The last of the Grand Tours this year, the Vuelta a Espana, (Tour of Spain.) is turning out to be one of the best races of this year. The Vuelta finishes at the end of this week, Sunday, September 15th, and with three more big mountain stages to come, the end result is by no means a foregone conclusion.
The main players are: (1.) Italian, Vincenzo Nibali, winner of this year’s Giro d’Italia, he opted out for the Tour de France, and so went into the Vuelta as favourite.
(2.) At 28 seconds. American, Chris Horner (Radio Shack-Leopard-Trek.) Had knee surgery earlier this year, and has only had three weeks of racing before this event, including 2nd. Place in the Tour of Utah. 41 years old and soon to be 42 apparently. He has already won two stages, both uphill solo efforts. As a result he goes into the record books as the oldest stage winner in a Grand Tour.
(3.) At 1min. 14sec. Alejandro Valverde, who was 8th in this year’s Tour de France, and 2nd. In last year’s Vuelta.
(4.) At 2min.29sec. Joaquin Rodriguez, who was 3rd in this year’s Tour de France, and 3rd. in the 2012 Vuelta a Espana
Valverde and Rodriguez, both from Spain, both rode this year’s Tour de France. The TDF finishes at the end of July, the Vuelta starts the first week in September. Basically just the month of August to recover, which has to be hard on a body.
If you haven’t been following the race so far here are some video highlights. Stage 3. Chris Horner’s first win, he took off and I think the rest of the favorites thought they could catch him in the last 500 meters. They almost did, but Horner timed his effort perfectly with a scant 3 seconds lead at the end.
Stage 10. This time Nibali took Horner seriously, and chased hard with 1.5 km. to go. The interesting thing is Horner had 48 seconds lead when Nibali started the chase, and was still 48 seconds down at the finish. As fast as Nibali appears to be going, the clock shows Horner matched his speed.
Stage 11 was a Time Trial, which is not Chris Horner’s strong point. Nibali took 1.29 out of him. Luckily Horner was ahead of Nibali in the GC so had a small cushion, and ended up 46 seconds down.
Stage 14: On an appalling day of heavy rain and cold temperatures, when at least 14 riders had to quit due to hypothermia. The stage was won by young Italian rider, Daniele Ratto, who had survived out of a long breakaway. Horner rode strongly and Nibali was the only one who could stay with him. In fact he sat on his wheel all the way up the mountain, and then took a few seconds out of Horner at the end. However, both riders took time out of all the other favorites.
Stage 16: Argos Shimano rider, Warren Barguil, who is a 21 year old Frenchman. He won stage 13 with a fine solo effort, and was wanting to do it again. He took off from a break that was originally about 20 riders strong, with about 14 km. to go, and a big climb at the end.
However, Colombian rider, Rigoberto Uran, who went into the Vuelta as one of the favorites, but is currently in 20th place, was hot to win a stage. Uran bridged the gap to Barguil and caught him in the final kilometer. He tried to blow by him, but when the young French rider managed to get on his wheel, Uran slowed to recover for a sprint out.
The problem was other riders were also closing the gap and Uran had no choice but to sprint for a long one. Barguil was able to stay on his wheel and overtake Uran on the line, to win by about a tire’s width.
Meanwhile, further down the slope, the favorites were battling it out. Nibali appeared to weaken, and Rodriguez attacked, followed by Horner, then Valverde. They all finished within 6 seconds of each other, but all took time from Nibali. Horner is in 2nd place, only 28 seconds down.
Go to SteephillTV.com to get results each day and view videos so far. Also you can watch the race live on Eurosport. A word of warning, don’t click on any of the ads that ask you to download stuff, it is all pretty much spam. Click on the “Full Screen Mode” icon, bottom right of the video. When the picture goes full screen, the ads disappear.
Also get all the racing news at Dougreport.com