14 September 2013

Vuelta a España Stage 20: Avilés to Alto de l´Angliru

Yesterday was a day that saw the race for the red jersey heat up once again. With only three seconds separating Vincenzo Nibali from Chris Horner at the start of the day it was always going to serve up that potential. Ahead of today's final competitive stage for the GC contenders it was always going to be a tense affair.

On the final climb of the day the first rider to attack was Jose Joao Mendes (TNE), not someone to be feared. But the pace of the Team SaxoBank Tinkoff riders brought him back and that allowed their leader Nicolas Roche to launch his own attack. However, before they caught him Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had been dropped by the pack.

Michele Scarponi (LAM) was the first to respond to the Irishman's attack. But then it was Joaquin Rodriguez (KAT) who stepped up the pace in the last km overhauling them both and pulling away for the stage way and the bonus seconds for coming first. Behind him taking the other valuable bonus seconds were Diego Ulissi (LAM) at 11 seconds and Daniel Moreno (KAT) on the same so none of the GC contenders picked up bonus time. Samuel Sanchez (EUS)  had finshed with Ulissi and Moreno.

Then it was:
  • Chris Horner (RSL) +14"
  • Alejandro Valverde (MOV) +14"
  • Michele Scarponi (LAM) +16"
  • Leopold Konig (TNE) +20"
  • Vincenzo Nibali (AST) +20"
  • Nicolas Roche (TST) +23"
  • ...
  • Domenico Pozzivivo (ALM) +33"
  •  ...
  • Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +1'05"
The net result is that the race is still lead by only three seconds, but this time it is the gap that Horner has over Nibali rather than the other way around at the start.

Today although the stage is 142.2km long it will come down to the last 13 of these, 12.2 of which are the climb of Alto de l'Angliru (pictured).

There is a particularly tough section near the summit between 4 to 2km left to race and this is where time gaps will open up between those guys who think they have a chance can make up time. Rodriguez showed yesterday what he can do on an explosive climb and along with the bonus seconds for coming first he might well be able to make up his 1'57" on Horner. Valverde sitting only 1'06" back will probably have to go before or with Rodriquez and hope that Horner is on a bad day, but that gap could also be reduced on the upper reaches today. Horner may burn himself out trying to match the other two and allow Nibali those vital few seconds even if it is just from a top three finish ahead of him to steal back the red jersey.

The only hope for Roche who is 3'49" back would be for a long attack far down the climb before the others are ready, but unlike in recent days he is going to have to keep going at the pace that they are going at, if not faster to make sure he can the time he needs.

It will be a tough day but the one that will final determine which man will win the 68th edition of La Vuelta a España.

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