A changing of the guard – la Vuelta tipping final update.

The final score-sheet for la Vuelta tipping 2018 can be downloaded here: 21V_le tipping personale

Stage 20 contained the final questions that the Vuelta had to ask.

And the correct answers to those questions were – Simon Yates can survive, and win, a three week tour; Nairo Quintana is not the rider he used to be; Alejandro Valverde does slow down (a little bit) with age; and Enric Mas is the new face of Spanish cycling.

Vuelta España 2018; Etapa 20 Andorra Escaldes-Engordany / Coll de la Gallina 97,3 KM Km ; Sábado  15/09/2018

The stars of Stage 20 and the 2018 Vuelta overall (in reverse order).

Stage 20’s succession of climbs – six in all – were the last hurdles for the GC climbers but it proved a hurdle too far for Alejandro Valverde and Steven Kruijsijk as they slipped back to be replaced on the podium by Enric Mas and Miguel Angel Lopez, who also took first and second on the stage.

Simon Yates let them go at the end, knowing he had enough time spare and he had his other rivals covered.

That simply left the final procession through the streets of Madrid which, while lively, delivered a predictable result of a stage win for Elia Viviani and the overall title for Yates.  Perhaps the most significant result was Peter Sagan finishing a grand tour without a stage victory – over-hyped? has been? not worth his salary?

V21 Mitchelton

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!…  Swiss, Slovenian, Italian, Brit, Brit!

El Pistolero (Liam Flannery) delivered a second consecutive tipping stage victory for El Sobre Marron but presumably this time it was slightly less of ‘a big f***ing deal’.  That win also propelled him to ultimate victory in mountain tipping.

The return of the sprinters on the final stage saw Chapolini (Eli Chapman) return for his second stage tipping victory as well as delivering a late victory in sprint tipping.

But in the biggest la tipping news, Matteo (Matthew B) and Quiero esa Victoria – who have been hiding in the bunch all Vuelta – have nipped through on the line to take the grand prize of overall la Vuelta tipping 2018 winner.

It was a tight finish from Dr Fuentes and El Pistolero, who would have felt no better on the podium when Matteo proudly announced ‘I did it! A leaders jersey in each 2018 GT!’

Matteo’s selection included Miguel Angel Lopez, Peter Sagan, Enric Mas, and Thibaut Pinot, with ride-on cameos by Dylan Teuns, Tony Gallopin, Jelle Wallays, Simone Consonni, and Marc Sarreau.  Most of us would struggle to pick that team after the Vuelta, let alone before.  Well done Matteo.

That ends a great and suspenseful Vuelta marred only by the unfortunate fact that all three Grand Tour titles are now held by Brits. la\le\il tipping will now take a break until the Giro rolls around next year.  Thanks for playing, and enjoy your break.

la tipping centrale

The riders make the race – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 18 and 19

The updated score-sheet after stage 19 can be downloaded here: 19V_le tipping personale

The profile of stage 18 promised a straightforward affair – a small break, hauled back by the peleton and then a sprint showdown.  Nothing much to see here.  And it all seemed to go to plan… for a while.

As the peleton started to haul in the breakaway trio, Jelle Wallays, Sven Erik Bystrom and Jetse Bol started their resistance and the result teetered on the edge for most of the last 50 kilometres.

Ultimately, having kept something in reserve all day, Jelle Wallays held off the storming sprinters, and his breakaway companions for a thrilling stage victory.  Peter Sagan’s desperate sprint (from a long way out) had been denied.

Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) 2018 stage-18

That’s how close it was.  Jelle Wallays, and then the bunch.

Stage 19 was an altogether different beast.  It provided one of the last two chances for a GC shake-up and the peleton was in a hurry to reach the final climb.

The script said that Simon Yates would mark his rivals and avoid, or limit, any time losses in the surge to the line.  But Yates doesn’t follow the script, or the instructions from his Directuer Sportif, or the advice of his brother (but who does, eh?).

