The Spin: Vuelta Stage 18

The longest stage of the 2012 Vuelta but it is only 204.5km, a sign that this has been a race of short and sharp stages. With no categorised climbs this looks like a sprint finish or a long range breakaway… but after yesterday’s tactical coup, who knows?

The Route: the race heads almost directly south and there seems little to comment on. The race comes into the finish town of Valladolid with 37km to go and then heads out for a loop before returning.

The Finish: the race heads back into town and the final 1500 metres have two corners as the race heads slightly downhill to cross the Pisuerga river before turning left and a flat run to the line for 600m.

The Scenario: a breakaway or a sprint? There’s a good chance of a move going away all day but they will battle with the sprint teams. John Degenkolb’s chances of winning back the green jersey seem slim so this tilts things in favour of the breakaway.

Weather: a warm day with temperatures of 30°C (86°F) and a light tailwind to help the riders reach the finish.

TV: 4.00pm to 6.00pm Euro time. Tune in for the last hour to check what is happening.

Contador’s Raid: a tactical masterstroke? Perhaps but often riders and teams try moves but they don’t work and attacking with 40km to go is seen as suicidal. Yet this time Contador put Rodriguez under pressure with an early attack and then used the final climb to ruin Rodriguez’s hopes. The name of Eddy Merckx can evoke deity but it can also suggest a long attack or a move to make rivals panic and yes, Contador’s attack was old school and a bit Merckx-like. The ascension to Fuente Dé sounded easy but that’s why Rodriguez was rumbled. The slope was enough to ensure a team could not chase in full but not steep enough to suit Rodriguez and his accelerations. Instead Rodriguez had to pace himself in a long aerobic effort, pushing a big gear at a steady rate, arguably his weak point.

Au revoir David: whilst the sport spins, one rider has been a constant: David Moncoutié. He joined Cofidis in 1997 and never changed teams during a long career that saw him win Tour de France stages, take the Vuelta mountains prize four times and plenty more. All along he’s kept a reputation as a clean and honest rider, something worth celebrating given the way Cofidis was run in the past and the general state of the sport for so long. Yesterday he announced he’ll retire and that the Vuelta is his last race.

A quiet man, you wonder what he makes of all that the sport has been through, especially since he had to dedicate his talent to picking off stages and mountains jerseys when perhaps he could have landed a lot more if things were different. There has been talk of the 1999 Dauphiné stage race given Jonathan Vaughter’s confessions of doping for this race and because it was Christophe Basson’s  last win but Moncoutié also won a stage and told reporters “I want you to know that I have won this stage on water!” and it’s something to think he was winning in back 1999 and now riding the Vuelta in 2012.

28 thoughts on “The Spin: Vuelta Stage 18”

  1. We will miss riders like Moncoutié. I’m sorry to bring this up but I wish it was Froome and Talansky dueling for the Vuelta GC and not tainted riders like Contador and Valverde. I wanted so much for Purito to win the Vuelta just to make a point. I hope reporters ask Contador to come out clean about the steak incident.

  2. If it’s really true he was really clean all the way through, and I don’t have any reason to think he wasn’t (other than my general lack of belief of anything anyone says in the milieu, especially regarding doping), he’s a true hero, and a true great. Not to give in to temptation and still not to send cycling packing, and instead just to keep on riding to best of your ability… that’s really loving the sport for its own sake. Magnificent.

  3. can´t help wondering if the rest day tweet by Rodríguez fired up Alberto Contador to test his legs early on the stage, I mean you don´t go out public as leader general telling that you are that tired and basically slept all day, five days from the finish line, when half the Vuelta team of Saxo-Tinkoff speaks and read Spanish. Guess you don´t even need to speak Spanish to understand what he writes between the lines! Schoolboy error.

    Joaquim Rodríguez ‏@PuritoRodriguez
    Día de descanso= Dormir de 00:20 a 9:55, desayunar,dormir de 11:20 a 12:45,rueda de prensa,comida,siesta de 15 a 17!!!! Y ahora masaje!!!!!!

    Anyway, nice to see that even though the edge has slightly gone AC hasn´t lost his desire to win!

  4. El Gato, not sure I buy that AC’s edge is gone. He’s never been that strong in short, punchy finishes but better in the longer climbs where his combo of short attacks and sustained tempo/threshold riding is hard for others to match.

    • Agree on the punchy finish part. But by stating that his “edege” has gone, I mean, he looks more naturally (hope I will not look more stupid later on than I do now) and not so überhuman like he used to when powering threshold after attacking numerous times. His riding style and mind set for racing is clearly still there, but it looks like the turbo charger has been detached – or left somewhere in Madrid.

      However, you can only love his style of riding!

