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La Vuelta: Stage 16 The cream rises

September 11, 2014

The queen stage of this year’s Vuelta took in five mountain climbs, including the final one to the finish line. The day was always set for the grand finale, but the setting of the scene was intriguing. There were plenty of team tactics during the stage and the best were judging their efforts superbly. Uran was in trouble early and looked terrible. He was dropped long before the end and lost a heap of time. He has been suffering from illness for several days and it was obviously too much today.

OPQS had plenty of action up front as well. Brambilla was too excited about being in the lead and ended up in a fight with Tinko’s Rovny. Who knows what the cause of the dispute was, but they had a decent go at each other for several kms uphill. Brambilla seemed to the worse aggressor but it would be a surprise if Rovny was clean of fault. They were both thrown out of the race before the end of the stage. Brambilla was still at the front when disqualified, and with typical Italian hand waving did not leave quietly. There is something daft about fighting cyclists though, they typically have the build of featherweights and sitting on a bike does not tend towards a decent pugilist stance. So the scrap looked more like a weak pillow tussle than a rumble in the jungle.

Sky and Froome were in better form especially on the last climb. Froome used his team wisely and when they were spent, he attacked. Only Contador could match him. He sat on Froome’s wheel but unlike the others in the last few days, Froome did not even look at his rival and just rode hard. He put a decent gap on the likes of Valverde and sustained his effort to maintain it. Contador was always looking comfortable enough on Froome’s wheel and it was no surprise when he attacked. His burst of speed put 20s into Froome in only a few metres of road. The Contador of old dancing away to the stage victory.

Contador was only 15s ahead of Froome but picks up the stage win’s bonus seconds. Froome has almost caught Valverde on GC but the podium positions remain the same for now. Valverde may well lose a runner up spot very late in another grand tour. Rodriguez is running out of chances to climb onto the podium, let alone win the race. It is looking more like another top five but no top prize again for Purito.

Contador has been the best of the Vuelta and looks back to his old form. Froome has lacked top end speed but has ridden wisely to be in contention for the overall win. Valverde and Rodriguez have been too interested in competing against everyone on the road rather than aiming for the overall goal. However, the top five looks decided and it is now just a question of who in which place.

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