We all love it when the day’s breakaway succeeds to fight it out at the finish, don’t we? Not least because it’s often a rare opportunity for one of the lesser-known names in the peloton to grab their moment with both hands and taste the kind of glory that can launch a burgeoning career or add a full stop to a veteran’s palmares. Stage 13 winner Warren Barguil falls very much into the former category.
The story so far
Kitty hit the nail on the head in her stage 13 preview when she stated that:
We could very well see a young rider making his first grand tour statement on this stage.
With three days to follow in the Pyrenees, we had predicted that this could be the day for a big breakaway group to stay away – and so it turned out, with Barguil denying his companions a finishing sprint by leaping away and soloing to victory – his first as a pro. But who is this young Frenchman?
Barguil is something of an oddity: an Argos-Shimano rider who has the characteristics of a stage racer rather than a sprinter or lead-out man. Just 21, he joined the team as a stagiare in August of last year.
In his first month as an Argonaut, he won the Tour de l’Avenir (‘Tour of the Future’) – in essence a junior Tour de France whose recent winners include Nairo Quintana, Bauke Mollema and Jan Bakelants – having finished fifth as a 19-year-old the year before. In both editions he won on mountainous profiles – a medium-mountain stage in 2011, a high mountain stage in 2012.
2013 has been his first full year as a pro. During that time he has accumulated valuable experience, riding in major races such as Paris-Nice, the Tour of the Basque Country, the Criterium du Dauphine and the Tour of Poland. This Vuelta marks his grand tour debut. Again, he has made an immediate mark, finishing eighth on the uphill ramp at Finisterra (stage four) and, impressively, ninth on the wall at Valdepenas de Jaen on stage nine.
Coincidentally, both stages four and nine were won by Katusha’s Daniel Moreno, providing a fitting benchmark of the type of rider Barguil is: a punchy climber (he tips the scales at a mere 60kg) ill at ease on a time trial bike. He was 71st in Wednesday’s individual time trial, and while it’s not unreasonable to suggest that he may have been saving himself for today’s break, his performances in ITTs in earlier races where he has been a contender for the young rider classification – 53rd in Poland, 85th at the Dauphine, 68th at Paris-Nice – suggests that his time-trialling ability is probably closer to that of Chris Horner than Chris Froome.
Nonetheless, he is a rider at the outset of his career, so he has plenty of time to improve in that specialist discipline. A stage victory and two other top-tens in his maiden grand tour is an impressive return, and we can expect him to be a serious contender for white jerseys in stage races for the next few years at the very least. Beyond that, he could develop into Argos-Shimano’s featured rider in WorldTour races which don’t favour his sprint-heavy team, such as the Basque Country and the Ardennes classics.