      • True. As cycling evolves into a race-by-the-numbers (like F1), it is great to see a guy who races old-school. The way he blew apart the 2009 Tour and this race – 2 of the best rides in modern times (along with Cancellara in the Classics in 2010).

        He’s actually not looked that strong since leaving Radio Shack/Bruyneel (make of that what you will). The 2010 Tour, he “won” despite struggling (the gap between him and Andy in the TT is indicative of how poor a form he was in). The 2011 Giro didnt really count as there wasnt anyone in his league in that race and he was not even close to being in top shape for the TdF a month later.

        I’m hoping he gets back to his 2009 explosiveness soon. Give me exciting racing (I’ll leave the doping/not-doping polemic for others) – and Contador delivers there!

  5. Vaughters on the credibility of yesterday’s performances: “Andrew Talansky finished approx 1 minute down on the top guys. This over a 40+ minute climb. Talansky’s VAM was sub-1600, or around 5.9 w/kg, this would put the leaders at perhaps 1650 VAM and 6.1 w/kg. This is not exceptional. 6.1 w/kg gets you around 15th place in 2001 Tour de France”.

    • Seems like Vaughters is enjoying his newfound freedom to speak between his Comments on the cyclingnews forum this seems tame but still is far more open then he has been the last few years.

  6. While far from a fan of Il Pistolero as a man, his style of racing is wonderful to watch (though I missed yesterday) as he never gives up. Same with the Green Bullet. Don’t want to speculate on whether anyone is now clean after returning from a sanction when they could just be more careful as Hamilton has told us, but with Museeuw now coming clean, perhaps the sport is finally going to move towards credibility? Perhaps it’s finally reached the bottom with nowhere to go but up? Cleaning house at UCI should be the next step.

  7. ‘He went like a rocket (motobike)’ was one riders comment after yesterdays stage. I remember the same comment from riders after the Landis escape in the TdF. I hate that our sport is being run and reported in the way it currently is. I heard commentators trying to recall similar dramatic events in the past. Robert Millars lose of the leaders jersey in the ToS was the best they could come up with. Landis regaining the yellow jersey was ignored !

  8. David Harmon – “How is he doing this?!?!”

    How indeed David. It was a Floyd-esque performance, but for the sake of my own sanity I must, for now, believe that Contador has wised-up after his ban and is riding clean. I can’t convict riders in my own mind purely because of amazing rides. If I did, I wouldn’t be watching. Perhaps this is naive and I’d actually be better off not watching what could well be a complete farce. Who knows? One day we all will and of course, it will be far too late to do anything but wring our hands then shrug our shoulders.

    One thing is for sure, I’m not prepared to waste multiple years of my life watching some devious cheat destroy the magnificent sport. Because if some goofball is consistently breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage, and consistently winning by doing so, then it’s not a sport. It’s a sideshow. It’s something to sell newspapers (remind me again – how did cycling actually begin as a ‘sport’?).

    The whole point of modern sports is that it’s fair and even competition between people from all over the world. There has to be rules. The rules have to be obeyed. It’s interesting to see how different sports have evolved in different parts of the world, and then to see how that evolution affects the attitude towards ‘fair play’.

  9. I really can’t understand you guys. This has been a great GT. Monday’s stage had one of the hardest finishes on cycling’s history where we could see all the brutality and suffering we enjoy. Yesterday was one of the most remarkable stages in recent history. And yet, the majority of the comments are about doping. Is that what sticks in your mind after watching great cycling? It saddens me.

    • It comes with the turf. A great or exceptional performance will always be questioned. Look at the 16 year old Chinese swimmer at the London. Oly. She bests her personal time for the I/M by five seconds. Also bettering the best mens time in the last leg. That doesn’t raise eyebrows?

      Everyone in the peloton was pretty cooked after three epic BIG mountain stages. Yet, AC rides like it is week one.

      Impressive and exciting? Yes.

      Suspicious? Yes.

      • On the “he rides like week one” argument:
        I’m no fan of Contador’s and would never make an assumption on the degree of cleanness or juiciness of his (or any rider’s) performances. Still, the guy hasn’t been competing for quite some time, competition can only improve him, and I personally was expecting him to get better every day (as opposed to overcooked Froome and Valverde.. hey, this guy is really performing, shouldn’t we ask questions). I think Contador will be even better in the Bola del Mundo.

      • To be pedantic – the Chinese swimmer didn’t do the last leg faster than all the men, just the man who came first overall, who’d built up such a lead he didn’t have to be fastest at the end.

        But AC performing exceptionally… yeah, I’m suspicious, because of his personal history.

