8 September 2013

Vuelta a España Stage 15: Andorra to Peyragudes

Yesterday the weather turned on La Vuelta and a number of high profile riders abandonned. Ivan Basso (CAN) stepped off suffering from hypothermia and Luis Leon Sanchez who had been in the attack had a crash on the wet roads and also abandoned.

However, two members of the breakaway put up a good show and were still away as the race reached the last climb of the day. One was the World Champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) the other was Daniele Ratto (CAN). As a result of the previous climbs of the day Gilbert was the virtual leader of the king of the mountains classification as they started on the final ascent.

Radioshack took to the front and increased the pace for Chris Horner and slowly the other contenders fell off the back. Alejandro Valverde (MOV) was first, then Nicolas Roche (TST), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Joaquin Rodriguez (KAT) leaving just two up front chasing down the remnants of the breakaway. The red jersey on the shoulders of Vincenzo Nibali and the polka dots then on the back of Horner. Of those that had been dropped however, Valverde was making progress through the others.

The world champion was caught as Horner was forced by Nibali to make all the pace up the climb, but 23 year old Ratto was too far ahead and still riding strong. High up in Andorra he crossed the line first, 3'53" later Nibali powered past Horner to secure second place by two seconds but it was the gaps behind that were important. Rodriquez was 18 seconds behind the red jersey, Samuel Sanchez (EUS) 26", Valverde 50", Pinot and Domenico Pozzivivo (ALM) 53", Leopold Konig (NAE) 1'28", Roche 3'29", Michele Scarponi (LAM) 4'31".

The top 10 now looks like this:

  1. Vincenzo Nibali (AST) 53hr 56'49"
  2. Chris Horner (RSL) + 50"
  3. Alejandro Valverde (MOV) + 1'42"
  4. Joaquin Rodriguez (KAT) + 2'57"
  5. Domenico Pozzivivo (ALM) + 3'43"
  6. Nicolas Roche (TST) + 4'06"
  7. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) + 4'34"
  8. Leopold Konig (NEA) + 5'42"
  9. Daniel Moreno (KAT) + 6'28"
  10. Tanel Kangert (AST) + 6'45"
Today is no let up for the riders as the longest stage of La Vuelta heads into France. There are 225km of racing over 4 first category climbs ending on the Peyragudes, which made its Tour debut in 1910.

The first climb comes almost straight from the start up the Puerto del Cantó. It is 24.4km rising 1,040m to 1,720m at 4.2% average with a maximum gradient of 10% on the lower slopes.

Then it is on towards the Puerto de la Bonaigua which is only 20km in length but climbs 1,100m to the hih point of the day at 2,090m with an average gradient of 5.5% but after the 12.5% maximum about 8 km into the climb it is harder on the higher slopes than what had been up to that point.

On the descent the race crosses into France and prepares for the Col du Ports de Balés a regular feature in the Tour de France which is celebrating 100 editions this year. At 19.2km with a vertical gain of 1,195m it has the biggest increase on altitude of the four climbs today. The average of 6.2% gradient is also the toughest and once the race reaches the summit it a quick descent and then straight unto the final climb of the day.

Then it is unto the Peyragudes which first appeared in a Grand Tour 103 years ago. When it was ascended for a second time in 2012 Alejandro Valverde it was who reached the top first. There is only 800m of verical gain and the last two km are somewhat flat, but coming straight after the Port de Balés it will still prove a real test of the legs.

The weather again is forecast to be wet with the possibility of thunder and lightning on the Peyragudes. So again the condition of the riders through the day is important as well as keeping the bike upright. Anything could  happen once again and any one of the riders who lost time yesterday may be able to pull it back. Although Nibali defeated the awful conditions of the Giro d'Italia at the start of the year so seems one of those best suited to doing so again today.

No comments:

Post a Comment