Tuesday, August 3, 2021
HomeRaceRace ReviewsLa Vuelta a España 2012 - Stage 16: Gijón - Valgrande-Pajares Negru...

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 16: Gijón – Valgrande-Pajares Negru Cuitu 183.5 km

-

Dario Cataldo (QuickStep & Italy) took the biggest win of his life in Valgrande-Pajares Negru; Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM & Belgium) had his heart broken; Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha & Spain) took a huge step towards winning his first Grand Tour; Chris Froome (Sky & GB) realised you really can’t race the Tour and Vuelta to win in the same season and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff & Spain) reminded us how champions race.

Valgrande-Pajares Negru
Cataldo seemed to take an age to climb the last 200m, in Valgrande-Pajares Negru, and looked like he needed oxygen at the finish.

Many are saying an ‘epic’ day – I’m not so sure; perhaps I’ve spent too much time with Viktor but the rush to find ever more dizzy climbs leaves me a little cold.

To see a rider like Froome reduced to a virtual standstill like a clubman who’s got his gear wrong in a hill climb isn’t what I term ‘spectacle’ – it’s veering towards a freak show.

And we are talking about ‘road racing,’ not tarred goat tracks which have to be ridden on mountain bike gears and go absolutely nowhere.

But perhaps Vik and I are the only ones who think that way?

Cataldo and De Gendt looked to have the stage stitched up with 50 K to go – 14 minutes lead should usually suffice.

But that Contador fellow had ants in his pants and deployed his troops – it may be good money on Saxo-Tinkoff, but you earn it.

Valgrande-Pajares Negru
The Saxo worker ants do their thing – s[printing up hills until exhaustion.

Cataldo and De Gendt had taken off after 50 K, working hard with that Iberian sun baking their backs and when the minutes went into the teens they must have thought; ‘it’s ours.’

But Contador isn’t Vincenzo Nibali, there’s only one spot on the podium that Alberto, Bjarne and Oleg are interested in.

As the two desperados reached the bottom of the climb on the way to Valgrande-Pajares Negru, the lead was down to eight minutes as behind, a very committed Euskaltel lent a hand to Saxo-Tinkoff – Igor Anton obviously dreaming big dreams.

He’s won on the Zoncolan in the Giro, so ‘mega-climbs’ hold no fears for him.

The escapees passed under the 15 K to go banner as behind, the race began to splinter as Contador’s animated skeletons turned the pain up another notch – zips down to expose ribs threatening to poke out of white torsos, gulping in precious oxygen, some spinning, some labouring a bigger gear up into the thin air.

At 10 K De Gendt was still in the big ring as Rodriguez’s henchmen Moreno and Menchov tried to regain contact with the lead group.

Distanced by Saxo’s hellish tempo they made it back – but at the cost of a lot of ‘matches burned’.

Nico Roche was with them, but not for long, no sooner was he back than he ‘popped.’

At eight K to go the gap was 5:30, and still Saxo drove hard as Alberto looked back to assess the damage.

The fans began to appear as the grade kicked to 16% for the two leaders – little else to do but plug onwards and upwards.

Contador barked orders to his two last hired killers – and then it was one, as Majka peeled off out the way on a hairpin bend and virtually stopped.

But he’d done major damage; Anton, Froome, Ten Dam, Gesink, Talansky – all gone.

Valgrande-Pajares Negru
Just Perez for Contador, Rodriguez, Valverde and Quintana for Valverde left in the lead.

And then Perez was gone and it was Contador versus The Rest, with Valverde first to see reason.

The Movistar man was too clever to try and live with Contador and Rodriguez and let them go – but his ‘ace in the hole,’ Quintana slowly brought him back up.

And it was Valverde who eased off the front once he got back, so as he could ride at his own tempo – but not for long.

Meanwhile, De Gendt and Cataldo battled on past the two K banner, the flag wavers, the clubmen, the impassive cops, those running idiots…

It was Cataldo who got the gap, De Gendt’s massive legs and big gears finally catching up with him.

Quintana jumped his three erstwhile companions as the graphic said 24% – Contador quickly snuffed that out but despite his best efforts, Rodriguez matched Alberto, blow for stinging blow.

Very, very steep meant it was a real slow-motion finish.

Ahead, the Valgrande-Pajares Negru crowd were being treated to what must be the slowest ever race finish, as Cataldo held off De Gendt to take the win at walking pace.

Here’s what the Italian said:

“It’s an unbelievable victory because this morning, I was not 100 percent due to my crash of yesterday. But then I started, and after the first climb the feeling was better.

“At the end of the descent the group was going really fast, but I attacked with De Gendt. For the first 10 to 15km after our attack it was really a fight between us and the group. We had only 30 seconds, so we were really making a time trial effort to try and stay away. At the end we won the fight with the peloton and they let us go.

“During the breakaway we were not really sure about the result. We knew to win the stage we needed to have a good advantage at the foot of the last climb. But when my DS Bramati told me that in the group, only eight or so riders were left, we said maybe it was possible the peloton will start controlling each other instead of us.

