Stage 16: Graus to Sallent de Gallego, 146.8km
Warren Barguil beat off a late charge from Rigoberto Uran in a photo-finish sprint to take his second victory in this Vuelta. Back down the slope, race leader Vincenzo Nibali showed vulnerability for the first time as he was unable to withstand his rivals’ sustained offensives, conceding time to all of them as the top of the GC closed up again.
As anticipated, the pace was fast and furious from the start of a thankfully sunny, short stage, with the first hour’s racing run at a frisky 47kph, with thoughts of tomorrow’s rest day overcoming tired legs. The break was established only after 62km, a large group including Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura) and Rigoberto Uran (Sky).
Movistar, who had missed the break, didn’t allow the group to establish too healthy an advantage. Finally, Movistarlets Benat Intxausti and Sylvester Szymd bridged across leaving Astana, who were happy to let the break go, to patrol the peloton. As a consequence, more riders slipped away including Belkin’s Juan Manuel Garate, Mikael Cherel (Ag2r La Mondiale), rising French starlet and stage 13 winner Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), and soon the break numbered 23. Euskaltel-Euskadi, the only team In the peloton aside from Astana to still have a full complement of riders, took over pace-making duties, despite having a rider in the lead group.
Meanwhile the break was too large to organise and ultimately fell apart prompting Barguil, who had initially ridden off with Garate and Cherel, to attack again on the lower slopes of the final cat 1 climb. He quickly built an advantage of around 30 seconds before the remnants of the break started to give chase, namely Uran and Huzarski. In the final kilometre Uran overhauled the 21-year-old Barguil, who wisely sat on. Huzarski and Dominik Nerz (BMC) were just about to make contact with them when Uran launched his sprint but Barguil coolly waited, went with 150 metres remaining and managed to edge it on the line in a nail-biting finish. Huzarski rounded out the podium as he pulled clear of Nerz.
Back down the hill more drama was unfolding as race leader Nibali struggled for the first time in this race and eventually conceded more than 20 seconds to his closest rivals but he still managed to hang onto the red jersey ahead of tomorrow’s rest day.
VeloVoices riders of the day
While Warren Barguil has already received VeloVoices’ plaudits for his maiden grand tour victory last Friday, he’s about to pick up his second largely because of the manner of his victory. I love someone who gives it a go. In the post-race interview he revealed his directeur sportif had told him to stay in the bunch and rest up, saving energy for the final week. But young Warren had good legs and a strong head so he decided to see what he could do. He appeared to be suffering from a bit of cramp in the final few kilometres and loosened his shoe straps but it wasn’t enough to make him lose focus. Indeed he showed a maturity and coolness beyond his years to outsprint the more experienced Olympic silver medalist.
Eurosport’s Carlton Kirby likened Warren to that other Breton, Bernard Hinault, the Badger, and suggested that Warren should perhaps be called the Ferret. No, Carlton, he’s more of a Lionheart. I’m sensing further laurels coming Warren’s way and not just from VeloVoices.
Hey, @WarrenBarguil I dedicate this tune to your 2nd #Vuelta stage win!! Way to regulate! #panachetastic. http://t.co/5CEpOmck4O
— Panache (@Kiss_my_Panache) September 9, 2013
Analysis & opinion
Two trios of tough stages down, one to go. Today the other GC contenders drew blood – not much, but blood nonetheless. All three major protagonists Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) demonstrated their willingness to attack. This makes the race for the podium places that much more exciting and heightens our expectations of what’s to come on the final tough stages, Thursday through to Saturday. Like last year, will the podium be turned on its head? I, for one, can barely contain my excitement and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Aside from this, there were no other major changes on general classification or in the other competitions except that Euskaltel-Euskadi have now seized the upper hand in the team competition.
Stage 16 result
1. Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) 3:43:31
2. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) same time
3. Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura) +0:03
4. Domink Nerz (BMC) +0:08
5. Jose Herrada (Movistar) +0:20
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 64:06:01
2. Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:28
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:14
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +2:29
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +3:38
6. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +3:43
7. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) +4:37
8. Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) +6:17
9. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +7:33
10. Tanel Kangert (Astana) +9:21
Points classification: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Mountains classification: Nicolas Edet (Cofidis).
Combination classification: Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard).
Team classification: Euskaltel-Euskadi.
Link: Official website