The race crosses into Andorra, the mountain principality that sits in the middle of the Pyrenees. A day for the climbers but with two contrasting climbs, one long and gradual before the sharp final climb of the Collada de la Gallina.
Stage 13 Review
The superstitious say 13 is an unlucky number but did you know 13 is a lucky number in France? You do now. Whether fate played a part in Warren Barguil’s win is another matter. A thrilling finish saw a breakaway packed with top riders but they were all outdone by Argos-Shimano’s French neo-pro. A late attack caught the others by surprise and the final climb to the line was no obstacle. Rinaldo Nocentini was second and when the Italian stood on the podium of the U-23 Worlds in Valkenberg in 1998, Warren Barguil was seven and starting his second year of école primaire.
Stage 14 Preview
The Route: a ride that’s in the mountains all day with around 4,000 vertical metres. Things start rising at La Seu d’Urgell. The Port d’Envalira is very long climb, totalling 26.7km at an average of 5.2%. It’s a strength-sapper but also matters as it is the literal highpoint of the 2013 Vuelta and accordingly the Alberto Fernandez prize is awarded, along with extra mountain points. The climb and descent are major routes into Andorra and accordingly easy, the kind of route that allows Barcelona residents smooth access to the ski slopes by the coachload.
Then it’s on with more climbs in Andorra with the Col d’Ordino (8.8% at 4.9%) and the Alto de la Comella (4km at 5%).
The Finish: the final climb is 7.2km at 8% but with steep ramps and a very narrow road that twists and turns so much that a well-greased headset is a must.
The Scenario: there will be a fight to get in the day’s breakaway but the main contenders should find they can get their teams to set a tempo to control things. Amongst the main contenders, let’s discount a few riders. First Thibaut Pinot would be ok on these climbs and their descents but he’s been ill and the same is true for NetApp Endura’s stage winner Leopold König. Now perhaps they’re talking down their chances to get more room but it’s not their style to try this.
Now on to the main picks. Joaquim Rodriguez is the local rider. He’s not Andorran but lives there for some of the year and the final climb made for him too. But if he’s doing well in this race it’s because of consistency rather than small raids to take time off the others. But local knowledge only counts for so much. Vincenzo Nibali looks to be very strong and should be there. It’ll be interesting to see what Chris Horner does in the third week but the final climb suits him. Alejandro Valverde is another consistent rider, in the past he’d be an obvious pick for the win but top-5 seems more his thing. Nicolas Roche and Ivan Basso might find the climb too severe, they’re better at more steady efforts.
Weather: cold conditions a maximum temperature of 20°C but more like 14°C for most of the day and perhaps cooler if expected rain showers fall on the race. There’s even a chance of thunder storms at the finish.
TV: the action is likely to come on the final climb but watch to see who is struggling early on. There’s live TV from 3.00pm to 5.45pm Euro time.
- Catalonia, as we said, is divided into 4 provinces, but also 41 comarques (equivalent to counties). Every comarca has its own small local government. Bagà, today’s stage departure town, belongs to the comarca of Berguedà, in Northern Catalonia.
- Catalonia is the second most populated region of Spain, and so some of the most well-known Spaniards are Catalan. This applies to Salvador Dalí (surrealist painter), Antoni Gaudí (architect of the Sagrada Família), Juan Antonio Samaranch (president of the IOC for over 20 years), Pau Gasol (basketball player) or Ferran Adrià (considered one of the best chefs in the world).
- The peloton will cross the Spanish/Andorran border in km 49,3, but what is Andorra? This microstate is located in the Eastern Pyrenees, between Spain and France (actually, a Catalan bishop and the président of France are co-princes of Andorra).
- At 2,410 meters above sea level, Port de Envalira will be the highest point of this year’s Vuelta, and a special award (Cima Alberto Fernández) will be given to the first rider over the top. Alberto Fernández was a Spanish professional cyclist between 1978 and 1984, when he died in a car accident.
- Gallina is Spanish and Catalan name for “hen”, an animal commonly associated with cowardy. So, today’s summit finish could be translated as “Coward’s Col”.
Many thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel