Vuelta a España (st. 15)
Valverde stays 3rd in Vuelta overall after immense wear and tear towards Peyragudes, without any gaps between the main favourites. Geniez (FDJ) crowns winning break featuring Herrada (9th) and Moreno
225 kilometers from Andorra to the Cat-1 climb of Peyragudes, three big ascents on the way to the finish -Cantó, La Bonaigua and Balès-, more than 4,000m of vertical drop and some sections covered by rain and cold -though not as intense as yesterday’s hellish trek to La Gallina- configured the Queen stage of the 2013 Vuelta a España, which would ultimately cause no changes in the general classification. The Peyresourde witness a flurry of attacks by the top guns, with Nibali, Horner, Rodríguez, Pinot and Alejandro Valverde bringing his best legs to the fore again after a tremendous effort by the Spaniard on Saturday. The Movistar Team’s leader would even try an acceleration halfway through the climb, quickly responded by Nibali himself.
The race leader controlled his rivals all the way to the top and even brought the group him, three minutes and nineteen seconds behind the day’s winner Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), last survivor of a 28-rider move with two Blue riders: José Herrada and Javi Moreno, saving legs for Valverde as the Murcian was protected by Capecchi, Szmyd or a consistent Beñat Intxausti. Herrada drove the pace into the second group after the escape splitted in the penultimate climb -with Geniez and Portuguese André Cardoso (CJR) at the front-, crossing the line in 9th place, just three seconds behind Valverde (5th).
The second rest day of the Vuelta will be preceeded by the last Pyrenean stage on Monday, a short (147km), yet intense day with the climbs of Foradada (Cat-3) and Cotefablo (Cat-2) preceeding the Alto de Formigal (Cat-1; 15.8km at 4%). Valverde will depart from Graus in the green jersey against, sitting in 3rd overall at 1.42.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I was feeling good, but looking at the rivals, they weren’t doing bad either. We tried some accelerations at the Peyresourde, but it was really difficult: they were really strong and it wasn’t easy to drop them. I’m doing great, not bad at all. There’s still a long way to go in this Vuelta, and despite all favourites being so close to each other, one or another excelling at some point but not so much, we will try to profit from every chance we have. It was a better day in terms of weather today. We got better clothes to resist and the bad moments were not as hard as yesterday’s. Still, the big problem yesterday was spending so many days above 30ºC, even close to 40ºC at the climb on Friday’s stage, then shifting to four or five degrees on top of the Envalira on Saturday. We might have not brought the best clothes for that descent, but the change was brutal. I’m happy with this podium, but we won’t surrender – if there’s a chance, we will go for it.“