After Steven Kruijswijk, Thibaut Pinot, and Nairo Quintana – none of whom were a direct threat to Yates – had created a small gap, Yates decided to bridge across, distancing his key rivals – incuding Quintana’s ‘leader’ Valverde.

Pinot, Kruijswijk, and Yates were a cooperative trio as they chased the stage victory, the podium, and the overall victory respectively.  By the finish line, each had achieved their aim.

Vuelta a Espana st19 to Andorra Naturlandia

The Vuelta title inches a stage closer for Simon Yates.

Crank it up (Peter Webby) did exactly that on Stage 18 and took a tipping stage victory for which he was ‘muchas gracias’ having thrown off the family pressures.

The Sage (Stephen Yates) saw a chance for a slice of glory himself as Team D’Sage surged into the overall tipping lead.

It was the turn of El Pistolero (Liam Flannery) and El Sobre Marron to taste tipping glory on Stage 19 through marginal gains.  So overcome with emotion was Pistol that he forgot his manners on the podium, firing off “this is a big f***ing deal’.

The Sage’s overall lead was short-lived as Dr Fuentes (Jacob Eaton) has now taken the highlighter jaune for his team ‘I really wanted to pick Richie Porte but’.  As if not picking Richie wasn’t wise enough, the Doctor’s other advice was ‘Ask not the way to the village to which you do not intend to go’.  Mmmm.

Just two stages of the Vuelta to go – a mountain smash-fest in Andorra and then the final procession through Madrid.  La tipping will return to announce the final results after stage 21.

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Secrets – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 16 and 17

The updated score-sheet after stage 17 can be downloaded here: 17V_le tipping personale

Lady Vuelta is not giving up her secrets easily.

The Stage 16 time trial brought a not-unexpected victory for Rohan Dennis, followed by his exit from the Vuelta to prepare for the World Championships.  But in the GC battle it served only to shuffle the pack and bring in some new threats.

Vuelta Espana 2018

Some riders take the time trial less seriously than others.

Simon Yates stretched his gap marginally to Alejandro Valverde and more significantly to Nairo Quintana and Miguel Angel Lopez.  But the benefit of distancing those threats was tainted by the resurgence of Steven Kruijswijk and Enric Mas – the latter’s arrival on the cycling stage will see him carry the Spanish hopes once reserved for Alberto Contador.

On Stage 17, plenty of riders lined up for tickets to join the break and ride with Thomas De Gendt and Rafal Majka – who hold season passes. They collectively contested the stage victory on another brutal mountain finish that produced slow motion racing.  Michael Woods had the legs (just) to take the honours, while Dylan Teuns and Davd De La Cruz emerged from the fog for the minor places.

Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) 2018 stage-17

Are we having fun yet?

Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas were the best performers of the GC contenders, with Valverde winning a few seconds and the right to be considered Movistar’s team leader.  Even without the memory of his Giro collapse, Simon Yates has reason to be nervous with more mountains to come and only a few seconds comfort.

Miguel (Mike Frislie) had the strong men in another spill to take the time trial tipping honours and the lead in aggressive tipping, while Christiano (Christian Cummins) favoured aggressive climbers to give Kaja Googoo the stage 17 tipping victory.

Tommy V has no calves (Adrian Smith) was the best tipster across the two stages combined, which earns him nothing (apart from a swag of points).

As the Vuelta approaches end-game, it is time for the tipping scores to incorporate the provisional final result.  You may recall that points are earned for the final top twenty on GC, the top four teams overall, and the ultimate winner of the mountains and points jerseys.

In this scoresheet (and from now on) we have provisionally included those scores (i.e., 250 points for Simon Yates, etc on the GC, and 60 points each for Movistar riders as the leading team, etc).  We will update these provisional points after each stage so if one of your riders slips back, you may lose some points!

The resultant shuffling of the tipping scores sees Giovanni Amaretto (John Moores) emerge as the new holder of the highlighter jaune, narrowly from Dr Fuentes (Jacob Eaton).

