Vuelta a España (st. 16)
Offensive tactics from Movistar Team drop Nibali and get things closer in the overall, with Valverde -always in 3rd- now 1.14 behind. Barguil (ARG) wins again; Herrada takes 5th
The combined efforts between the demanding finale in Castelldefels and the two infamous stages atop La Gallina and Peyragudes ended up paying off at the final Pyrenean stage of the 2013 Vuelta a España, an intense 147km from Graus to the Cat-1 top of Formigal where Movistar Team developed an offensive labour that brought benefits in the overall classification for Alejandro Valverde. The telephone squad tried different kinds of strategies in a tremendously fast start, with 89km covered in the first two hours of racing, and after setting four men into a 20-man breakaway that was taken down by leader Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana, the Blues worked hard, with intention, to bring down another 10-rider split and put three of their own into the 23 which contended the stage victory: Intxausti, Szmyd and José Herrada.
The man from Cuenca -5th across the finish after yet another exhibition of strength- was the Movistar Team rider getting closest to victory, awarded to Warren Barguil (ARG) after a move halfway through the climb which was contested, but not beaten, by a late kick from Rigoberto Urán (SKY). Behind, an acceleration from Katusha splitted the favourites’ group and moved Valverde to try it on his own, his attempt ultimately causing Nibali’s time loss. Valverde would go in search for a later attack from Rodríguez, left Horner (2nd overall) behind and won twenty-five seconds on the race leader, a total 28″ after the three gained as first into one of the day’s intermediate sprint. This way, Valverde will get a well-deserved, second rest day in Calahorra just 1.14 behind adrift in the overall, always sitting in 3rd place.
Alejandro Valverde: “I already defended myself well yesterday, but the good weather today did even better on me. Our intention was not letting the break go too far and contesting the stage win myself, but once we got three riders into the escape and saw Herrada doing very well, we let him play his chance. In the end, his rivals were stronger and sadly he couldn’t crown it. I tried to move at the start of the final part of the climb to see what happened, but there was a strong headwind and I realized it was impossible. Purito jumped and I waited for Nibali to respond, but he sit on his saddle and I chose to go on full steam to reach Horner and get as far as possible. We didn’t get the bonus seconds, but those 28 seconds are still good. Today’s stage brought some more gaps because the two stages prior to today were really hard, with cold, rain, long distances and such hard climbs. Legs are a bit stiff in those days and we profited from that. I was feeling good after sticking to the main guys yesterday, but today’s feeling is even better.”
José Herrada: “In my opinion, the break split because a TV camera took some riders on his wheel. We were twelve at the final climb, there was a split due to that and, even though I could get back into a long slope, when you’re riding through such suffering, every single effort you take is crucial. It had been a full three days of efforts to 100% – although today’s seemed the easiest stage of the Pyrenees trio, we knew it would hard; actually, it was the only stage making some significant gaps. There was a rest day tomorrow and we had to try. The Vuelta is going really great, though it was sad not to be able to win today. I’m trying to stay as close to Alejandro as possible and I’m happy with the race so far. We will fight for the overall victory every minute left in this race.”