Saturday, August 15, 2015

It's Yer Vuelta a Espana in Preview, Part Uno!: The Course! #lavuelta

Mourn the Giro, forget the Tour--it's time for the fabulous Vuelta a Espana! And before we get on to who's riding it and what their chances are--because frankly, at least one of the GC contenders seriously makes me want to just yak--we better know what the corsa itself is gonna throw at 'em. Ergo, let's go--the Course!

The Kick-Off: well, we gotta shake the nerves outta the lets and get the red jersey on *somebody*, and how better to do it than a short, 7.4k superflat coastal team time trial? Barring catastrophe--there, that ought curse things--some lucky guy'll inadvertently get the crowning moment of his career, and even the worst of the GC contenders, though suffering some psychological humiliation, won't be *too* freaked out by their time losses. Just stay the hell upright, Purito, and I am a happy fan!

The Individual Time Trial: happily for most of these guys, there's only one of 'em, a mildly lumpy, 38.7k Stage 17 hot off the rest day. Still, as the Vuelta don't hesitate to remind us, for the wee-est, the least-aero, and the generally unlucky, even a few seconds lost or won can count. Don't lose heart here Puritooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The Hills: if ain't mountains, it's probably "hills", which by Vuelta standards is still most people's on-the-rivet definition o' "agony". The intermediate pain starts almost right off the blocks on Stage 2, followed by the merciless run of stages 6 through 10 before the rest day of September 1st. Phew, that's a relief to get those out of the w--what, there's still *more* of this !@#$ on stages 18 and 19? "Rest" my !@#!

The Sprints: Okay, like I give a crap, but there *are* six, for those big galoots stupid--or at least masochistic--enough to ride this carousel. Stages 3 thru 5, 12 and 13, and natch, the sponsor-slutfest two-K-thrilla ending to a ceremonial GC day for the last fast man standing (or weeping, whatever) in Madrid. Aupa to anyone who's made it this far with some gas left in the tank--you're truly a sprinter like no other!

Last But Not Least (Hell, More Like the Most) Mountains: La Vuelta ain't no simpy sprinter's race, honey--it's the !@#damn Vuelta, and despite this glorious race getting *no* respect, only the climbers will survive. On tap: 5 truly high mountain stages, beginning with a post-rest-day Stage 11 Andorran slaughterfest, billed as the toughest ever to feature in the Vuelta--and let's be honest, a buncha guys'll pick up gnarly, race-ending "stomach viruses" on the rest day just to avoid it, and there's *absolutely* no shame in that. Six! sadistic mountain passes, including one hors category climb (thoughtfully placed mid-course), 4 cat-1 climbs including the finish, and a lone cat-2 climb as a consolation prize. And that's not all! After two teaser flat stages, it's full-uphill-gas for the next 3 days on Stages 14-16, with an uphill finish at the hors categorie Alto Campo, next day a gentle cat-1 finale at Alto de Sostres--and yeah, it's still freakin' "alto", at the Vuelta it's always "alto!", and a *seven*-mountain deathmarch to the HC Ermita de Alba before what's left of the shredded carcasses of the peloton get to drift into merciful sleep for the final rest day--before, of course, they're woken up by their sadistic DSes that morning for an "easy" 3-hour spin to keep fresh. The finale: if it isn't already painfully set in stone, it comes down to who can triumph--or who just doesn't catastrophically crack--on penultimate Stage 20, with 4 Cat-1s to enjoy including two tries at Puerto de la Mocuera before a coy downhill and mood-killing uphill nip of a last k to Cercedilla. Congratulations to the final red jersey--just enjoy the bubbly tomorrow, and offer thanks to the Vuelta gods it's over!

Well, them's the corsa. Next up--the poor GC bastids who'll be riding it!

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