La Vuelta España Femenina Preview: Stage 5

How to watch and what to watch for in the fifth stage of La Vuelta Femenina.

Stage 5: Huesca to Jaca (113.9 km)

When: Thursday, May 2

Where to watch:  🇬🇧🇪🇺 Discovery +/Eurosport, 🇺🇸 Peacock, 🇨🇦 FloBikes, 🇦🇺 SBS

When to watch: 🇬🇧 14:30 BST, 🇪🇺 15:30 CEST, 🇺🇸 🇨🇦 9:30 EDT, 🇦🇺 23:30 AEST

Stage type: Mountains

What to expect: The first cracks in the GC

Stage summary:

There is less overall elevation gained in stage 5 from Huesca to Jaca than in stage 3 of La Vuelta, but it is also the first hilltop finish of the race – similar to the finale of stage 6 that Demi Vollering won last year, where she took the leader’s jersey only for Annemiek van Vleuten to claim it the next day in the crosswinds.

The main difference between this year’s first really hilly stage to last year’s stage 5 is that the two categorized climbs are back to back, whereas last year the first climb was in the first half of the race. Last year, Vollering bested Van Vleuten by only three seconds with Ricarda Bauernfeind third a further six seconds down. A group of favourites including Elise Chabbey, Riejanne Markus, Juliette Labous, and Olivia Baril rode in 30 seconds down.

For this stage, the time gaps at the top of the final ascent are likely going to be bigger, with anyone hoping to try for red at the end of the race up there. It will be the first time in the race that the true contenders will emerge, and Vollering’s first chance to prove herself after a “disappointing” (her words) spring campaign.

The route for stage 5 of the Vuelta Femenina, showing a winding route north from Huesca that zags west, tacks back east, and west again on the penultimate climb before the mountaintop finish at Jaca.

The 113 km stage starts with 15 km of uncategorized climbing, and it will likely be active with teams trying to give some riders a head start to the climbs. Riders who try to get ahead will not be the GC riders, but key domestiques who would then be ahead of the peloton when they hit the climbs 50 km into the stage.

After the first non-categorized climb there is about 40 km of flat before the first categorized climb, plenty of road for a big group to establish a gap on the peloton.

The first categorized climb of the stage is a long one at 18.5 km but averages only 3%. It doesn’t get good until the top, but with enough pressure teams who want to reduce the peloton could use the early gradients to exhaust the peloton and by the time the slopes ramp up riders could be dropping like flies. There are supposed to be some minor crosswinds in between the two climbs as well, which will make chasing harder for anyone who loses contact on the first ascent.

The climb to the finish is only 3.4 km long but averages 7.9%. There is very little time between the two for any damage done on the first ascent to be rectified. What’s probably going to happen is a select group going over the top of Alto del Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña (first climb) that will include a domestique or two, and then the real fireworks will happen on that second ascent. The teams with the possibility of numbers in that group are SD Worx-Protime with Fisher-Black, Reusser and Vollering, Canyon-SRAM with Kasia Niewiadoma and Ricarda Bauernfeind and Lidl-Trek with Elisa Longo Borghini and Gaia Realini, possibly Amanda Spratt. For Movistar, they might have both Olivia Baril and Liane Lippert still in the front of the race, but both are a bit of an unknown (Baril hasn’t been racing that long so hard to tell how she will do, and Lippert is just back from an off-season injury). DSM-Firmeich PostNL will want Juliette Labous to be there but also maybe Nienke Vinke can make it. FDJ-Suez’s Evita Muzic might be isolated, same with Riejanne Markus, but it really depends on the speed up the climb.

By the time the riders reach the top of Alto del Fuerte Rapitán (the finish climb) they will be in pieces, but it’s not quite long enough to fully destroy the top climbers. We’re probably looking for three riders to come to the line together, and the fastest of those will win the stage.

The red jersey will definitely change hands at the end of stage 5, and whoever pulls it on will determine how the rest of the teams approach the next stage. Vos is not going to defend Red but turn her attention to riding for Riejanne Markus, and with only a five-second lead on Blanka Vas (SD Worx-Protime), she won’t hold the overall after tomorrow. The unknown is stage 4 winner Kristen Faulkner who can climb decently well, but it’s unclear how she will go against the likes of Vollering and Niewiadoma. She may find herself in a very good position at the end of stage 5.

My pick: I think we’re going to see Vollering at her best again on this climb. She is going into this stage with a fire, it’s her first chance to show off, and she’s chomping at the bit. Longo Borghini, Realini, and Niewiadoma will probably be up there as well. The riders I hope will also be close by are Faulkner, Lippert, Sarah Gigante, Fisher-Black, Labous, Muzic, and Markus, because the more riders who make it to the finish with limited time loss, the more interesting stage 6 will be.

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