What's Cool In Road Cycling

La Vuelta Lowdown: It’s In The Quotes

Stage 4, Lalin-Fisterra (189 km): Let’s start with two quotes, this first courtesy my always succinct Tour de France driver and amigo of 40 years, Dave Chapman; ‘it’s not a race where you can ride yourself into it!’

That’s for sure – but then Dario Cioni always used to say when I interviewed him back in his Liquigas super domestique days; ‘Grand Tours are won in the third week.’ And I have a feeling that all those watts which are being heaped on the fires these last four days in Galicia will have to be paid for in the Pyrenees and Asturias.

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Nicolas Edet takes the race to heart and lit up the break in stage 4.

But there’s very little happens in professional cycle sport without a reason. Riders in Cofidis for example will be at the wrong end of their manager’s tongue; ‘get in the breaks – show our sponsor we’re in this damn race!’

Meanwhile the Caja Rural riders know that when the big beasts really bare their claws there’ll be little TV time for the creatures lower down the food chain; ‘make hay while the sun shines’ is their motto.

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Better to be in the breaks early and finish in the last 10 on GC in Madrid than to troop anonymously around the Iberian Peninsula to 57thspot.

But probably the biggest reason – and this even applies to the man in red on stage four – is that age old motivator; ‘continuous employment.’ More than a few of the men who have been showing themselves are still without a contract for season 2014 and with Vacansoleil and Euskaltel folding it’s a buyer’s market for the teams so they’re in no rush to hand our crisp contracts for signature just yet.

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And what about that man in red, Christopher Horner (Radio Shack & USA) – albeit just for one day – the Radio Shack press release said of his Marvellous Monday when he took the stage and leader’s jersey; ‘In the process he became the oldest rider in the history of cycling to win a stage in a Grand Tour, with the prior honour going to Pino Cerami who won a Tour de France stage at 41 years and two months whilst Horner will turn 42 in October.’

Apart from the length of his career – he turned pro in the US in 1995 for Nutrafig – what’s remarkable is that this is his second bite at the Euro cherry.

After a successful US season in ’96 when he took a stage in the Dupont Tour he signed with the French Division One team Francaise des Jeux; he rode for them from ’97 to ’99 with little to show for his three seasons effort.

Returning to the US he won practically everything there is to win on the US domestic calendar riding for Mercury, Prime Alliance, Saturn, and Webcor.

And in 2005 he crossed the North Atlantic again to ride for Saunier Duval, since then he’s ridden for Lotto, Astana and Radio Shack – note there are no French teams in that list.

He’s won the Tour of Langkawi, the Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour of California along the way and narrowly lost Tirreno-Adriatico to Nibali, last year.

Out for an extended period this season with a knee injury he bounced back with a stage win and spell in the leader’s jersey in the Tour of Utah.

Like the DJ’s say – an ‘oldie but goodie!’

What was interesting in the finale of Stage Three behind Horner was that whilst Alejandro Valverde (Movistar & Spain) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha & Catalonia) were ‘full gas’ in the finale, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana& Italy) was much less so – he’s obviously spoken to Cioni and a little voice in the back of his mind was saying; ‘Angliru, Angliru!’

Despite Nibali’s circumspection that red jersey likes being on his back and found its way back to him when Horner was caught in a very late Stage Four split and dropped six seconds on the Sicilian.

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Stage Four winner Dani Moreno (Katusah & Spain) is a late bloomer, he’s 31 now but it’s really since he joined Katusha in 2011 that he’s won ‘big’ – with a Vuelta stage and Piemonte that year.

Last season saw stage wins in the Ruta del Sol, Dauphine (two) as well as two stages and the GC in Burgos.

This spring saw him win Fleche Wallonne then finish top 20 in the Tour despite being in the service of Rodriguez. I can’t help but that think there’ll be a horrible ‘jour sans’ for the man with the sideburns and stubble. But the fact is that the stage is won and on his palmares – if he has a bad day tomorrow then it’s irrelevant.

The freedom which the team and Rodriguez have given Moreno makes you wonder if ‘Purito’ knows that despite his ‘talking the talk,’ the Tour is still in heavy in his legs and if Moreno can grab the headlines for the team, early then so be it.

The top 10 after Stage Four contains a few surprises; Nibali leads from Horner and the American will be more than keen to get that red jersey back on his shoulders – Nibali much less so.

Nibali doesn’t have to worry about UCi points; Horner does – and there’s only one reason Nibali is here, that’s to win the GC.

Days in red are a nice bonus but there’s only one podium which counts for Astana – the one in the Spanish capital city on the last day.

Nico Roche (Ireland) is in third spot thanks to a decent TTT from Saxo and his aggressive riding – particularly to his excellent Stage Two triumph.

Valverde – my tip for second spot sits fifth, but with a lot of matches burned.

My tips Uran (Sky & Colombia) and the Saxo duo of Majka (Poland) and Kreuziger (Czech Republic) are all in the top 10 with Uran keeping a low profile but well there.

He looks to me that he might take the space left on the podium when my man for third spot, Carlos Betancur (AG2R & Colombia) dropped down the GC like a depth charge.

Whilst three in the top 10 gives the Riis squad lots of options in the short term.

It’s nice to see NetApp-Endura men Bartosz Huzarski (Poland) and California queen stage winner Leo Konig (Czech Republic) in the top 20 – there can be little debate about whether the Pro Continental boys deserve their spot in the race.

Stage Five tomorrow, the race manual says ‘sprinter’ – with 2,000 metres of climbing? – but I think ‘breakaway’ and a new man in red?

Stay tuned.

