Vuelta a España (st. 18)
Horner (RLT) makes only real gaps after tremendous work from Movistar Team in favouf of Valverde, showing expertise to stay 3rd overall, 1.09 behind Nibali. Kiryienka (SKY) wins day’s stage
The Cantabrian climb of Peña Cabarga (Cat-1), the first of three decisive, mountain-top finishes of the 2013 Vuelta a España in the North, closed the gaps even more but did not make any position changes between the main GC riders, still led by Vincenzo Nibali (AST). The Movistar Team sacrificed themselves at the front of the bunch from the start to the end of a 187-kilometer trek starting in Burgos, with four other rated climbs on their way. The pacemaking by Erviti, Gutiérrez, Intxausti, Capecchi, Szmyd or Moreno found no collaboration from the other teams, seeing a fifteen-man break going away including Belarusian Vasil Kiryienka (SKY), who jumped into the Cat-2 Alto del Caracol to start a solo move that would award him the stage win.
At the bunch, RadioShack upped the speed just before entering the climb, causing a big selection that was continued by another excellent performance from José Herrada. The Spaniard only let Katusha take the front to break the group into pieces, with an attack by Joaquim Rodríguez which Alejandro Valverde initially tried to respond. ‘Bala’ later chose to go on his own pace, limit losses and eventually catching the rest of the favourites but Horner (RLT), who came twenty seconds ahead of the other three top contenders and is now just three seconds off the lead. Valverde put five seconds on Nibali to keep his 3rd place, 1.09 behind the red jersey and 1.15 ahead of the fourth spot, with still two mountain stages to go. Friday will bring the penultimate one, with 181km between San Vicente de La Barquera and the Alto del Naranco (Cat-2) after the previous ascents of San Emiliano (Cat-3) and La Manzaneda (Cat-3).
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “When one gives his best, he has to be satisfied about it. The team worked a lot and I must thank all of them for their support. Horner was unstoppable – he seems like the one to beat right now, but we could still keep the pace of Nibali and Purito. I went through a critical moment when Purito jumped away with Dani Moreno: I had to drop out of the group before the other guys and keep my own pace. I knew I couldn’t be keeping that speed for long. Going on my own, I could finish better than the rest, reaching Purito and even putting five seconds on Nibali.
“I didn’t know the Peña Cabarga climb, and it’s really hard. Actually, I thought the final part was even harder, but when I saw the final 300 meters, I knew I could go full gas because it wasn’t so steep. I had a 39 crankset and a 29 cassette – I think my choice was right. We will have another demanding stage at the Naranco tomorrow, but the Angliru will be even harder. They say Saturday will bring some rain, and that would make roads more dangerous, but we will only have one option: giving 100%. For the time being, we must recover and keep fighting on tomorrow’s stage.”