Friday, April 5, 2013

Vuelta Pais Vasco - Stage 6 Preview

Stage 5 started out just like expected, many attacks and three Movistar riders in front. Team Sky were down to only Vasil Kiryienka in support of Richie Porte and Sergio Henao but apparently, that didn’t mean much. The strong Belarusian lead the peloton alone for 50 km and in the end Porte won in front of my pre-picked favorite Samuel Sanchez and Team Sky team mate Henao. On a stage where everybody needed to distance Richie Porte, the Tasmanian ended up distancing everybody else.

Friday’s Team Sky show leaves us with Richie Porte as the massive favorite for both the stage win and the overall victory. Porte has been outstanding against the clock this season and on a demanding course for the GC riders, I can’t really see anybody threatening him if he’s 100%.

A lot of riders dropped out of the race on stage 5, including strong time trialists like Tejay van Garderen, Rein Taaramae, Michael Rogers and Andreas Klöden. Only the toughest riders remain and even these will feel Friday’s stage in their legs, especially with another day of heavy rain.

The course is very hard with steep climbs and tricky descents. One wrong turn or one slippery piece of road is all it takes to ruin your GC dreams on this stage, but with the first five riders within 10 seconds, nobody can take it easy. It’s full gas from the start and whomever dares to take the most chances will end up winning Vuelta Pais Vasco overall. I don't think this course is good for Tony Martin and having already crashed once in this race, I think he will be a little bit more careful in the rain.

Samuel Sanchez showed to be back in the game on stage 5 and I’m sure he will give everything he has, and take all the chances he needs, in order to give Euskaltel their first win of the season. Sanchez hasn’t won anything since he won the final time trial of last year’s Vuelta Pais Vasco and he will be eager to show he’s back.

Simon Spilak is normally very strong the rain and he also tried to get away, catching Richie Porte, on the final km on stage 5. Friday was Katusha owner Igor Makarov’s birthday and even though it didn’t end up with another win (Purito won on his birthday last year), I’m sure Makarov will settled for a spot on the final podium. Spilak should be able to take 10 seconds on both Henao and Quintana on this stage and if so, it’s up Richie Porte and Alberto Contador not let him take the overall win too.

I’ve been naming Beñat Intxausti a couple of times as my joker in this race, but his crash on stage 1 seems to have kept him from performing as expected. Still, I see him stronger and stronger every day and this time trial really suits him well. He has to dig deep in order to provide Nairo Quintana with valuable time splits and I honestly think Intxausti has a chance of winning this stage if Porte doesn’t destroy them all again.

Favorites: Richie Porte & Samuel Sanchez
Joker: Beñat Intxausti 

For live coverage of the stage go to

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