The riders will be thrilled to see that the profile for stage 18 includes not a single categorised climb and even stage 19 is flat until the final 18 kilometres, at which point it should erupt.  La tipping will be back with our penultimate update after stage 19.

la tipping centrale

The Colombian Cup – la Vuelta tipping update, stage 14 and 15

The updated score-sheet after stage 15 can be downloaded here: 15V_le tipping personale

Stages 14 and 15 brought two mountaintop showdowns that have started to reveal the shape of la Vuelta’s General Classification.

The ridiculously steep slopes of Les Praeres on Stage 14 exposed the futility of early attacks as Nairo Quintana and Miguel Angel Loez found to their chagrin.  Simon Yates held his nerve and then delivered what is becoming a trademark acceleration to bring a stage win and the overall lead.

Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) 2018 stage-14

The favourites battle each other, and gravity.

The “Spanish Alpe d’Huez” of Lagos de Covadonga – without the drunk Dutch fans – was the climax of stage 15, offering a longer climb and gentler(!?) gradients of only 12%.  Thibaut Pinot has won on Alpe d’Huez previously and duly added the Spanish version to his collection, jumping away from the GC battle in the closing kilometres.

V15 Pinot

Thibaut Pinot – desperately seeking the finish line.

That GC battle is increasingly becoming a ‘Colombian Cup’ with Simon Yates a lone colonialist invader.  Stage 15 saw Miguel Angel Lopez take a few seconds and a psychological advantage – over Nairo Quintana more than Yates – while Rigoberto Uran has perhaps lost his chances for the top step of the podium.

Yatesio (Andrew Yates) was tipping’s stage 14 victor, as ABC proved it was as simple as, with four of the scoring riders from the stage result.  Echoing the thoughts of many a tipster, victory was greeted with ‘It’s a very long time coming’.

Stage 15 was a closer tipping affair as Sir Andy Wizma XIX (Andy Wizma) and La Improvers were victorious by a single point over El Pistolero.

Despite all the action on the road, there were no changes in the lead of any of the tipping categories.

The second rest day rolls around next and it will be needed as the riders then face a critical time trial (stage 16) where Uran may strive to recover his losses.  And then – you guessed it – a mountaintop finish on stage 17.  Our next tipping update will be after stage 17 which will also be the first scoring to include provisional overall Vuelta results.

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Out of control – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 12 and 13

The updated score-sheet after stage 13 can be downloaded here: 13V_le tipping personale

No-one seems willing, or able, to take control of this Vuelta.  Having wrestled the leader’s jersey from Sky via FDJ, Mitchelton-Scott and Simon Yates apparently judged they didn’t have the resources to hold it until the end and would be better off letting it go, in the hope of winning it back.  Perhaps they have the events of this year’s Giro fresh in their minds.

So as another strong break pulled away on stage 12, Mitchelton-Scott allowed them more room than they might have imagined and they quickly got far enough clear that the stage win was secure, as was a transfer of the leader’s jersey.

The high stakes bought an attacking finale and the spoils went to Alexandre Geniez for the stage win and Jesus Herrada as the unexpected red jersey wearer.

V12 Herrada

Gritting his teeth, to earn a reward – Jesus Herrada

Stage 13 was one that the GC contenders had to treat more seriously.  They still allowed a break to stay away, but this time because they were keeping a closer eye on each other.

As the stage victory was fought out on the murderous slopes of La Camperona, it became a two-horse race between Rafal Majka and Dylan Teuns.  All the more surprising then that it ended up being won by Oscar Rodriguez, a relative unknown from the Euskadi wildcard team.

Rafal Majka’s surprise that Rodriguez was able to cruise past will be matched by the raised eyebrows of the authorities.  Let’s class that result as provisional, for the moment.

In the contenders’ bunch, the expected sorting created a provisional ranking with Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates sharing top billing, and Alejandro Valverde, Rigoberto Uran and Migual Angel Lopez in minor roles.

V13 Quintana and Yates

Climbing their way to favouritism – Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates

El Chewy Bidon (Peter Webb) loaded stage 12’s successful break into Pole Vuelta to take the stage by a large margin and rocket up the leaderboard.

