A tough day faces the riders on Stage 14 with a 200.8km ride across some jagged looking terrain, before another gruelling summit finish atop a Category 1. The two major climbs of today are seriously contrasting in how the peloton will need to approach them, making it also tough to see who will take the win by the end of the day.
Stretching on for almost 21km, the Puerto de San Glorio may not be decisive today in regards to the win, but it will drain the legs drastically ahead of the summit finish later on. A breakaway should be guaranteed to hit this before the peloton and it will be interesting to see what tempo the bunch sets in their pursuit of the break and who sets it.
But the real focus of today is upon the finish at La Camperona which will be horrendously difficult to find a rhythm upon, due to its ever-changing gradients. The acute steepness of the ramps upon La Camperona are billed as peaking at 19.5% on the profile, but many are aware that short sections or riding a poor line could have a rider battling against gradients beyond 20% which begin reaching towards 30%.
Stage 14 is part of a consecutive trilogy of testing mountain days at this year’s Vuelta, this fact will be present in all GC hopefuls who need to avoid burning out during today. A breakaway could be seen as the likely outcome here as the big teams decide to save their chasing, and more importantly their leaders, for the decisive looking Monday stage. Though it would take a substantial lead and extremely fresh legs to avoid being absorbed back into the pack once they hit the steep ramps of La Camperona. Many will look to Katusha for guidance as to how it will play out on Stage 14; Joaquim Rodriguez suits the finish, has a strong team on such terrain and needs the bonus 10 seconds if he wishes to win a Grand Tour at last. Alberto Contador looks to me focused upon marking those around him, with the occasional dig to test the water, rather than is iconic attacks on what appears to be impossible terrain. No doubt he will be at the fore as the GC men tackle the finale, but he will be more interesting in defence of the lead today, rather than extending it. Alejandro Valverde and Dan Martin are two more riders who suit the finish on paper, but certainly have not displayed this on similar terrain at the Vuelta so far. Valverde’s goals are certainly altered since the abandonment of Nairo Quintana, but he will not wish to risk too much here with a podium place at stake. Dan Martin looked great yesterday, but hesitated when it mattered as Daniel Navarro attacked late on, but he is desperate for a win and might just be given the room by the GC men to get away.
If a break does fail to stay clear and take the win, it must surely fall to Joaquim Rodriguez to find success and a bonus 10 seconds with a win at La Camperona. His team is strong and the finish is his sort of terrain on which to launch unrivalled attacks up almost vertical slopes – but he will not be given too much freedom. With this in mind, Daniel Martin could benefit from the big names watching each other to surge to victory at last.
1st Martin 2nd Rodriguez 3rd Uran