• The four top GC riders at La Vuelta (Getty)Source: Getty
If you're just waking up to the fact that another Grand Tour is on, it's a good time to jump back in!
By
SBS Cycling Central

31 Aug 2019 - 10:55 AM 

1. Tight at the top

A chaotic first week of racing at the Vuelta has slimmed the number of likely general classification winners down to four riders within half a minute of each other. 

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) leads the race but Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) lies just six seconds adrift, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is third at 16 seconds and team-mate Nairo Quintana sits 27 seconds off the pace.

All lie well within striking distance.

La Vuelta: Top four set themselves up for epic battle for red
Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) pulled on the leader's red jersey for the third time at the 2019 edition of La Vuelta after Stage 7, with three main competitors announcing themselves as the big threats for the general classification.
Valverde wins atop brutal climb as favourites battle it out
On a brutal Stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana it was Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who benefited from the attacking verve of his team-mate Nairo Quintana to take the 13th Vuelta stage win of his career.

2. Andorra - Stage 9

Sleepy little Andorra, a tiny mountainous country nestled in the Pyrenees is the home away from home for many non-European cyclists. It's not just because of the tax laws either, there are plenty of training routes that are staples of the local riders and monstrously tough climbs. 

Every time a race heads to Andorra, whether it's for the Vuelta or the Tour, the peloton turns it on up the long, steep slopes of the Pyrenees. 

Stage 9 will be no exception, a very short stage at just 94.4 kilometres taking a tour of some of the hardest climbs of the region. Despite the short length, organisers have packed the stage with climbing, with five categorised climbs featuring. 

The last 20 kilometres is the crowning glory with three climbs in a stepped progression to the finish line.

The Puerto de Comella (4.2 kilometres at 8.6 per cent), Puerto de Engolasters (4.8 kilometres at 8.1 per cent) and finally the Cortals d'Encamp (5.7 kilometres climb at 8.3 per cent) will offer the riders a significant challenge with the flat sections between climbs likely to be key in determining team tactics.

Sunday 1 September
Vuelta a España Stage 9
2300 AEST - 0200 AEST
SBS Viceland streaming to Cycling Central and SBS OnDemand 

3. The Spanish Countryside

We'll just leave this here. 

Scenery from Stage 7 of La Vuelta a Espana 2019.

4. Attacks galore

If you only watched the Tour de France, you'd be forgiven for questioning the sanity of riders who attempt the early breakaway, given how rarely the moves are successful in the French Grand Tour.

La Vuelta is very different from Le Tour, the racing is more open and aggressive, long-range moves often pay off and it encourages a bit more flair within the peloton.

Three of the six road stages have been won by riders launching attacks with over 20 kilometres remaining in the stage, so it's less of a sit-and-sprint that some of the Tour stages can devolve into.

5. Stage 8

Sprinters probably perked up their ears when they heard that there would be just one categorised climb, a category 2 climb with just under 30 kilometres remaining. However, the Puerto de Montserrat is very tough, especially for a category 2, with its 7.1 kilometre length being tackled at 6.9 per cent.

 

That will be too tough for the sprinters to maintain the pace of the peloton, but the near 30 kilometres from the top to the finish line means that it's a poor candidate for the GC favourites to attack their rivals. 

So it's breakaway time!

Saturday 31 August
Vuelta a España Stage 8
2300 AEST - 0200 AEST
SBS Viceland streaming to Cycling Central and SBS OnDemand

5.5 The Colombian Kangaroo

It's been a rollercoaster ride for anyone trying to follow Esteban Chaves' career, with the smiling Colombian on the Australian Mitchelton-Scott squad having experienced the highs of podium finishes at the Giro and the Vuelta back in 2016 and frustratingly inconsistent performances sincewith injury and illness taking their toll.

A stage win at the Giro and encouraging showings so far at the Vuelta have seen a bit of renaissance in the career of Chaves and hopefully he can continue on in a similar vein. 

We can't promise that he'll fire, hence only rated at half a reason, but Stage 9 looks like a good chance for the pint-sized rider. 

If you manage to miss it anyway, or your life has other priorities for the early hours of the morning, you can always catch up with the highlights from 5.00pm daily on SBS HD, or jump on the Cycling Central site to catch the latest video.