Stage 13 went the way of Tomás el remolcador (Tom Foster) and los remolcadores who were pushed much closer by Peptide Polka.

Despite claiming to be ‘resting on my Giro laurels’, la-Griffo (Christian Griffifth) and the Sicilian Wanderers have taken possession of the Highlighter Jaune in what remains a wide open la Vuelta tipping.

We don’t stop going up for a few days yet, with the peleton next facing a couple of mountain top finishes.  The next tipping update will be from the summit of Lagos de Covadonga (virtually) after stage 15.

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Success comes in different forms – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 10 and 11

The updated score-sheet after stage 11 can be downloaded here: 11V_le tipping personale

The peleton read the prospects of stages 10 and 11 very differently.

On stage 10, a sprint seemed inevitable so there was little enthusiasm to get in the break, nor to try and make it stick.

V10 Break

Tiago Machado and Jesus Ezquerra deserve to get a photo for their break – they got nothing else for it.

QuickStep have had plenty of chances this Vuelta, and all this year, to practice their lead-out.  They put all that practice into action, giving Elia Viviani such a perfect set-up that he would have to crash to lose the stage – he didn’t.

It has to feel pretty good to give Peter Sagan consistent beatings like that.

Stage 11 looked more suited to a break so it prompted two hours of intense racing before a group of strong men got away.

They were so sure of success that they started attacking each early and we had the Grand-Tour equivalent of juniors racing with a series of seemingly suicidal attacks.

Thibaut Pinot faced the dual incentive of a stage win and taking the leaders jersey.  He got so excited at the prospect that he went too hard, too early, and ended up with neither.

V11 Pinot

Thibaut Pinot – getting a little excited.

It was Alessandro De Marchi who held his nerve – perhaps courtesy of two previous Vuelta stage wins – and applied his strength at the right time for a stage victory.

The violence of the racing was too much for Nacer Bouhanni who has departed the Vuelta.  Given his lack of tipping popularity (just nine tipsters) perhaps we collectively saw that coming.

In la tipping, the stage 10 sprint went the way of perennial sprint-tipster Chapolini (Eli Chapman) who’s Bolt down the Hatches taunted their nemesis “How’s that dusk McWiersma”?

Stage 11’s points went almost exclusively to the break so plenty of tipsters missed out, including the tipping peleton’s patrons.  la media de Joses (Kris) and The Average Joes saw their chance and grabbed an opportunistic tipping victory.

The highlighter jaune has moved to the shoulders (hands?) of TA-Focus (Tamara Allet), while a slip-up on Stage 10 saw Maya Normousbutt taking up the rear of the field only for Sergio Nisizaka Smit to grab the texta rouge straight back on stage 11.

Stage 12 could well be another sprint before stage 13 kicks off a brutal and mountainous few days of the Vuelta.  Our next tipping update should be after stage 13, but likely to be later than normal.

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Walking through the high dry grass – la Vuelta tipping update, stage 9

The updated score-sheet after stage 9 can be downloaded here: 9V_le tipping personale

A high quality stage brought out a high quality break including mountains-leader (Luis Angel Mate), previous stage winner (Ben King), (ex-)GC Contender (Bauke Mollema), and massive engine (Thomas De Gendt).

V9 Break

Feel the quality – Stage 9’s uber-break.

The job of limiting the gap usually goes to the team of the leader’s jersey (Groupama FDJ) plus the team of the favourite for overall victory…  No-one seemed keen to put their hand up for the latter until Sky did… and then Movistar did… and then Astana did…

They were too late to stop the stage victory going to the breakaway and it was man-handled through sheer grit onto the shoulders of Ben King (his second stage this Vuelta), from perennial runner-up Bauke Mollema.

V9 King

“Call me…”  Ben King, of the mountain.

Miguel Angel Lopez showed that Astana did indeed have one of the overall favourites as did Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde for Movistar but they were both trumped (sagan-ed?) by Simon Yates who has nabbed the leader’s jersey by a mere second for Mitchelton-Scott, following Michal Kwiatkowski’s slight slip and Rudy Molard’s more significant slide.

