I hate to draw any comparison between the pair of Sagan and Bentancur. The former I would hope has defined goals for this race while the later is clearly spluttering away his huge talent, but I mention both because both had the ability to make something of this race yet both have been conspicuous by their absence through the first week.
Firstly Sagan. He, as is becoming tradition, dominated the points competition at the Tour de France in July before announcing he would tackle the Vuelta in August. He also announced he was leaving Cannondale at the end of the year and signing a big deal with the Tinkoff Saxo team. Immediately he was penned in as favorite to win the points competition at the Vuelta and nab a couple of the early stages that appeared tailor made for him.
Indeed in watching the first couple of stages there is no reason why Sagan could not have been in the red leaders jersey for a couple of days had he pushed himself for it. Michael Matthews siezed that opportunity on those short, sharp little finishes that allowed him to grab a handful of seconds here and there and take the race lead, and Matthews is very much in the Sagan mould. The Slovak could have won out on some of those sprint finishes and took the first Grand Tour leaders jersey of his young career.
Instead it looks as though he’s either preparing for the Worlds in September, using this Vuelta as a training exercise to get long, fast miles in his legs rather than racing for results, or, with the knowledge that he’s leaving his team soon has been sent to this race as the team look to squeeze whatever exposure out of him that they can and he’s simply mailing it in. The later theory is a little too cynical for my mind but it’s disappointing that the huge talent that he is, hasn’t been up front dominating the first week of this Tour.
Then there is Betancur. Seen as one of many young talents coming out of Colombian cycling this past couple of years, highlighted by a 5th place overall at the 2013 Giro and the overall victory at this years Paris-Nice, and yet he currently sits second last in this years Vuelta having lost an hour and a half through just seven stages.
Considered someone who could win a Grand Tour one day, Bentancur seems a bit of an enigma. A talent that at 24 years of age is already showing signs of squandering it. Following his Paris-Nice win this year he went AWOL on his team back to Colombia. He was one of their hopes for this years Tour de France and himself had said it was one of his season goals, but he didn’t show up. He claimed a viral infection but I’m not sure his team even had access to him to confirm this.
He did return in time for this years Vuelta, the race he went on to say he was now targeting, but he arrived overweight. Defiant that he would be OK, he clearly isn’t. Huge amounts of time lost on a daily basis thus far has him miles out of contention. His target may be a stage win later in the race, but given his attitude this season, that’s the very least he owes his team and he’d better come through with it.
Bentancur’s time defects to the stage winner each day:
St 1: +33″
St 2: +1’15”
St 3: +20’19”
St 4: +16’55”
St 5: +13’32”
St 6: +19’30”
St 7: +20’42”
194th +1h30’44” (2nd last)
As for today’s stage, it was yet another flat-ish one with a a short little kick up at the finish — the Vuelta seems to love those stages when they’re not in the big mountains — but this time the days break stuck and it was Alessandro De Marchi, the most combative rider from this years Tour de France, who lost his companions in the run in to the finish and came home for the solo victory.
Ryder Hesjedal was in the days break but crashed with 15km to go and lost out on the chance to win the stage. The big Canadian’s luck has never been the same since he won that Giro back in 2012. He did manage to finish second but more than a minute and a half behind De Marchi.
Under a minute behind them came home the peloton, led in by Philippe Gilbert with Dan Martin and Chris Froome on his wheel. There was a three second gap to the rest meaning Froome stole back a little time on his rivals which was good going given that earlier in the day he had crashed and off the back for a while. Those seconds aside there was little shake up to the GC and Alejandro Valverde remains in the red jersey.
Stage 7 result:
1. De Marchi (CAN) in 4h01’52”
2. Hesjedal (GRS) +1’34”
3. Dupont (ALM) +1’35”
4. Tschopp (IAM) s.t.
5. Gilbert (BMC) +2’17”
6. Martin (GRS) s.t.
Overall standings: No major changes.