Thursday, May 26, 2022
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 Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 47 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, a team manager, and a 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 for some of the world's top riders. 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 10; Monasterio de Veruela – Borja (ITT), 34.5 km. Nairo Crashes, Contador Leads

Alberto Contador Velasco (Tinkoff & Spain) pulled on the red jersey, raised his bouquet to his adoring fans in Borja then offered his clenched right fist up to his chest. The man has a big heart in there, for sure – all that was missing was Kiss pumping on the PA, ‘Back in the New York Groove,’ the line which goes; ‘this place was meant for me!’

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 8: Lleida – Andorra. Collada de la Gallina 174.7 km

Chris Froome lost more time to race leader Joaquim Rodriguez in today's stage from Lleida, all in the final 500 metres, as Alejandro Valverde and JR jumped clear of him and chased after Alberto Contador, who had got a gap of 100 metres over the three, with just a kilometre to go.

La Vuelta a España 2014 – Stage 15; Oviedo – Lagos de Covadonga, 149 km. Przemyslaw Niemiec Impresses

Przemyslaw Niemiec wins today, but it’s just morbid curiosity which compels me to watch Chris Froome (Sky & Monaco/England/South Africa/Kenya) these days – he climbs like a stick insect with Saint Vitus Dance. It upsets me; but distressing or not, it gets him up them hills, albeit in his own mystifying style – off the back, off the front...

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 4: Barakaldo – Valdezcaray Station 160km

Echelons formed out of Barakaldo, Froome turned killer, Valverde was ambushed, the podium shook itself into shape early and a nice guy won. If that sounds exciting – it was.

Is La Vuelta too hard?

La Vuelta; have you seen the parcours? Brutal! In my opinion, too hard; if it was Italy or Spain they'd engineer it to suit the characteristics of the 'home boy,' but in España it's one for the mountain men - maybe they forgot that Alberto wasn't riding; that we may have seen the best of Carlos; that Valverde will have a bad day and that José Manuel Fuente and Luis Ocaña have left us (God rest their souls).

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 3: Faustino V – Eibar (Arrate) 155.3 km

Sprinters? As my old work buddy, Sam Johnston used to reply, when asked what had become of his ‘hot tip’ for the 3:45 at Kempton Park; ‘they’re still out looking for it – with lanterns!’ Stage three was no day for the sprinters; what VeloVeritas had failed to appreciate was that ‘Arrate’ was as in ‘Subida a Arrate’ mountain race – as won by Luis Ocana, Marino Lejarreta, Francisco Galdos, Johan de Muunck and Raymond Poulidor. No big, bulging thighs among those names.

At Random

La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 8: Lleida – Andorra. Collada de la Gallina 174.7 km

Chris Froome lost more time to race leader Joaquim Rodriguez in today's stage from Lleida, all in the final 500 metres, as Alejandro Valverde and JR jumped clear of him and chased after Alberto Contador, who had got a gap of 100 metres over the three, with just a kilometre to go.

Mario Willems – Most Successful Kermis Rider This Season

"Ed! All this Tour de France nonsense - you should be talking to Mario Willems, he's the top man in the Flanders kermis' right now!"

Andreas Müller – “I Could Ride Madisons All Day!”

It's hard to break into the six day circuit; but if there's a local rider with promise or a road star that needs mentoring then there has to be a rider on the circuit to provide hands on guidance. Enter Austria's Andreas Müller. Müller was a member of the German track squad during the last decade with strong results, like silver in the 1999 Moscow World Cup team pursuit; Madison bronze in the Chinese round of the World Cup in 2002 and Madison gold in the Moscow and Sydney rounds of the 2003 World Cup.

Announcing the Launch of the Alba Development Road Team

The Alba Development Road Team is aiming to help female talent realise their dreams of competing against the world’s top riders in the biggest races. Thanks to financial backing from several international organisations all athletes are being provided with a bike, individual development plan, riding kit and full race programme to help achieve optimum performance.

Nokere – Koerse 2012

Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) started his season well with two stage victories at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in February and the opening road Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen last week, and he continued his great form with a superb sprint victory in Nokere - Koerse 2012 today

Faces of the Gent Six Day 2012

Dave and I saw our first Six Day in 1973, the Skol sponsored London Six Day - Sercu, Pijnen, Duyndam, Van Lancker . . . This is Callum's first trip to the Kuipke but Stuart's umpteenth. The Adoma has been our base for years - it's a great jump off for Het Nieuwsblad, Gent-Wevelgem and the Koksijde 'cross.