“At that point we shared the workload in the breakaway, and in the last three kilometres we started to force things a little bit.

“He attacked me, I attacked him.

“But in the end there was a section of the climb that was not so steep. I attacked and immediately got 20 meters, and it was really a battle between us because Thomas never gives up.

“The last kilometre was the longest of my life. In the last 100m I was ready to put my foot on the ground, but I continued because I had Bramati on the radio, and the public was so close cheering me and supporting me.

“I did everything to pass the finish, and when I did, I was so happy, but so tired that for the first moments after the stage victory it was impossible to celebrate.”

Rodriguez nabbed the bonus for third, Contador was fourth, Valverde fifth and Laurent Didier 181st @ 37:43.

Rest day today – they deserve it!

Deep Blue skies and lots of climbing typify this year’s Vuelta.
Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

La Vuelta a España 2014 – Stage 1; Jerez de la Frontera (TTT), 12.6 km. The ‘Telephone Team’ Take It

Movistar win Stage One in Jerez de la Frontera – no surprises, then. Perhaps we could have expected more from reigning World TTT Champions, QuickStep but with Tony Martin just back after a break and a technical parcours where it would have been easy to pile up, the Belgian team took no chances and finished fifth.

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 9: Andorra – Barcelona 196.3 km

Joaquim Rodriguez is building on the foundation of respect he laid at the Giro. The little Catalan isn’t sitting around waiting on Froome bludgeoning him in the ‘contra reloj’ on Wednesday; he’s riding like a champion, ‘la course en tete’ – at the head of the race, especially when heading 'home' to Andorra.

The VV View: It Was The Best Of Years!

Ed Hood is a sad old git who is stuck in the minutia of cycling facts and figures! The trouble is that so am I, maybe even worse! Ed was very excited by the book (Tu vueltas) I sent him with all the details of all La Vuelta a España's from 1935 to 2008, lots of info for us sado's.

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 19: Peñafiel – The Lastrilla 178.4 km

Hola! It's a bit like being in a Vuelta sprinters' stage, this morning in Peñafiel. Dry tundra, deserted low rise blocks to the left and right and all under a cloudless high plains sky.

La Vuelta a España, Stage 15: Barredo First to Lagos de Covadonga

Carlos Barredo's grandmother wells up, 'my God, my God' she keeps repeating as Carlos's amigo hugs her - the man himself hurtled past just seconds ago to join the immortals as a winner on the Lagos de Covadonga. They're standing beside us at the 150m to go mark, and in the mist and cloud once again, QuickStep have done the job. The break survivors limp by before a snarling Ezequiel Mosquera flashes past, intent on putting as much time into the other 'heads' as he possibly can.

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 15: La Robla – Lagos de Covadonga 186.5 km

We’ve all had them, those days when the pedals just turn and the sensations are good – Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural & Spain) had one, today in the stage from La Robla.

At Random

Tour de Trossachs 2018 Victory Goes to Wilson Renwick

On a day of relentless rain which couldn’t decide whether it was apocalyptic or biblical, former jockey and reigning Scottish Olympic Time Trial Champion, Wilson Renwick (RT 23) was the man who coped best with the drastic conditions. Last man off and former Trossachs top dog, Chris Smart (GTR – Return To Life) finished second with 1:09:57 to Renwick’s 1:07:47. Last place on the podium went to Scottish Hill Climb Champion, David Griffiths (Bioracer-Project GO) with 1:10:23.

Norrie Drummond – A Hard Man in Belgium

It's just under two weeks now until the 2007 European season starts with the GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise in the south of France on February 6th. The first major tests come a few weeks later though, on the first weekend in March, far from the Mediterranean, to the north, in Flanders. Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne are true classics in all but UCI category, albeit shorter than the Tour of Flanders with which they share many kilometres of parcours.

The Job in Hand

I've been in Belgium for a week now, but to be honest I feel like I've never been away with the same routines already re-emerging into the day. It is really good to feel like a full time racing cyclist again as after months of spreading myself thin over winter, all I have to think about is riding my bike. I arrived a week past Tuesday, the 1st of March, which was simply a date plucked out of the air to maximise winter earning time, but get here in time for the start of the season proper.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2011

On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in Gent, Rabobank's Sebastian Langeveld took the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2011 victory by inches from breakaway partner Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky Procycling and the winner last year), with another Sky rider Matt Hayman third.

Volta a Portugal 2012 – Stage Eight: Guarda – Torre

Today's stats at the La Volta a Portugal 2012; 154.9 km, 4000m ascent. I wasn’t able to update this immediately as we had a nightmare getting to the hotel and only arrived at 12sh.

Rotterdam Six Day 2012 – Day Four

It's Day four at the Rotterdam Six Day 2012, and like it says on the report cards; 'could do better!' We're referring of course to 'our Alex's' time keeping - he missed the rolling presentation on Sunday. It's not a huge deal because at the time he had no partner, poor Stöpler having crashed out.