2022 Vuelta a España Stage 16 Preview

Sanlúcar de Barramenda > Tomares 189.7km

It looks like a sprint stage, but then again, maybe not. Trek-Segafredo have been the main team ensuring sprint stages turn out that way, but as Mads Pedersen has now won a stage the pressure will now pass to other teams. Mads has been very active in this race, appearing in multiple breakaways to secure the green jersey, he’s also been working his team hard in sprint stages, this is the perfect opportunity to give something back to his teammates, knowing that we’ll have another sprint in Madrid. This stage will be familiar to some, it was used back in 2017.

Weather

We’re heading to Sevilla and that means one thing, it’s going to be roasting hot, which is good news for the breakaway.

Finale

It’s certainly not an easy finish. The first climb is 3.5km at 3.6% (this wasn’t used in 2017), which is followed by a fast downhill and then the “real” climb. This one is 1km at 6% but it does include 400m at 10%. Straight after this is another fast downhill before the road rises with 1.2km to go, and I’ve not even mentioned the 5 roundabouts in the final 2km. 

Tactics

The finish is perfect for another Pedersen win, but if Trek-Segafredo don’t chase, will anyone else? This is one of these stages that would be a nailed-on sprint in the first week, but once you put it in the third week it opens up other possibilities. The hills in the final 15km will likely be too hard for Merlier, but Ackermann, Coquard and van Poppel should still fancy their chances, but they won’t be keen on working all day and setting up another win for Pedersen.

Everyone knows that we’ll get a sprint in Madrid, it could be a case of all the sprint teams waiting for that and letting the domestiques try and jump in the break. Whoever misses the move will then consider whether they chase or not, it’s a long day in the sun for anyone wanting to chase down a strong break.

Back in 2017 the race finished here on stage 13, that day we saw De Gendt and De Marchi in the break, but it was a sprint win for Matteo Trentin. That day it ended in a sprint as Jungels and Alaphilippe did a wonderful job of holding it together in the final 3km. Nibali, Froome and Contador all finished in the top 10, and there was a gap after the first 15 riders, this is a tough finish.

In the opening kilometres most of the teams will be looking at each other, if it’s a big break everyone will want to be in it, if the sprint teams send out a signal that they’ll control, then expect a small break and teams will go to plan B. This plan will involve attacking on the final climb, as Trek-Segafredo will find it hard to control with the type of riders in their squad. This is a classic day where the early break could win, or a late attack, or it’s a sprint finish.

Contenders

Mads Pedersen – this is another stage that suits him very well, he’s climbing better than all the other sprinters, and quite a few of the puncheurs. If it comes back together, his team will get him to the front for the final 3km and then it’s up to him. Mads will need to decide if he covers the attacks himself, or lets others do that and he can just gamble on it coming back for a sprint. Given the way the race has gone, he starts as the big favourite. 

Danny van Poppel – I was disappointed with him in Montilla, he lost position at a crucial time. This finish is another that suits his capabilities, but he needs to make sure he crests the final kicker right at the front, he cannot afford to slide down the group. If he starts the sprint near the front, he’ll have a good chance of taking the win.

Fred Wright – he’ll monitor the start of the stage and decide if jumping in the break is the right idea. If he decides the break isn’t going to survive, he’ll sit in the bunch and wait for the final climb, it’s perfect for him to launch a stinging attack and hope to get a gap on the chasing peloton. I think we’d all be pleased to see him getting that first professional win.

Sergio Higuita – could go for the break, could attack late.

Daryl Impey – another strong rider who should go well in the third week of a grand tour.

Thomas De Gendt – breakaway hopeful number 1.

Alessandro De Marchi – breakaway hopeful number 2.

Julian Bernard – breakaway hopeful number 3.

Alexey Lutsenko – breakaway hopeful number 4.

Robert Stannard – breakaway hopeful number 5.

Prediction Time (I know you’ve missed it)

Everything points to another win for Pedersen but I’m thinking something different. My pick can win from the break, or with a late attack, I’m going with Fred Wright.

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