La Vuelta (st. 11)
Catalan up to 6th overall after brilliant 80km, supported by sensational Nelson Oliveira; Gaudu (GFC) wins as Enric Mas finishes into selected group of favourites, remains 5th overall.
/ Today’s route
Asturias is always a decisive region in La Vuelta when it comes to overall contention, and stage 11 on Saturday played a big factor towards that GC outcome. 170km were to be covered from Villaviciosa’s start, with five categorized climbs: La Campa (Cat-3), Colladona (Cat-1), Cobertoria (Cat-1), San Lorenzo (Cat-1) and La Farrapona (Cat-1). A series of climbs really well known from this race, with an imposing, long (16.5km) final climb.
/ Weather report
Who should we be thanking this for? Stages like today’s were some of the most feared ones when it was announced that La Vuelta would be held in November, and here we are: temperatures of up to 23ºC in the valleys -and a fantastic 13ºC at the top of La Farrapona-, partly cloudy skies and some wind from the southwest as we approached the final climbs. As the region’s motto goes: Natural paradise!
/ Keys to the race
- The opening 60km were as crazy as they’ve been for most of La Vueltsa, with lots of attacks to join the early break. Two moves were the most significant: a 12-man split including José Joaquín Rojas, which was caught in the early slopes of La Colladona (Cat-1), and an eight-rider move which stuck, formed at its descent and instigated by Nelson Oliveira. Between the two, the peloton was torn into pieces, with Carlos Verona or even Alejandro Valverde taking themselves to the front of a minuscule GC group.
- At the climb of La Cobertoria (Cat-1), 82km from the finish, Marc Soler went on the attack. The Catalan made a big effort to bridge back, in just three kilometers, to a leading group which was two minutes ahead. Oliveira soon took to the front of that break to help that margin grow, a sensational job which kept the favourites under pressure. The leaders started the final climb with almost 3′ over a peloton with all other Movistar Team riders still in.
- Soler, the most courageous within those in the breakaway, created the final selection as he attacked with 5km to go alongside David Gaudu (GFC), who ended up beating him at the sprint after the Catalan spent so much energy all day. Behind the duo, one minute back, Enric Mas responded well to the final acceleration from race leader Roglic (TJV), Carapaz (IGD) and Martin (ISN), with whom he finished to remain 5th overall -with Soler now in 6th-. Alejandro Valverde, who followed several rivals’ moves near the end, finished just behind as he stays in 8th place.
Marc Soler: “It makes me a bit angry because I went too early in the final meters. The team directors had told me that it would be a strong headwind heading into the finish, yet I still thought it wouldn’t get that hard before the end, but I ended up struggling against Gaudu in those final 200 meters and couldn’t contest the victory. However, I’m happy with the legs I displayed today – we’ve gained back some time and the team is really leaving its mark in this race. Nelson’s work at the breakaway was simply spectacular since I joined the leading group; I thank him lots for that, he was fantastic. L’Angliru tomorrow? It’s another chance for the team. Let’s keep digging!”
Enric Mas: “The day’s playbook for us was trying to get Marc into that break to, on the one hand, seek for the stage win, and on the other hand, gaining back some time overall – in the end, it was more than one minute and he’s closer to the top guys. I think Jumbo, even if they were chasing with INEOS at the previous climbs as Marc was only 4′ back, ultimately saw it wasn’t going to be so dangerous for them, and didn’t want to risk putting too strong of a pace and helping any attacks gaining a bigger advantage on them if that happened. So it’s down to tomorrow’s stage, which should be crucial. I felt really well today, to be honest with you. It was such a hard start, which is always difficult for everybody, but I really felt well during the La Farrapona climb, and was able to finish with those who sprint better than me, which was something I couldn’t do in previous stages. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow, then. I think we’re fine, and depending on the race situation and my own legs – we’ll see what we can do. Many things can happen; it will be a short one, yet a decisive one in this Vuelta.”
/ Upcoming goals
It might not be the Queen stage -that title should have probably been given to today’s stage-, but Sunday’s stage 12 in La Vuelta surely is the most anticipated finish by the fans: L’Angliru (HC; 12.4km at 9.9%; maximum slopes of 23.5%), preceded by Padrún (Cat-3), San Emiliano (Cat-3), Mozqueta (Cat-1) and Cordal (Cat-1) in just 109km from Pola de Laviana – explosivity could also play a factor here!
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport