Vuelta a España (st. 17)
Movistar Team leads crosswinds en route to Burgos, protects Alejandro Valverde to perfection before mountain showdown in the North. Mollema (BEL) surprises with late attack
A stage that seemed to be the relax day before the mountain showdown of the 2013 Vuelta a España -189km of mainly flat roads between Calahorra and Burgos- ended up bringing nerves, high speeds and gaps between some of the top contenders in the overall classification. Crosswinds in the plains en route to the Castilian capital offered the Movistar Team a chance to show up at the front with 30k to go and break the bunch into three groups, the first echelon including Moreno, Herrada, Erviti, Gutiérrez and an always attentive Alejandro Valverde. The insistence from Iván and Imanol caused the chasers -featuring most notably Domenico Pozzovivo (ALM), 5th in the overall, and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), 7th- losing a minute and a half at the finish line.
At the front, Bauke Mollema (BEL) surprise with a late attack into the final 800 meters and took a gap the sprinters could never close. Herrada came in 9th to lead the Blue performance for a third consecutive day, the Spanish team now putting all its efforts on helping Valverde -still in 3rd overall, 1.14 down on Vincenzo Nibali (AST)- in a trio of mountain stages which are set to be purely exciting. Thursday will bring the first chapter, with the Peña Cabarga ascent (Cat-1; 6km at 9.2%) after 187 with four other rated climbs starting from Burgos.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “Today seemed like the most calm day before Madrid, but it’s becoming clear that this is a Vuelta to pay attention every day, from start to finish. We knew it could be dangerous because of the wind – despite it blowing into our heads for most of the stage, there could be some change. We had to stay focused, well placed in the finale – and we did. The speed caused the group splitting up; we continued to push at the front, mostly with Saxo. It was a matter of going full gas until the finish – the team was superb again, protected me perfectly and we got over the day, we must be happy. The rest day did well on us, though the legs feel a bit stiff in the beginning. The decisive days come tomorrow, with a finish I never climbed to. Despite knowing most of the Vuelta route, there were placed I didn’t – Peña Cabarga was one of those. I chose not to go and recon those sites after the Tour, because it’s not such a problem if you’re on form.“