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The quotes on the finish line

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana): “Chris Horner’s team had the objective to keep the red jersey, it comes as a surprise for me to get it back. I don’t know what happened. There might have been a gap somewhere… I didn’t do any great action. We targeted the stage for Maxim Iglinskiy but it was difficult to position him in this very fast sprint. It’s been a very nervous stage from 30km to go till here at the “end of the world”. We’ll ride the next stage with serenity. As I said the previous days, the Vuelta is still long. You have seen as well as I did who are my main rivals, Valverde, Rodriguez…, those who have taken some time bonus atop the hills. But we haven’t experienced the real climbs of the Vuelta yet. It’s been more of a nervous kind of racing so far. My team has managed to keep me up the front with caution and avoid too big gaps.”

Former race leader Chris Horner (RadioShack): “It’s not a bad thing to lose the red jersey by only a few seconds. It’s even better because it makes this my last interview until we reached the mountains where I’ll get the jersey back. For the sponsors, it’s better to see the red jersey every day but for me, it’s better this way. I have good legs. If my team takes care of me the way they can, I’ll have a fantastic Vuelta.”

Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), third: “When I jumped, the peloton slowed down a little bit. It sort of shocked everyone. I didn’t win but I’m happy with my sprint, I’m happy with the work the team did for me. I seem to have the form I need to contest the bunch sprints here.”

Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), 4th: “This was a hard stage with the ascent to the Mirador de Ezaro. It hurts! I’ve been dropped but I got back on in the downhill and I did my best to always stay up front. With 500 or 600 metres to go, Moreno attacked too strongly for me. I was right behind Boasson Hagen. I passed him with 200 metres to go. From the sprinters, only Matthews beat me out. It’s a missed opportunity.”

Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), king of the mountains: “At the Mirador de Ezaro, I saw there was a point up for grab just ahead of me, so why not going and getting it. But I’m not racing for the KOM competition nor for the green jersey.”

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr): « I climbed the Mirador de Ezaro on only one gear (28) because a rider hit me and broke my derailleur. At the top, Alexandre Geniez gave me his bike and I got mine back ten kilometres further. Like Kenny Elissonde, I finish at the front but I’m sorry for my team-mate who sacrificed himself for me.”

Breakaway rider Nicolas Edet (Cofidis): “I was disappointed about my first three days at the Vuelta. Yesterday, I crashed and I lost a lot of time while I was feeling physically better. So I intended to do something today. When the counter-attack came across to me after the Mirador de Ezaro, I thought it might be the right move, but Quick Step rode behind. My legs are good, I want to try again.”

Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg (Argos-Shimano): “I punctured in a downhill and I only got back on two kilometers before the finish. My team did a good job taking me back but it took me the energy I lacked with 1km to go. That was a fast finish!”

Angel Vicioso (Katusha): “This kind of small hill to finish was great for Dani Moreno. We positioned him and Joaquim [Rodriguez] but we were not obsessed about winning the stage. We were more focused on not losing time.”

Results : La Vuelta 2013 Stage 4
1º 127 MORENO, Daniel ESP KAT 4:37:47 10″
2º 181 CANCELLARA, Fabian SUI RLT m.t. 6″
3º 178 MATTHEWS, Michael AUS OGE m.t. 4″
4º 164 MEERSMAN, Gianni BEL OPQ m.t.
5º 41 MOLLEMA, Bauke NED BEL m.t.
6º 192 BOASSON HAGEN, Edvald NOR SKY m.t.
7º 19 NOCENTINI, Rinaldo ITA ALM m.t.
8º 22 BARGUIL, Warren FRA ARG m.t.
9º 191 HENAO, Sergio Luis COL SKY m.t.
10º 205 ROCHE, Nicolas IRL TST m.t.
11º 1 VALVERDE, Alejandro ESP MOV m.t.
12º 27 PREIDLER, Georg AUT ARG m.t.
13º 212 BOLE, Grega SLO VCD m.t.
14º 165 PAUWELS, Serge BEL OPQ m.t.
15º 121 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin ESP KAT m.t.
16º 31 NIBALI, Vincenzo ITA AST m.t.
17º 107 ROUX, Anthony FRA FDJ m.t.
18º 58 SANTAROMITA, Ivan ITA BMC m.t.
19º 201 KREUZIGER, Roman CZE TST m.t.
20º 46 SÁNCHEZ, Luis León ESP BEL m.t

La Vuelta 2013 GC After Stage 4
Lalín / A Estrada – Fisterra. La etapa del fin del Mundo 189,0 kms.
573,9 kms.
27/08/2013 18:13:57

1º 31 NIBALI, Vincenzo ITA AST 14:15:30
2º 184 HORNER, Christopher USA RLT a 3 10″
3º 205 ROCHE, Nicolas IRL TST a 8 10″
4º 189 ZUBELDIA, Haimar ESP RLT a 65
5º 1 VALVERDE, Alejandro ESP MOV a 21 6″
6º 186 KISERLOVSKI, Robert CRO RLT a 78
7º 198 URAN, Rigoberto COL SKY a 28 68
8º 127 MORENO, Daniel ESP KAT a 31 85 16″
9º 202 MAJKA, Rafal POL TST a 38 97
10º 201 KREUZIGER, Roman CZE TST a 42 90
11º 156 HUZARSKI, Bartosz POL TNE a 45 97
12º 58 SANTAROMITA, Ivan ITA BMC a 46 108
13º 151 KONIG, Leopold CZE TNE a 48 96
14º 41 MOLLEMA, Bauke NED BEL a 49 77
15º 2 CAPECCHI, Eros ITA MOV a 52 107
16º 121 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin ESP KAT a 53 96 4″
17º 206 SÖRENSEN, Chris Anker DEN TST a 55 151
18º 52 EIJSSEN, Yannick BEL BMC a 59 159
19º 139 ULISSI, Diego ITA LAM a 1:10 123
20º 48 TEN DAM, Laurens NED BEL a 1:12 154

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