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Highlights of 2014 – Part IV

Contador Guardiagrele

Seeing the day’s breakaway get reeled in and beaten resmebles a nature documentary where the predator inevitably catches and consumes its prey. Only this day in Tirreno-Adriatico was different as a carnivorous Contador joined with the breakaway riders to help escape those in his pursuit.

Last year RCS promised to listen to the concerns of riders who complained about insanely steep roads… and duly included “Italy’s steepest road” for 2014. It is 610m at 22% with a 30% in the middle of the slope and crucially a sharp final corner where it’s 29% on the inside and 20% on the outside.

Impressive but the race didn’t wait the last ramps. Contador took off on the penultimate climb of the Passo Lanciano, first with Nairo Quintana then alone. Too early? The day’s breakaway was still clear and Contador joined them. He was first class passenger riding in the second class wagon. Contador distanced the others but not without resistance from Simon Geschke who was only six seconds down. Ben King and Adam Hansen were both within a minute. Inevitably Contador unholstered his imaginary pistol, a warning shot to shot to all.

Peter Sagan Guardiagrele muro

36×32. That was Contador’s gearing for the final climb. It was not for show and marketing, a chance for SRAM to say “the pros use” the kind of gearing usually reserved for tourists and hobbyists. Look closely at the image above and the 32 sprocket is in use. Others resorted to weaving over the road, constructing private hairpin bends to lessen the slope. Spectacular yes but it was the previous climb up the Passo Lanciano that won the race as Contador eliminated erstwhile race leader Michał Kwiatkowski, 38th at over six minutes.

Without a doubt this win will remain one the best of my career and one that I’ll always remember. It flashed by in a second but it’ll be a special memory,” Contador said at the finish… …I knew it was risky to try and attack so far out, but I really wanted this victory and I like to do things like that.”
– Alberto Contador via cyclingews.com

Why the highlight?
“Contador wins uphill finish” isn’t news. But the art and manner of the win was special. It was risk-taking over calculation. With hindsight the breakaway up the road was the perfect staging point but who have thought Nairo Quintana couldn’t match the pace and that the others would roll in two minutes down.

Mont Faron Peraud

Fifth place went to Jean-Christophe Péraud but he was second of those who hadn’t gone in the day’s breakaway. He joined a chase group on the Passo Lanciano but crucially left them all behind on the final climb, with names like Nairo Quintana, Dani Moreno, Roman Kreuziger and Julián Arredondo trailing. Péraud had a strong spring, winning atop Mont Faron (pictured) and taking the Criterium International too before finishing third in the Tour of the Basque Country. Impressive but nobody would have predicted a podium place in the Tour de France.

A non-starter that day was Richie Porte. After a good start to the season it marked the moment where nothing would go right and he had a string of DNFs to his name and missed his main goal of the year, leading Team Sky in the Giro.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dan Thursday, 6 November 2014, 12:37 pm

    Great stage to look back on – although I must admit it took me a while to figure out it was Tirenno-Adriatico!

    • Ablindeye Thursday, 6 November 2014, 12:49 pm

      Yes, took me a while to tune in to the race too but another great highlight.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 7 November 2014, 2:56 am

      Fixed the obvious omission.

  • Rooie Thursday, 6 November 2014, 12:56 pm

    I saw this one live on TV. It was classic Contador-racing (he did more of these in other races; think Vuelta) and I was amazed at how close Geschke came back

    • george Thursday, 6 November 2014, 9:55 pm

      yeah, at one point after Contador droppped him Geschke almost clawed his way all the way back to Contador, before he accelerated one last time. Super impressive ride on a great day.

  • Patrick Thursday, 6 November 2014, 1:01 pm

    There’s a great little film of the climb from David Millar’s pov;

    • cilmeri Thursday, 6 November 2014, 2:30 pm

      Excellent. Makes me think that I could be a pro – you can see them go up it at the same pace as I climb.

      (When I’m on a 6% average climb….)

  • Millertimexxx Thursday, 6 November 2014, 1:08 pm

    What race!!

  • Netserk Thursday, 6 November 2014, 1:11 pm

    Best mountain solo win since Landis?

    Notice how he doesn’t get (nor expect) any help from the breakaway, just as soon as he bridges across to them he goes to the front and pulls the entire time. No hiding behind any teammates, just him alone putting time into the chase behind him. Way stronger than anyone else that day.

    • Bagpus Saturday, 8 November 2014, 10:46 am

      This is the one where he was nailing it on the front with the escape group hanging on for grim death – incredible ride

  • anonymous Thursday, 6 November 2014, 3:27 pm

    Who’s Landis? 😉

  • Anonymous Thursday, 6 November 2014, 6:00 pm

    Also notable about this is that to me it confirmed Contador was “back” after his poor 2013

  • wingnut Thursday, 6 November 2014, 6:12 pm

    Ben King looks to be dying a thousand deaths that last .75 kilos.

  • PedalRon Thursday, 6 November 2014, 7:13 pm

    Ride of his life for Geschke?

    I wonder how many dudes got the last phantom click on their SRAM RD and said, “Fuck, thought I told my mechanic to give me another sprocket back there?”

    Also, why do Contador’s bars always look so tubby? Are they always double wrapped? Does he use extra thick tape? Never figured this out.

    • KB Friday, 7 November 2014, 12:33 am

      Here you can see Contador’s mechanic, Faustino Muñoz, build a special ‘red’ bike for Contador’s comeback Vuelta in 2012: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4HsZZesZd4

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 7 November 2014, 2:58 am

      With Geschke, Dumoulin and Barguil to name just three Giant-Shimano have plenty of options for hilly classics and stages, much more than the sprint team we might think with Kittel and Degenkolb.

  • Fabian Friday, 7 November 2014, 1:36 am

    Interestingly, Kwiatkowski seems to have watched Contador closely. This was the exact tactic Kwiatkowski later used at the worlds.

  • Alan Friday, 7 November 2014, 1:57 am

    I love love love my Wifli 34×32 here in Colorado. I’ve got old knees and >20% grades just hurt too much.

    • Tricky Dicky Friday, 7 November 2014, 11:11 am

      No SRAM next year for Bertie according to the rumours (and Tinkov’s ranting Twitter) so he’ll have to use an Ultegra long-cage for anything over a 28tooth I guess?

      Not sure if OPQS are sticking with SRAM – I know a couple of pros on that team who hate its (lack of) reliability under pressure and don’t stop complaining about it out of earshot from the media.

      • The Inner Ring Friday, 7 November 2014, 11:24 am

        Tinkov has been riding a personal “team issue” bike with Di2. As for OPQS, yes they are moving to Shimano for 2015.

  • John S. Friday, 7 November 2014, 2:22 am

    What is that bulge on Contador’s back in the first picture?

    • Sam Friday, 7 November 2014, 10:28 am

      Water pack? the team were trying out all kinds of new stuff this year on the rider-water-carrying front

      • GluteCramp Friday, 7 November 2014, 12:48 pm

        Looks like a radio

        • John S. Saturday, 8 November 2014, 12:54 am

          I was going to guess steak, but those seem plausible too.

  • Anonymous Friday, 7 November 2014, 2:25 am

    Undoubtedly the craziest and most enduring and admirable race of the year.

  • Anonymous Saturday, 8 November 2014, 10:50 am

    The word “carnivorous” is there as a simple joke qualifying Contador’s attitude or is it there to imply skepticism?