Michael Matthews can sort-of-sprint and sort-of-climb

There was much dicking about in captain’s hats and aeroplane cockpits at the start of the day, with the stage beginning aboard The Don Juan Carlos I aircraft carrier. The ship managed to remain afloat despite being subjected to the weight of Carlos Betancur, but later on kilograms proved more of an issue with the gradient at the finish proving sufficient to rule out a conventional bunch sprint.

Slightly too heavy

John Degenkolb was one sprinter who couldn’t cope with the incline, while Peter Sagan didn’t even bother trying. Sagan appears intent on ambling around Spain at his own pace, presumably in preparation for the World Championships. I suppose he may pop up and contest a stage later on in the race, but he’s not approaching the Vuelta in the same way he approached the Tour.

Slightly too slow

Stage two winner, Nacer Bouhanni, performed surprisingly well and managed to finish eighth, but no-one could beat Michael Matthews. Dan Martin had a bloody good go, but Matthews was simply too fast. As I said in my one-paragraph stage preview, Matthews can sort-of-sprint and sort-of-climb and even if that’s rather understating his ability, it gives some sense of what was called for today.

Far too heavy and far too slow

As for Carlos Betancur, he’s still in the race. He hauled his fat arse up the short final climb 20 minutes after everyone else and seems bang on course to match last year’s 126th place. Betancur has actually won two stage races this year – Paris-Nice and the Tour du Haut Var – which makes it even more noteworthy that he’s been a fat waste of space for the whole of the rest of the season.

Stage four

Another one that hints at a sprint finish but may not actually pan out that way. Here’s the profile. It rather depends on whether anyone fancies their chances on that descent.