King’s second stage victory delivered a second tipping stage victory for Jumprope (Trev Jacobs) and Renatoes, who claims “it is time”.  OK Trev, but how many times?

Mrs Bolt (Sarah Fosdyke) takes the lead in mountain tipping while our other category leaders are the speedy Quickstep Galores (John Palmer) and the aggressive Benito Charlissimo (Ben Charles).

As we enjoy the day’s rest, the next two stages see another opportunity for the sprinters (Stage 10) and a breakaway/sprint battle (Stage 11).  Our next update will hopefully be after Stage 11 (travel permitting).

la tipping centrale

Obstacle course – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 7 and 8

The updated score-sheet after stage 8 can be downloaded here: 8V_le tipping personale

It was a sedate start to stage 7 as riders expected it to explode toward the finish given the gradients on offer.  The break duly went away and was caught at the appropriate time.

The concluding terrain drew out attacks as the teams of the strong sprinters (and GC riders) struggled to keep it together.  After others had tried and failed, Tony Gallopin timed it right and then time-trialled to the line for a stage victory.  The bunch was led home by the punchiest riders (not Nacer Bouhanni) as Peter Sagan edged out Alejandro Valverde.

Vuelta ciclista a España (2.UWT) 2018 stage-7

Tony Gallopin gets the timing right.

It was Michal Kwiatkowski’s turn to have an incident late in a stage and lose precious time.  The crash also triggered murmurings (or increased the volume) about road furniture in the finale of stages.

The Vuelta organisers doubled down on the obstacles on stage 8 as the riders were faced with a u-turn with a kilometre to go and then a hard right turn just a few hundred metres from the line.  That’s okay if it’s a reduced bunch but a little threatening if the peleton of 175 riders (Maurits Lammertink is the only rider who has withdrawn) heads in at full pace.

The punchy riders were at the fore again, but this time Alejandro Valverde overcame the obstacle of Peter Sagan to take his second stage win of the Vuelta.

V8 Molard

The joys of leading the Vuelta – you get to high-five the mascot each day!

Stage 7’s tipping winner was el enólogo (Jason Garrett) and Team Solero who feasted on their special ingredient salsa valverde.

On the stage 7 podium, new highlighter jaune Kleinoggato (John Klein) and Zumo de Naranja proudly called “Let’s make Spain great again”.  Less proud was the new texta rouge – Sergio Nisizaka Smit.

Stage 8 allowed Peddro (Peter Kemp) to come to the fore.  Peddrovelo had five riders in the top ten to earn tipping stage glory.

But el enólogo (Jason Garrett) wasn’t far off consecutive stage victories and Team Solero were the best across the two stages and, as a result, have taken over the highlighter jaune.

Stage 9 marks the onset of the real mountains in the Vuelta and the first (or further?) flushing out of GC pretenders.  La tipping will deliver the next update some time on the following rest day (or thereabouts).

la tipping centrale

A tale of two breaks – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 5 and 6

The updated score-sheet after stage 6 can be downloaded here: 6V_le tipping personale

Stage 5 started at a furious pace with huge interest in getting in the break.  The sprinters had an eye on stages 6 and 7 and the GC contenders had an eye on the multiple murderous stages remaining, so the chase was always going to be half-hearted.

It took more than an hour of on-the-rivet racing before the right combination of riders got away – representatives of all teams but Sky and Quick Step.

The escapees turned on themselves as the road turned toward this finish and it was a group of three who approached the line with tired legs.  Simon Clarke’s legs proved the best and he took the stage victory ahead of Bauke Mollema and Alessandro De Marchi.

V5 Clarke

That’s one victory this year for Simon Clarke and one victory for the whole EF-Drapac team.

The break had been riding hard enough to significantly distance the Sky-led peleton and despite a purposeful finale they had lost sufficient time that Rudy Molard – sixth on the stage – found himself unexpectedly in the leader’s jersey and Groupama FDJ found themselves with some work to do.

On stage 6, Richie Porte’s many tipping supporters were treated to the sight of him in a break that was no more or less doomed than Richie’s other cycling exploits.  Was it a test of breakaway strategy, a training ride, or a desperate attempt to escape from the Vuelta?