      • a) Why is it that? Why isn’t a great or exceptional performance just a great or exceptional performance? Aren’t cyclists great and exceptional and capable of such performances? I think they are. I see Usain Bolt and I go “yep, that guy is exceptional therefore his performance is exceptional”. Same goes for other athletes.

        b) If AC rode like it was week one, I guarantee you he couldn’t have pulled it off. 2nd week AC rode better than 1st week AC and maybe 3rd week AC will ride better than 2nd week AC. Looking at his preparation it is something to be expected. Apart from that, riders don’t all perform in the same way during 3-week races. Some do better in the 1st week, others only truly shine in the 3rd week (see Thomas De Gendt in the Giro ’12)

        c) If the peloton was that cooked, the 1st and 2nd hours of the race wouldn’t be run in an average of 48 km/h and 45.5 km/h, the break wouldn’t be formed only after 80 km of race and then brought back 40 km ahead.

        d) As much AC deserves credit, his team also played a very significant role. At the top of Collada La Hoz, the difference to J-Rod and Valverde was 20 seconds. Then, it was AC+Hernandez+Paulinho+Tiralongo vs Losada+Ballan. Naturally, AC increased his lead. Around 14 km to the finish AC lost Tiralongo and was alone, J-Rod lost Losada and was alone 2’20 back and Valverde had just attacked. This means Valverde (with the help of 2 teammates) did the last 14km 2’10 faster than AC and AC was ’17 faster than J-Rod.

      • Not really. What separates GT specialists like AC from other riders is their ability to handle the rigors of a 3-week tour better than others (and they also peak at the right time in the race). GT racing is as much about recovery and timing one’s efforts, as it is about pure power.

        That’s why Week 3 is usually when the real contenders separate themselves from the others. It isnt that they arent tired – it is that they are less tired than the guys who shot their wad in Week 1.

  10. There is an easy answer fella’s, if you don’t believe it, don’t watch it..

    I started cycling when I was a kid, as most of us do, and did it for the freedom, the feel of going fast, the enjoyment and the fun, not because of the pro’s.
    And to a certain degree that’s still the same, I still love riding my bike, I might spend more money on now, ‘train’ more, have coffee’s afterwards, watch the races and catch up with the news, but I do it for what it is.
    I don’t question everything that goes on, and automatically assume that every rider that does well must be a doper, I really don’t care, it won’t change my enjoyment of watching the race, seeing the drama unfold, willing the guys up the hills, holding my breath as they race towards the line..

    For me it’s all about the bike, now go and have fun and get out for a ride!

    • It’s great you enjoy the sport in that manner as most of us here probably do. Some of us are just realistic about the current state of things. Considering the last two years of Contador’s career how could one not have questions. We all watch but some of us enjoy discussing what we saw beyond that was an amazing stage.
      I’m not quick to take what I see at face value but we all see the world differently. As long as this forum does not devolve into the velonews comments section I think we’re all doing OK. : – )

  11. James, well said,
    I so enjoy this site ,please lets not get into a full scale row.
    I have only been cycling for 3 years (i’m 52) but since the eurosport coverage as been showing the tour I have been a avid watcher and now because of this site I am learning more and more about the inner workings of tours.

    I do find though that bike snobbery means i’m happier cycling on my own as i hate the looks people give you if you don’t have the latest carbon fibre frame (I have a solid enough Claude Butler, it does me) something I am not in the position to afford.
    but anyway, I digress, I love this site and all the sensible info you give out so lets not start scratching each others eyes out !

  12. So James, you don’t care if cyclists dope? That’s fine and dandy, but I actually happen to care massively. That ok? Knowing riders are doped and results are fiXed lessens my enjoyment. If all you’re bothered about is the spectacular and sensational, may I suggest WWE? If the results are fiXed, it’s not a sport. And I’m a sports fan, not a sports entertainment fan. The whole point of sport is to see who is the best athlete, not who has the most top end doping schedule. Cycling could be the most entertaining spectacle on the planet, but if the results are fixed then it’s not a sport.

  13. And another thing – has anyone come up with an explanation for what happened to Katusha on Wednesday? Movi and SaxyTinks were all over it like a powerful moss. Katusha? More like KaDouche-a on that evidence. They just friggin gave up. Or did they? Yes. Unless….(you know where I’m going with this).

    After much internal percolation, I am gripped by the overwhelming sensation that Team Tinky are doing something they shouldn’t be. Something a bit wrong. Something totally Bjarne Riis. Like “Hey guys this is the wunderschtuffen, just take a little with your pancakes- come on lets party! Vuelta 2012 this is like Closing Weekend in Ibiza, SaxyTink good times yesh!”

    Who wouldn’t be persuaded by that? Contador said himself the other day, it’s “The best outdoor rave I’ve ever been to”.

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