VUELTA: GC Battle Heats up in the Freezing Rain


Stage 14 in the freezing rain sees Cannondale’s Daniele Ratto sneak away for the win whilst behind the GC battle saw Nibali take a few seconds on Chris Horner as Roche slips back

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It was a battle between not just each other as the weather turn wintery for the riders on Stage 14 of the Tour of Spain and at the finish, there were a lot of DNFs (14) as hypothermia took its toll including on GC contender Ivan Basso who abandoned. The stage began in Baga and ended on the Collada de la Gallina after 155.7km of racing with many riders losing time and others dropping out completely.


Ratto, out front of the race from Zero kilometre to the finish line, and on his own for over 50k of the finale, is delighted with his biggest win to date. Photo:

The stage was dominated by a five up break including World Champ Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), Steve Chainel (AG2R), Graeme Brown (Belkin) and Luis León Sánchez (Belkin). With a mountain top finish ahead of them, a split in the break came on the second climb when Ratto went clear on the Coll de Ordino, gaining time on everyone and arriving at the base of the final 7.2km climb of the Collada de la Gallina with nine minutes in hand.

The 23-year old Italian lost six of them on that final climb but still had plenty of time to celebrate a solo victory atop the Andorran climb while the GC battle roared on behind him. The rest of the break were caught as the GC battle between Nibali and Chris Horner saw them go head to head with Joaquim Rodriguez a few seconds adrift and on the line, they each crossed the finish alone with two seconds between Nibali and Horner and Rodriguez a further 16 seconds back.

There was bad news for the Roche camp though as the Irishman did not cope well with the bad weather and lost over seven minutes to drop down the overall rankings whilst American Chris Horner moved up to second place on the classification after another strong display of climbing prowess from the veteran.


Bad day for Nicolas Roche who said his legs at the bottom of the final climb were like two planks of wood after the cold had go into them. Photo:

Chris Horner: “This was a horrendous day. It was so cold and freezing on the descent after the first climb. I had on every bit of clothing I own on but I was still cold. Luckily I have a fantastic team. Gregory Rast was amazing. I was dropped on the descent and he brought me back to the group.”

“After Rast there was Kišerlovski. I can’t even describe how great he was today, he was simply amazing. He destroyed everyone on the last climb, leaving just me and Nibali. It made my decision easy after that – just go 100% for the line to see if I could get rid of Nibali. It was just the two of us. I tried as hard as I could to get rid of him but he’s good.”

Horner led Nibali up the final climb before the race leader slipped ahead in the closing metres to claim second place at almost four minutes behind winner Ratto. The conditions on the road were dismal with freezing raining coming down and slippery roads causing chaos on the descents. Rodriguez, hailing from the region, put his Katusha team on the front to drive the pace. Horner ”You could tell Katusha really knew the climb and on the descents; they were going full gas. For everyone else it was just survival on the descent.”

2013_VueltaStage14_Nibali_Horner (2)

Kišerlovski pulls aside after getting rid of all but two of the GC contenders and lets his team leader Chris Horner take over. Photo:

“I don’t know the descent and we were going 100kph so you just had to hope Katusha knew what they were doing. You cross your fingers and hope for the best.”

With many GC riders in trouble or out of the race completely, Chris moved into second place at 50-seconds behind Nibali. Horner “I heard that Basso and Sanchez dropped out with hypothermia and I can understand that completely. I could barely hold the bike straight on the descent because I was shaking so much. It was difficult to work my fingers on the brakes and difficult to slow the bike down. The metal manhole covers at the apex of every corner were causing people to slip and slide all over the place.”

“In the beginning of the stage I didn’t feel good because of the cold weather and the rain” Joaquim Rodriguez explained. “It was a pretty tough start, but during the stage I managed to find my rhythm. So, when I got to the last climb, I felt much better but Nibali and Horner were too strong today. When they attacked, I decided to keep my own pace. Then, in the final part I tried to recover some seconds and I did. Let’s see what’s going to happen in the next days”.

