• The riders in action during Stage 12 of La Vuelta a Espana. (Velo)Source: Velo
Twelve stages down, six to go and the top four are separated by just 35 seconds. It’s been the year of tight battles in the grand tours and it continues as the red jersey battle nears its conclusion on SBS VICELAND and SBS On Demand.
By
Matt Keenan

2 Nov 2020 - 1:30 PM 

Stage 13's time trial

Across the weekend the brutal mountains stages, including the much feared Alto de l’Angliru, didn’t create big time gaps. But Tuesday’s 33.7km individual time trial just might.

Coming hot on the heels of the final rest day, this could prove to be the most important 33.7km of the race. Stage 13 is predominately flat but, the Vuelta being the Vuelta, there’s a nasty climb across the last two kilometres.

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On the l’Angliru Richard Carapaz took back the race lead, with help from super domestique Chris Froome, but only has a 10 second buffer on last year’s winner, Primoz Roglic.

Roglic will be hoping to replicated his big time gains from last year’s Giro, where he won the the ITT and took 1:55 on Carapaz in 34km.

In the same time trial, Hugh Carthy who is third overall at 32 seconds down on Carapaz and 22 down on Roglic, conceded 1:30.

Roglic will be, well he should be, full of confidence. Not that he’d ever show it. Nor would he ever show a lack of confidence. Never play poker against Primoz.

WATCH: Roglic dominates in Suances as GC battle heats up
WATCH: Roglic dominates in Suances as GC battle heats up

As for Dan Martin, fourth overall at 35 seconds, his time trialling is similar to Carapaz and Carthy, which will make for a great battle between those three.

The big Spanish hope, Enric Mas, who is currently fifth at 1:50, has a record against the clock that suggests he could take time on all bar Roglic and put himself back into podium contention.

By the end of Stage 13 I’m expecting to see Roglic in the red jersey, with a one minute advantage, and Carapaz, Carthy, Martin and Mas all in with a shot at the podium in Madrid.

Time trials have a reputation for being boring but at the Tour and the Giro they were brilliant. And again at the Vuelta the test of truth will prove to be decisive.

The path to the podium

Stage 14, a long 204km to Ourense, should be a day for the sprinters. A shot at redemptions, after his Stage 9 relegation, for Sam Bennett.

WATCH: Ackermann claims victory in controversial sprint finish
WATCH: Ackermann claims victory in controversial sprint finish

Stage 15, 230km to Puebla de Sanabria, and Stage 16, 162km to Ciudad Rodrigo, have potential ambush written all over them. They’re across terrain similar to the famous Alberto Contador ambush, to Fuente De, in 2012. Not mountain finishes but no flat roads, making it super hard for a team to control. These will be challenging days for Jumbo-Visma.

Stage 17, 178km to the mountain top finish at Alto de la Covatilla, is the last day of decision. At the end of the strangest of seasons, this will be physically and psychologically demanding.

It’s then into Madrid, for Stage 18, the final stage of the race and the close of the 2020 season. And despite all the COVID setbacks it has been an incredible season of racing.

As for the final podium, I’m sticking with my pre-race prediction of Primoz Roglic first, ahead of Richard Carapaz. As for third… Hugh Carthy, Dan Martin or Enric Mas? I’ll go with Hugh Carthy.

How about you?

WATCH Stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS VICELAND and On Demand from 12:40am (AEDT) on Wednesday morning.