Whatever it was, the break was reeled in by the sprinters’ teams only for a crash and cross-winds to wreak a bit of havoc in the run-in – particularly for the GC ambitions of Thibaut Pinot, Louis Meintjes and Wilco Kelderman.

The top sprinters reported present at the finish and were then accounted for by Nacer Bouhanni, over Danny Van Poppel and Elia Viviani.

V6 Bouhanni

Nacer Bouhanni likes to use his fists.

Stage 5’s tipping points were sparse with Clarke, Mollema and De Marchi shunned by tipsters.  All the more credit due to Crumple zone bill (Bill Johnsen) and his team 50% Viking who had both Clarke and Mollema and took the tipping stage honours.

Stage 6 was a repeat victory for Imojaune Windmill (Imogen Windle) who overlooked Bouhanni but had six other scoring riders.

Bragging rights across the two stages goes to Luka Puka (Lukas Madar) and Shimanio 105.

Two more solid chances for the sprinters are on the agenda for stages 7 and 8.  Our next tipping update will be after stage 8.

la tipping centrale

Breaking news – la Vuelta tipping update, stages 3 and 4

The updated score-sheet after stage 4 can be downloaded here: 4V_le tipping personale

The Vuelta doesn’t offer up too many easy stages so the peleton took it upon themselves to make Stage 3 as calm as possible.  While the break did their best to not get too far ahead, the peleton did even better to not catch them too soon – virtually slowing to a halt at one stage.

As slow as it was, it was still too fast for poor Richie who lost another nine minutes by the finish in his bid to be no threat on later stages should he get in the break (off the front, not the back).

With the sprinter of the year in their ranks, the work was left to QuickStep to bring it back together and lead out the sprint.  Elia Viviani capped the good work with a comfortable stage victory from Giacomo Nizzolo and Peter Sagan.

V3 Viviani

Elia could afford a drink after stage 3, he wouldn’t feature in stage 4.

The break was altogether more committed on Stage 4, even if the peleton was similarly disinterested.  A band of nine were able to establish a lead of more than nine minutes by the time they reached the base of the final climb to the finish, giving us the benefit of two races in one.

The nine breakaway hopefuls threw their chances at the mountain and the mountain rejected them all but Ben King and Nikita Stalnov (with a reluctant late acceptance for Pierre Rolland).  King was exactly that at the finish line and will reign for a day at least.

V5 King

The final selection – King rules over Stalnov.

In the race amongst the GC favourites there was the unfamiliar sight of the Team Sky overall leader in a small(ish) bunch with no teammates available to help.  Simon Yates saw a rare chance and by the finish line had taken a handy thirty seconds on most of his rivals.

Michal Kwiatkowski’s overall lead looked under threat at times from both King and Yates but ultimately he has retained a small margin and consigned his teammates to a few more days of hard work.

Imojaune Windmill (Imogen Windle) was the stage 3 tipping victor courtesy of five scoring riders.  Along with stage glory, Imojaune also took the lead in sprint tipping and, most importantly, Windle bragging rights.

Jumprope (Trevor Jacobs) had the stars of stage 4 – Ben King, Luis Angel Mate and Simon Yates – to score a narrow tipping stage victory after years of honest tipping toil.

A special mention to TA-Focus (Tamara Allet) who won neither stage 3 or 4 but was the best tipster across the two stages combined – congratulations, there is no prize for that.

Premo (James Martyn) is our early leader in mountain tipping.  Miguel (Mike Frislie) holds the Highlighter Jaune for another day at least but his rivals are gathering behind.

And we can proudly announce that all tipsters have now gathered at least a few points.  That’s great news – for everyone except Rufus de la Vuelta whose meagre 15 points earns him the first texta rouge for last place in la Vuelta tipping.

The Vuelta now settles down for a while as stages 5 and 6 promise traditional first week stages suitable for the sprinters or a hardworking break.  La tipping will deliver the next update after stage 7.

la tipping centrale