Valverde’s tenacity: One of the rides of the day


Valverde. Photo:

Whilst Ratto’s ride was the ride of the day and Gilbert’s not far behind, the comeback of the race was by Valverde’s. The Spaniard was struck down by rain and cold in the Pyrenees, dropped on the descent of the Ordino but after being paced by teammate José Herrada to within touching distance of the Red jersey group, Valverde fought back to finish sixth on the stage.

Valverde is now the new leader of the Points classification and stays in 3rd overall, now 1.42 adrift. “It was a really hard day for me, horrible, cruel; for me” said Valverde. “It was the hardest day ever on a bike. Not only due to the hard parcours, but also because of the conditions, which made things much, much harder. I was feeling so cold on the descents, trembling, unable to pedal, I almost crashed. People were overtaking me all the time… I was feeling cold even when climbing – when that happens, everything becomes so difficult.”

“I have to thank my team, because they gave everything for me and their work was phenomenal. Thanks to them, I could get over the day – due to them and the fans, which deserve the best, I could get over it. On the last climb I recovered well, warmed up, got on a nice pace and started overtaking riders. That’s why I’m happy with the result. It was a hellish day for everything. Seeing how many riders withdrew (14), and thinking about tomorrow’s stage, with 250k including the neutral zone – should the weather develop like today, I don’t really know what will happen.”

“Surrendering? I never surrender. We’re still in 3rd place. Winning the Vuelta will be difficult, but getting a podium finish is always beautiful.”

Tomorrow’s stage is more of the same with weather again expected to play a role in the racing action. The stage is a long one at 224.9km (plus 20k neutral), beginning in Andorra and ending on the Peyragudes.


Stage 14
1 RATTO Daniele Cannondale Pro Cycling Team 4:24:00
2 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 03:53
3 HORNER Chris RadioShack – Leopard 03:55
4 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquim Katusha Team 04:11
5 SANCHEZ GONZALEZ Samuel Euskaltel – Euskadi 04:19
6 VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro Movistar Team 04:43
7 PINOT Thibaut Equipe Cycliste 04:46
8 POZZOVIVO Domenico AG2R La Mondiale ,,
9 LANDA MEANA Mikel Euskaltel – Euskadi 05:17
10 KONIG Leopold Team NetApp – Endura 05:21
11 KANGERT Tanel Astana Pro Team 05:27
12 NIEVE ITURALDE Mikel Euskaltel – Euskadi 05:33
13 ARROYO DURAN David Caja Rural-Seguros RGA ,,
14 CARDOSO André Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 05:40
15 GILBERT Philippe BMC Racing Team 06:14
16 MORENO FERNáNDEZ Daniel Katusha Team 06:19
17 ANTON HERNANDEZ Igor Euskaltel – Euskadi 06:27
18 KISERLOVSKI Robert RadioShack – Leopard 06:44
19 FUGLSANG Jakob Astana Pro Team 07:05
20 ROCHE Nicolas Team Saxo-Tinkoff 07:22


1 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team 53:56:49
2 HORNER Chris RadioShack – Leopard 00:50
3 VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro Movistar Team 01:42
4 RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquim Katusha Team 02:57
5 POZZOVIVO Domenico AG2R La Mondiale 03:43
6 ROCHE Nicolas Team Saxo-Tinkoff 04:06
7 PINOT Thibaut Equipe Cycliste 04:34
8 KONIG Leopold Team NetApp – Endura 05:42
9 MORENO FERNáNDEZ Daniel Katusha Team 06:28
10 KANGERT Tanel Astana Pro Team 06:45
11 SANCHEZ GONZALEZ Samuel Euskaltel – Euskadi 07:10
12 ARROYO DURAN David Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 11:14
13 NERZ Dominik BMC Racing Team 11:40
14 NIEVE ITURALDE Mikel Euskaltel – Euskadi 11:50
15 SCARPONI Michele Lampre – Merida 12:26
16 CAPECCHI Eros Movistar Team 12:37
17 ANTON HERNANDEZ Igor Euskaltel – Euskadi 12:45
18 HERRADA LOPEZ Jose Movistar Team 13:28
19 HENAO MONTOYA Sergio Luis Sky Procycling 15:47
20 KISERLOVSKI Robert RadioShack – Leopard 16:15


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