Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stage 21 Preview 2013 Vuelta a España

The 2013 Vuelta a España is not quite over yet, but the mountains are. Tomorrow when the peloton cruises into Madrid for the 21st and final stage of the race, Chris Horner will become the first American to win the Spanish Grand Tour, and the oldest rider ever to win any Grand Tour. 

Horner had the answer for all of Nibali's challenges
Horner locked his victory with consistent domination in the high mountains, and finally by dropping his main rival, Vincenzo Nibali on stage 20’s fearsome, cloud-covered Alto de L’Angliru. Despite a series of deep attacks from the Sicilian Shark on the steep slopes of the race’s final climb, Nibali was unable to take back the three second deficit to Horner that he began the stage with.

In fact Nibali’s many accelerations depleted his reserves, and Horner was able to pull ahead and finish the stage 28 seconds in front of Nibali. Only Kenny Elissonde of FDJ survived from the early break to take the stage win ahead of Horner. For Elissonde, it was his first win of the season, and easily the biggest of the 22-year-old’s young career.

Horner was 2nd up the Angliru, but ahead of all his rivals

Nicolas Edet of the Pro-Conti Cofidis Team will take home the mountain jersey after collecting the most KOM points over several impressive breakaways. Alejandro Valverde amassed enough high stage finishes to almost certainly win the points jersey on Sunday.

Throughout the three-week race The Basque-based Euskaltel-Euskadi team got more of their riders over the line early than any other team. Maybe it is appropriate that they won the team competition in the team’s final home Grand Tour in this incarnation. The bright orange squad will be taken over by F1 star, Fernando Alonso next year.

Stage 21 profile

Tomorrow’s final stage in Madrid is flat, and perfect for a bunch sprint. The sprinters who survived the mountains will get their last chance to shine. For Horner the stage will be largely ceremonial, a chance to soak in an exceptional triumph.

Stage 21 final 5k race route

Some of this race’s most successful sprinters so far have been Richeze, Boasson Hagen, Meersman, Flecha, Farrar, Matthews and Paolini. No one has been consistently dominant, but Richeze has collected four podium finishes in the sprints.

My pick for stage 21: Maximiliano Richeze.
He has been the most consistent, but has not yet grabbed a win.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Stage 20 Angliru Preview 2013 Vuelta a España

I am very sorry that I have not been able to post to this blog much the last few days. I have a family member in the hospital, and have not had the time to blog.

The Vuelta has been a great fight in my opinion, and, as many suggested, it will be decided tomorrow on the “Beast of Asturias”.

Stage 20 profile

Profiles of the final two climbs

The Angliru climb is long and steep. In some places it is brutally steep. With maxes over 23%, and an average gradient of over 10%, the Angliru is over 12k of difficult climbing. it hosts the final climb of the 2013 Vuelta a España, and should see some serious fireworks among the overall contenders.

Can Chris Horner continue to dominate the high mountain finishes and hold off Vincenzo Nibali, to take the crown for the 2013 Vuelta a España?

Can Nicolas Edet get into another break and seal the king of the mountains jersey?

Can Alejandro Valverde hold off a charging Joaquim Rodriguez for the final podium spot?

Tune in on Saturday to find out.
Sunday the race ends with a short, mostly ceremonial sprint stage into Madrid. Which sprinters will survive to contest the last bunch sprint of the race?

My pick for the stage-20 win: Chris Horner