Vuelta a España: Stage 13 review

Stage 13: Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol, 172.8km

Steve Cummings (BMC) time-trialled to victory after leaving behind his breakaway companions and managing to stay ahead of the pursuing Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky). It was Cummings’ first win since he joined BMC – and the team’s second of the Vuelta – and his first win since early 2011. As I’m always saying, persistence pays dividends. Cummings tried to get into yesterday’s breakaway, failed and came back today with more success. After the stage, he commented:

It was very hard, just full gas the whole way, and the entire day was very tough because of the wind. For me to win, I have to win alone because there were fast guys in the group, so I was looking for the best moment. When I was clear I had to just keep going as hard as possible. It is my best victory, for sure.

It took a while for the break to form – around 40km – and comprised Cummings, Meyer, Flecha, Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan), stage four winner Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). They gained around four minutes’ advantage with Argos-Shimano controlling the break. Bereft of much support from other teams, apart from Lotto-Belisol, they wore themselves out with 10km to go.

With the gap hovering around the minute mark, teams started attacking from the peloton which rather played into the hands of those in the break as the peloton focussed on snuffing out the most visible threats. By this time four-time winner John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) was on his lonesome. Finally, the trio of Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), Dani Moreno (Katusha), and Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) managed to slip away to form another escape group. With under 5km left, the trio were 30 seconds behind the seven-man initial break but just ten seconds ahead of the chasing peloton. They were eventually reabsorbed.

Flecha was the first to attack in the final kilometres, Cummings bridged and subsequently so did everyone else save the fastest sprinter, Viviani. Cummings then made the decisive move just inside 4km, the others hesitated and then Meyer took up the chase with Flecha on his wheel. To no avail – Cummings sailed over the finish line, arms aloft.

VeloVoices rider of the day

Cummings displays his cork popping skills (image courtesy of official race site)

Here at VeloVoices we love it when a breakaway succeeds. It warms the cockles of our hearts. So our rider has to be today’s winner Steve Cummings, who left what many might regard as a sinecure at Sky to try something different at BMC. Like many of his teammates, the first half of his season was ruined by injury but he’s bounced back to record his first win for his new team in his maiden Vuelta showing he’s lost none of his team-pursuiting skills. Here’s what he had to say in the post-stage press conference:


Today’s stage started in the Unesco World Heritage site and Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela, allegedly the resting place of St James, one of the twelve Apostles. I’m wondering whether any of the teams made a quick pilgrimage to the Cathedral and lit a few candles to aid their Vuelta campaign.

Tactical analysis

There were no changes in any of the jerseys or the general classification. This was a stage shaped as much by the three which follow it as by its own parcours – a day for the contenders to rest up in the peloton and gather their forces. Argos-Shimano and John Degenkolb will have been unhappy at losing a sprint opportunity but everyone loves a winner from a breakaway.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of as many stages as possible on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Vuelta a España official website

Friday Feature: 10 things I love about cycling – Bridie O’Donnell

After the last few weeks, we at VeloVoices were feeling a bit jaded about all the news from the US. So we decided to revisit why we love the sport in the first place – a renewal of vows, so to speak. Over the course of today, we’ll be posting up our ten reasons why we love cycling. Here is the list of Bridie O’Donnell, our expert women’s cycling contributor, in descending order.

10. Understanding

Before I was a bike rider, I had to talk about footy tipping and I’m completely crap at footy tipping. Once in Melbourne, an 8-year-old girl out-tipped footy experts for weeks on end, such is the mayhem of the sport of AFL. Being an ‘expert’ in cycling tipping is waaay easier.

9. Delaying real life

Cycling gives me a perfectly valid reason to not be putting my ovaries to the use that God (and my mother) intended, instead using them to compete against other girls in death-defying smashfest races like Ronde van Vlaanderen. “But don’t you want to have children?” people ask me daily, and I reply “yes, but not today.”

You gotta wait, baby, I’m riding the Ronde

8. Aerodynamics

When I’m fit enough, I can ride in the midst of a bunch of incredibly fit alpha males and still mock the living bejesus out of them about using their race wheels on a training ride. When I get dropped by them on climbs I’m pathetic enough to understand it’s my W/kg and not a deep-seated personality flaw. Mostly, anyhow.

7. Travel

Stick a pin in all the places you might want to ride and I’m lucky enough to have been to most of them. Fortunately, I have also ridden slowly enough to fully appreciate them, not like those damn speedy race-winning champions I so desperately want to be.

“I’ll go here and here and here and here …”

6. Coffee

In Italy, even the dodgiest looking service stations serve the most incredible espresso for €1. You stand silently at the bar next to truckers, wealthy businessmen and nonnas and the world is righted for those few minutes in a unanimous appreciation for quality beans amidst the backdrop of plastic tablecloths and dried out brioche (until the short fat former cyclist takes it upon himself to remove his bandana and give me a lecture about my climbing).

Make mine an espresso!

5. Language

Bike riding is an international language. The bike you’re on, the kit you wear, how your legs move, whether you hide your shortness of breath like Judith Arndt or let it all out like Kristin Armstrong, people can learn a lot about each other by the how/why/what/which and with whom you ride. Gestures, nodding, appreciative glances and admonishing expletives are universally understood.

