2. Was sitting 5 minutes down on GC, but sat up today and lost a whole heap of time, this now frees him up to jump in the breaks.

Thibaut Pinot – breakaway hopeful number 3. Came close to a win in the Tour de France, you just know he’s going to be in this break.

Mark Padun – breakaway hopeful number 4. Which Mark Padun will we get in this stage? Ultra-mythical climber or pack fodder?

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