The first of a triptych of mountain stages with summit finishes today offers a sharp climb with some of the steepest roads in the race ahead of the longer and more gruelling stages tomorrow and on Monday. Decisive, maybe not but be sure to tune in for the action late in the stage.
Stage 13 Wrap: a win for Daniel Navarro of Cofidis who, despite his name is from the Asturias. Across the Pyrenees and many cycling words have infiltrated the French language, to work hard, say, in an office is to “have your nose in the handlebars” and Cofidis has been in danger of becoming a term associated with mediocrity. Navarro saved the day although a heavier duty will fall on Nacer Bouhanni next year… although he was in the mix for the stage win after coping with the climbs. Some are even tipping him for the World Championships but there’s a lot more climbing that day.
Navarro’s win was like Fabio Aru’s the other day, he seized his moment but perhaps benefited from his secondary status for he’s no threat to the red jersey. But it wasn’t easy, see Dan Martin who is trying to win but seems pressured into making late moves earlier than the others.
Note the early breakaway went clear and was packed with heavy-hitters only Orica-Greenedge led the chase, helped by Katusha and then FDJ whose efforts seemed curious until we saw Bouhanni still in the mix after the last climb.
The Route: a long day with 200km. The Collada de la Hoz is small but certainly not insignificant, it was here that Alberto Contador sprang to ambush Joaquim Rodriguez in 2012 on the road to Fuente De, very much the place where the race was won.
The Puerto de San Glorio is a long and steady climb, a few steep parts see the slope exceed 10% but for the most part it’s 6-7%. As such it’s not decisive by itself but it’s 20 kilometres will wear down riders for later.
The Finish: double-digit gradients, not just in the numerical sense but a few riders will be waving two fingers at the race organisers. The profile looks bad enough and listing the gradients to two decimal places looks extra-accurate but 19.5% is not as steep as it gets, there are sections at over 20% and even nudging 30% if you ride the wrong line through a hairpin bend.
The Scenario: good luck to a breakaway because the stage allows the big teams to drive the pace to the final climb and therefore anyone up the road is likely to get swamped. Alberto Contador is in a strong position and is waiting to dispatch Alejandro Valverde and other GC rivals for good but he could wait for more suitable finishes because today’s short climb should be fine for Valverde who seems to struggle with longer climbs.
The Contenders: Katusha have strength with Joaquim Rodriguez, Dani Moreno and Damiano Caruso but as much as managers like it they haven’t come here for the team prize. Joaquim Rodriguez used to love these kind of climbs but he seems less zippy in his 35 years. Contador and Valverde should both be close behind while Dan Martin might be able to strike for that elusive win.
Daniel Navarro could be there, confidence is a big thing and he’s still no threat to the top riders overall so he could move again. Chris Froome should be good to watch, is he growing in form or yoyo-ing?
Meanwhile Julian Arredondo is feeling better and better although the Giro revelation is still racing against time yet alone the others to come good.
|Dan Martin, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde
|Daniel Navarro, Fabio Aru, Chris Froome
|Arredondo, Chaves, Moreno, Uran
TV: As usual the finish is expected for 5.40pm Euro time but tune in for the final 45 minutes to watch the approach to the climb and then see the riders winching themselves up the steep road.
Daily Díaz: The Spanish word puerto has two different meanings that can be explained looking at today’s stage profile. First of all, take a look at the start: Santander is a Spanish city by the Bay of Biscay, a place where ships are loaded and unloaded. Santander is a puerto, a “port”. Second, in km 130,9 of the stage the roadbook says Puerto de San Glorio. It is a road that links one side of a mountain range to the other. A puerto de montaña is a “mountain ass”. In this case, San Glorio crosses the Cantabrian Mountains, in a North-South direction, linking the coast with the inland. Take a final look at the stage profile and you’ll notice San Glorio is not followed by a descent as long as the ascent, but by a more or less flat terrain: the Inner Plateau.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel