Well, so much for that analysis—I was pretty sure Farrar’s legs were getting soggy after a full plate of classics, three Grand Tours, and some late season one-days. But he got a pretty good amount of daylight in winning yesterday’s Vuelta stage—hardly the victory of a man beaten back by a season’s worth of effort.
Apparently an attempt at the World Title attempt is still in the cards, but unlike some other riders I could name, Farrar’s taking a real wait-and-see approach in sizing up his chances. I suppose it’s encouraging—from an American prospective, anyway—that he taking such a well-reasoned approach, but on the other hand, when a cyclist who can win long one-days is on form, parcours tends to lose relevance, as Cancellara’s Flanders/Roubaix double and Gilbert’s dual conquests at Paris-Tours and Tour of Lombardy last season, show.
Speaking of Gilbert, he’s put forth some pretty solid evidence of form heading into the end of this season—even if today’s setup in the truncated group sprint didn’t go so well. Taking the race lead on a stage tailored to his strengths was good, but far more impressive was his retention of the red kit on a stage that was not. While it’s almost certain that Gilbert will not be sticking around through the end of the event, a very interesting race is shaping up behind him, including several younger riders taking their first real shots in a Grand Tour.
That said, the argument could be made that this year’s Vuelta won’t have any sort of reliable GC picture before Stage 16 since all the prior mountain stages lacking a hilltop finish or multiple climbs, and the only TT doesn’t take place until Stage 17. I’m not quite that strict in my consideration of what makes a “real” mountain stage—especially after the GC changes on downhill finishes at this year’s Tour—but I will say that the this Vuelta will be unusually coy in revealing which riders have a shot at the top step of the Podium in Madrid.