A young long shot survived to take the win in the first Pyrenean mountain stage today. We saw another stage winner come from the early breakaway on stage 14. Terrible weather had a big impact on the race, causing problems for many riders.
Here is my [rough] stage-14 report if you want to read a brief outline of how the race unfolded. Afterwards you’ll find some comments and my pick for tomorrow:
|Stage 14 profile|
Baga to Andorra, 155.7k
First day of bad weather
Rain, cold (Temps mid 40’s; beow 40f/5c at Envalira summit)
No TV images for first couple of hours due to cloud cover.
*Early Break went at km3: LL Sanchez, Gilbert, Ratto, Chainel, and Brown.
Lead is up to 11:25
The leaders are on the HC Envalira climb:
The HC climb is 26.7k long
Brown has been there to help Sanchez;
Brown and Chainel are quickly dropped on the climb
Break lead: 12:30
*The peloton top the Cima Coppi Alberto Fernandez, Port de Envalira HC climb at 2415m, 8:30 behind the leaders.
Nuyens, Poels and Westra have abandoned
*Basso suffering in the cold
*LL Sanchez wiped out on the descent, but is back up and riding.
*Onto the cat-2 Col de Ordino:
Ratto has pulled away into the lone lead;
Gilbert at +:25
-44.7k: Ratto leads peloton by 7:40
six riders escape the peloton: Jose Herrada (Movistar), Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Imanol Erviti (Movistar) and Luca Paolini (Katusha);
LLS has abandoned after crashing; cites hypothermia.
Ratto still leads Gilbert as he starts the descent of the Ordino;
Front peloton down to 30 riders
Pinot is with Anton, Urtasun, Egoi, Flecha, Arroyo, Herrada, Txurruka and Howes about 1:00 ahead of the GC peloton.
Still pouring rain.
*Ratto now has 2:00 on Gilbert. He is holding 9:00 on the peloton as he summits the penultimate climb (cat-2 Comella);
*Basso abandoned! Suffered in the cold descent of the HC Envalira.
Valverde is :45 behind the GC group. He has 2 teammates with him. He fell behind on the Ordino descent.
The GC group is on the Comella climb.
Ratto is on the final climb to the finish, the cat-1 Collada de la Gallina.
The GC group summits the Comella climb 8:39 behind Ratto, who is on his way to the biggest win of his young career. Gilbert is still somewhere between the leader and the chasing group.
-5k for Ratto. The Cannondale rider leads by 8:53.
|Final climb profile of stage 14|
The peloton is on the final climb.
Valverde is being led now by Herrada, working to catch up, but Nibali, Horner, Purito and a few others up ahead are following a hard pace being set by Horner’s super domestique today, Robert Kiserlovski.
*Roche is not here.
Valverde leaves his teammate Herrada and continues ahead alone, chasing after the Nibali/Horner/Purito group.
-2.5k: Valverde passes several of the riders who were once in the GC group, which is now down to nine riders: Kiserlovski, Nibali, Horner, Rodriguez, Pozzovivo, Pinot, Sammy Sanchez, Arroyo and Kiryienka. So, Horner is the only one with a teammate still with him.
Ahead, Ratto is on the very narrow road near the top.
Valverde is within :15 of the GC group now!
|Kiserlovski, L, pulls off as Horner, takes over (Nibali, center)|
*-2k for Ratto: Kiserlovski pulls Nibali and Horner away from the rest.
Horner takes over, and Nibali rides his wheel up the final few kms toward the summit.
Ratto looks to his right at the clouds below him, shrouding the valley somewhere below.
*23 year-old Daniele Ratto of Cannondale wins stage 14 after almost four and-a-half hours in the cold wind and rain!
The Italian sprinter’s performance today also nets him the polka dot climbers jersey.
Valverde is closing in on Pinot and Pozzovivo as Horner continues to do all the work leading Nibali uphill in a race for the second place time bonus.
About :20 ahead of Pinot and Pozzo, Purito and Sammy Sanchez trail Nibali and Horner by just :20.
Nibali pulls ahead of Horner in the final 150 hundred meters, and takes second place and the 6-second time bonus.
Horner crosses the line 2 seconds later, in third, and takes the :04 bonus.
Purito Rodriguez is next, in fourth place in his home stage, 18 seconds behind Nibali. He will take over fourth place in the General Classification standings.
Sammy Sanchez finishes fifth, at +4:19, but just :26 behind Nibali. He will climb three spots in the GC, from 14th to 11th overall. Remember I singled him out as one of a select few who had not had a stage where they slid back in the standings at all? He is still at it, continually advancing.
Alejandro Valverde manages to limit his losses somewhat, finishing sixth, but the damage has been done as he lost :50 to Nibali at the line. Add in the :06 time bonus, and that’s almost a minute lost by Valverde to the race leader, Nibali today. Valverde’s chance for overall victory is possibly out the window.
The Spanish Movistar leader did however take over the lead in the points jersey competition.
Thibaut Pinot managed to overcome the threatening descents, and finishes seventh, losing :59 to Nibali. He takes over the seventh place spot vacated by Ivan Basso, who had to retire from the race today.
Domenico Pozzovivo finished with Pinot. The Ag2R climber gets eighth place. Pinot and Pozzo each advance one spot in the GC.
|Nico Roche suffered on stage 14|
Nicolas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff lost three and-a-half minutes to Nibali in the cold and wet today. He drops out of a podium position, from second place overall, to sixth.
Team Netapp’s Leopold Konig managed a tenth place finish today. He moves into the top ten overall, advancing from 11th to eighth place.
Mikel Landa impressed as Team Euskaltel’s second highest finisher on stage 14, and their second rider in the top ten—he was also one of four Euskaltel riders to net a top-20 finish today (Nieve 11th; Anton 17th).
Nibali extends his lead over everyone (except Ratto, who is not even close to a GC threat), and keeps his red jersey for the overall race lead, with his flawless ride in today’s awful weather.
Horner will climb back up from fourth place overall, to second. It was only coming into this weekend’s Pyrenees stages that Nibali stated in the press that Horner is as big a threat as anyone.
Valverde may have lost a minute, and his chance for overall victory, but he still has a very good shot at a podium finish. He also has a 1:15 lead over fourth place Purito, and 2:01 over fifth place Pozzovivo.
Stage 14 was a race of attrition. The cold and wet conditions caused a lot of suffering, and forced some key players out of the race. Most importantly though, with five more summit finishes to come, the Vuelta a España is far from decided.
Another 14 riders were unable to finish today, including Ivan Basso, Luis Leon Sanchez, Wout Poels, and Roman Kreuziger.
|Young Daniele Ratto was somewhat pleased to win stage 14|
You can see my early preview for Sunday’s stage 15 to the Peyragudes in my Pyrenees post from Thursday.
No one could have predicted that Daniele Ratto would win stage 14, but he got into the early break and showed tremendous strength and durability in bad conditions to snatch a stunning win.
Chris Horner fought hard enough to gain some time on most of his rivals today, and finished just two seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali—who looks to be the strongest rider in the race right now; so even though I picked him for the win, I am still impressed with his performance. [Is it obvious that I have been rooting for him?]
35 riders have dropped out of the race so far—23 of them over the last two stages. Stage 14 today saw the most casualties, many treated for Hypothermia. The weather on Sunday’s big 15th stage may not be too different. Those who recover best from today’s hellish ride will have the advantage tomorrow.
My pick for stage 15 is Vincenzo Nibali.
The Sicilian “Shark of Messina” can be content to just follow wheels, marking Horner all the way, but at some point he may want to stamp his authority on the race with a big stage win. The queen stage on Sunday would be a good place to do that.