Vuelta Stage 14 Preview

Saturday, 7 September 2013

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.

Daily Díaz

  • 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

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{ 13 comments }

Larry T. September 7, 2013 at 1:44 am

Your previews are excellent, thanks for posting them. If I can get a pirate internet feed to work tomorrow I might just skip a morning ride, since my bike has received a well-deserved washing this afternoon and the forecast is for more heat and humidity, and settle-in to watch what could be the decisive stage? I thought Nibali was only using La Vuelta to tune-up for the World’s but he seems intent on winning again, while Horner’s been talking the talk and doing a bit of the walk – can he do the rest of it and win this thing?

Al-Bo September 7, 2013 at 10:02 am

Bit jealous of those conditions. If I don’t cycle today, it will be because the view out of the window will have led me to take inventory of winter cycling wear.

On that subject, this is one of the reasons why I like the Vuelta. It gives me something to look forward to during what is normally one of the most depressing times of the year.

GeorgeY September 7, 2013 at 7:56 am

It’s always nice to see a young rider win, chapeau to Barguil who won it with brash style!

Mats September 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

I was watching the finale yesterday and suddenly realized that on every Vuelta stage I’ve ever watched on telly since the days of Sean Kelly the same guy with a large Mexican style moustache is always there grinning and shouting and shaking hands with the day’s winner immediately after he jumps off the bike. It’s like seeing an old friend.

Bundle September 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

His name is Jaime Mir. In the Kelly days he had already been around forever, there are pictures of him with Ocaña and Anquetil. It was really good to see him again, unshaved.

Goonie September 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm

The big question of the day is whether the grupetto will have time to stop off for some tax-free shopping. Tyres, alcohol, cigarettes, and very large chunks of cured meat are the most popular items, from memory…

The Inner Ring September 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

In times past people could buy EPO there without a prescription and some celebrity clients took advantage. There are a couple of bike shops offering tax-free goods too.

Goonie September 7, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Heh. When I was there, French passport control just waved cyclists through. A few ampoules in the jersey pockets would have been no problem.

Maybe some of the better-off Spanish cyclists will have a quick chat to their bank managers as well.

otherSteve September 7, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Bit of a cold reshuffle. Interesting Horner with experience of 40+ years, seemed too be the only one in the top 5 finishers in tights/leg warmers.

How will the bodies and minds recover from the cold?
Tomorrow maybe most interesting, perhaps a bit of the same?

Bundle September 7, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Really weird to see almost no one in thermal gear, and still complaining of hypothermia or whatever. Weird and, sorry, not respectable at all.

Larry T. September 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Kind of odd, no? We’re bombarded with marketing hype about high-tech, $way-too-much.95 clothing yet, in conditions that don’t look as grim as many races back-in-the-days of wool, guys are freezing their a__es off and quitting the race? Seems these would be the conditions to test and prove that this stuff works…unless the riders already know better?

otherSteve September 7, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Yeah, reminds me of the horse racing expression “measured but never extended”
You would think that directors would “tell/advise” riders who are going to be racing 2-3 days in weather at altitude to kit appropriately.

Chalk it up to lack of experience and maturity?

Lets see what they wear tomorrow.

The Inner Ring September 8, 2013 at 12:44 am

It was cold but not really cold or icy, the accumulation of time and rain got the better of some riders, especially as many would have been used to the warm weather for weeks or even months so this came as a shock. Sunday’s stage will be cold and wet but also 50% longer.

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