4. Poverty

People who own two cars, a holiday house and send their kids to Montessori schools are jealous of my lifestyle. I guess they don’t read my stories about bunk beds and 16-hour van trips across Europe, but if being on the road has taught me anything, it’s that we need very little to be happy. One can survive six months in a foreign country with a bag, a bike and wonderful teammates to play “would you rather…?” with at hour 12.

3. Accomplices

I have met the most extraordinary people since I’ve been racing. Generous, sympathetic, hilarious, understanding, reliable, supportive and inspiring people. Those who know what this life is like and choose to be in it, warts and all. They motivate, laugh, encourage, push, listen, drive the getaway car and would totally bail me out of a Colombian prison were I to get arrested for attempting to smuggle human tissue across the border. (I can get you a kidney for $499.)

2. Magic Pudding

Every ride, every training session and every race builds in you an incremental improvement. Every poor performance, disappointment and failure has the opportunity to be wiped clean. Tomorrow is another day, a whole new race, with a new winner, a new (perhaps more fatigued) set of legs and an opportunity to test oneself again. Manage the disappointment, find satisfaction in the details and you have a slice of delicious pudding every single time.

1. Freedom

In no other way than riding can one replicate the feeling of building up your bike after a long day of travel and setting forth in a new place to discover, explore, and experience: you can descend down a mountain like a thrilling escape from fiends; hear the sound of just your breath as you take on a climb; meander through new streets like a stranger who’s not out of place; and drink wine with friends after a long day in the saddle with immense satisfaction.

Friday Feature: 10 things I love about cycling – Tim

After the last few weeks, we at VeloVoices were feeling a bit jaded about all the news from the US. So we decided to revisit why we love the sport in the first place – a renewal of vows, so to speak. Over the course of today, we’ll be posting up our ten reasons why we love cycling. Here is Tim’s list, in no particular order!

1. Cycling is a beautifully aesthetic sport to watch. From the tourist porn of those helicopter landscape shots at the Giro, Tour and Vuelta to the technicolour blur of a speeding peloton to the flowing grace of a well-drilled team time trial, even the dullest race can still be a mesmerising visual spectacle.

2. Cyclists are tough. They ride in blazing sunshine, freezing cold and pouring rain. They ‘only’ ride for two or three hours on a rest day. They regularly push themselves to their physical limits, and beyond. They ride on with broken bones, or after being knocked over by a car and flung into a barbed wire fence. (Yes, you, Johnny Hoogerland.)

3. Cyclists feel like real people. They aren’t all earning as much in a week as the average fan does in a year. They’re accessible at races and on Twitter. They haven’t been media-trained to within an inch of their lives and are (mostly) happy to voice their own opinions freely and give good quote. Can you imagine any Premier League footballer regularly shooting the breeze as honestly and thoughtfully as a Cav or a David Millar? Of course not.

4. It’s a proper team sport. In general, only one man gets the glory but it simply wouldn’t be possible without the support and self-sacrifice of his teammates. All for one and one for all.

5. But it’s also a sport where great individual feats are possible. Think of Alberto Contador or Joaquim Rodriguez laying down the hurt on a steep climb, or the madness of a Thomas Voeckler long-range attack (and the tumultuous joy on the occasions when he succeeds), or Jens Voigt on any day, or the astonishing finishing burst of Mark Cavendish in chasing down a breakaway almost single-handed, as he did in Brive at the Tour de France this year:

6. The sheer variety of cycling races. Yes, tennis is played on grass, clay and hard courts. Golf courses vary, sure. But does any sport offer the kind of variation that cycling does? One-day races and three-week Grand Tours. Flat bunch sprints and excruciating high mountains finishes. The anonymity of the peloton and the ‘race of truth’ that is an individual time trial. Hour after hour in unforgiving 40-degree heat and on snow-covered mountains. Every race is different, truly different – not just variations on a theme.

7. The multiple races within the race. Not just the general classification, but the points and mountains competitions, and the quest for individual stage wins. I love the way that anyone – even a humble domestique or the last-placed rider on GC – always has an opportunity for individual glory in the right circumstances. Which means that …

8. … Cycling is gloriously unpredictable. It’s not always the most talented rider or the richest team which emerges victorious. A random mechanical, faulty tactics or just everyone else in the peloton ganging up on the favourite means that the winner on any given day is less predictable in cycling than in the vast majority of sports.

9. In its greatest moments, cycling is gladiatorial combat on two wheels. Set aside whatever you think personally of Lance Armstrong : ‘The Look’ is one of those moments of pure sporting theatre that transcend fandom. The kind of moment that even non-followers of the sport are aware of: the infamous Olympics men’s 100 metres final in Seoul, Andrew Flintoff sportingly consoling Brett Lee at the end of England’s two-run victory at Headingley during the 2005 Ashes, Liverpool’s ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ where they came from 3-0 down to win the Champions League final. Cycling is full of moments like these. Full of them.

10. Cycling fans are just about the most friendly, patient, supportive and yet fiercely passionate people you will ever meet at a sporting event. It’s like one big, happy (and occasionally inebriated and badly sunburnt) family. It’s the racing that attracts us to cycling in the first place, but it’s the people – fans and riders – who make us stay.