Preview of the Vuelta a San Juan
Vincenzo Nibali, Darwin Atapuma, Bauke Mollema, Tom Boonen, Fernando Gaviria and a whole host of top professional riders tackle 7 Stage tour in Argentina
Following budget restrictions, the Tour de San Luis disappeared from the calendar, replaced this season by the Tour de San Juan. Ranked in 2.1, teams with a World Tour license were able to request an invitation. This is the case for: Quick-Step Floors, Bahrain-Merida, Trek-Segafredo and UAE Abu Dhabi. We will find there big names of cycling like Tom Boonen, Vincenzo Nibali or Bauke Mollema.
The race will held over seven days, for a total mileage of 889km. There are five stages for the sprinters and a short time trial and a mountain stage arriving at altitude. The Atlo Colorado is the big climb this edition. The average slope exceeds just 4%. But there will be many passages at over 7%: perfect for attack.
The advantage of the race the proximity between each stage as rdiers can stay in the same hotel throughout the event.
For general classification, Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida Pro Cycling Team) or Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) are faovorites. From South America, Laureano Rosas, winner of the last three editions is also a favorite. The veteran cyclist Oscar Sevilla will also be on hand. Also riders to watch are Colombian Darwin Atapuma (Trek-Segafredo), Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentine Selection) or Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi).
The list of Sprinters is also very interesting incljuding; Andrea Guardini (UAE Abu Dhabi), Nicola Ruffoni (Bardiani CSF), Manuel Belletti (Wilier Triestina) and Filippo Pozzato (Wilier Triestina) and of course Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors).
“I like the region and the great landscapes of this country. We came here last week and got used to the heat, and now all that remains to be seen is how the race will unfold. Fernando’s our sprinter in San Juan, but I think there will be a couple of chances for me too. I know everybody’s talking about this being the first race of my last season, but I feel the same I’ve felt in all the past seasons and I want to enjoy every moment”, said Tom Boonen at the press conference on Saturday.
“It’s not a secret that I like to ride in Argentina. This is the country that launched me in pro cycling and gave me the chance to join Quick-Step Floors. I trained for this race at home and I hope to get some nice results here. The team’s goal is to win a stage and we’ll try our best to score a victory.”, said Fernando Gaviria.
“I always come back very willingly, without forgetting that South America has often brought me luck in the rest of the season,” said Vincenzo Nibali. “The climate here is ideal, while training in Italy with just a few degrees above zero is almost impossible.”
Tour de San Luis began always with a sprinter's stage, and it would be no different in the Vuelta a San Juan. Thus it is difficult to imagine a flatter opening stage than what awaits riders on Monday. The first stage is a small sightseeing tour in the flat terrain south of the city of San Juan, and it can hardly avoid ending in a mass sprint.
The stage, with its 142.5 km a short case to be settled in the late afternoon / early evening to avoid the worst heat. The start takes in the center of San Juan and from there riders move southward along flat roads before turning around and heading back towards San Juan. The stage features no categorized climbs, and the highlights are the sprints by respectively 52.9 km and 121.5 km. The last three kilometers are completely flat, and the final turn comes with 1600 meters to go. From here it's an easy meandering road that leads to the finish line.
The field is filled with good sprinters and they will be eager to prove themselves from the start. The wind, however, can make the stage more dramatic than expected. Its not certain that a full field will reach the finish, but some form of sprint should finish the stage.
The sprinters who didnt feature on stage 1, have the opportunity to take revenge. Stage 2 is a bit more hilly, but has a flat run in, so will be one for the Sprinters.
The stage, is 128.5 km long, starting and finishing in the town of San Juan. Where riders on the opening day tested the terrain to the south, they will be challenged by a circular route west of the regional capital. The stage consists of two laps on a 61.4 km long circular route. The route is mainly flat, but includes a small category 3 climb, rising by 7.5% over 1600 m. The peak comes, with 31.3 kilometers to the finish, and then it is basically flat. The final turn comes after a small descent to 2500 m before the line, and from here it is a long, straight, flat road that leads to the finish line. The intermediate sprints come at, respectively, 36.1 and 97.5 km.
The stage is a bit more hilly, but it should prevent another bunch sprint. another importtant stage for GC riders and sprinters, however, the possible side winds could affect the final sprint in San Juan.
After two days of survival of the GC riders, the third day will be the first test in the form of a relatively short time trial in San Juan streets. The stage is only 11.9 km long, and completely flat, will produce fast action. There is also no technical challenges, riders ride northeast on the slightly winding road without a single turn before the midway point making a U-turn. Then go back to the start along the same road.
The stage is one of two that are expected to determine the overall standings, the other the mountain stage which is tremendously difficult, it is a key day for the riders who hope to win overall. With its flat terrain and lack of technical challenges, it is not a day for the climbers who will lose valuable time, as they struggle to limit the time loss likely by the major Time Trial specialists looking to fight for the victory.
Sprinters are back in the spotlight Thursday when even a completely flat stage awaits. After three days in San Juan, the riders aretaken to San Martin, which houses both the start and finish of the fourth stage, with its 160.5 km long course, is longer than most other stages in the Argentine stage race.
From the start in San Martin, the riders move out on a 38.4 km long circular route, which is the setting for most of the stage. They cover almost an entire lap, but before they reach completely turn around, make a small detour to Campo Afuera, where on a small hill compete for points in the first intermediate sprint after 54.2 kilometers.
Then they turn around and return to the finishing circuit, where they complete the first lap. This stage ends with two full laps. The second intermediate sprint comes shortly after the first passage at the 85.5 km mark, and the stage finishes at the end of a flat road, that is more than 3 km long. The entire stage is mainly flat.
There is no significant terrain challenges, and it is expected the fourth day will be for the Sprinters. Windy conditions could cause problems, but it is a perfect stage for the pure sprinters, who will love the uncomplicated finish.
After four flast days, the race turns to the big mountains with a course of 162 kim up to the top Alto Colorado, 2,565 m above sea level. The stage begins with a flat circular route in a northern suburb of San Juan, and from here riders head into mountains. The terrain will be more challenging as the riders are tested on the category 3 climb Alto de Villucum whose top is reached after 56 km. From here they continue north in through flat terrain while competing for sprint points in the first intermediate sprint after 80.6 kilometers. It marks the start of a very long climb, divided into two, and there will be category 2 mountain sprints after respectively 100.0 and 114.7 kilometers. The last 30kms is all uphill and culminates on the top of Alto Colorado officially a 15 km long category 1 climb with an average gradient of 4.4%. The gradient is not regular and consists of steeper sections followed by flat sections. max gradient no more than 6.4%, and the last kilometer is almost completely flat.
The stage has lots of climbing, but it is worth noting that the final climb is relatively easy. It is not as hard as the mountains used in the Tour de San Luis, so the stage will not be nearly as selective. Such a stage could result in a sprint from a smaller group, although the amount of climbing make it ideal for an excellent climber.
The Sprinters who survive stage 5 will be back in the limelight with the 185.7 km longest stage. It's mainly flat and has no big challenges. This time there start and finish in Pocito. Riders reach the first intermediate sprint after 51.9 kilometers before they are challenged by Category 3 climb of Cueste de las Vacas, which tops out 19.6 kilometers later. The descent leads to Vallecito, where the Peloton turn aorund, back over Category 3 climb. Final sprint points arrive after 111.7 kilometers. The stage ends with a flat circular route, which is 17.6 km long. There are no bends in the last 3 km, which is completely flat.
Only the wind could cause havoc, so the Sprinters must be motivated to in contention for the final sprint.
The last stage is 138km criterium around San Juan. The route is fairly flat and has no real technical turns. TThe stage finsihes with eight laps of a 16km finishing circuit. The are intermediate sprint points available. The Sprinters team should control much of the race and the therefore the GC leader needs to finish safely in the bunch to take victory.
***** Bauke Mollema
**** Eduardo Sepulveda, Rui Costa
*** Vincenzo Nibali, Egan Bernal, Julian Arredondo, Oscar Sevilla, Laureano Rosas
** Rodolfo Torres, Darwin Atapuma, Daniel Jaramillo, Enzo Moyano
* Sergio Pardilla, Gavin Mannion, Edoardo Zardini, Rafael Reis, Yondor Godoy, kanstantsin sivtsov, you Frayre
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