Vuelta a España 2013 Stage 14
Bagà to Collada de la Gallina (Andorra) 155.7km
An early breakaway, even with the long downhill start, was also forecasted. Cannondale Pro Cycling's Daniele Ratto got into the move of five riders. His position off the front would afford the team multiple options. First, the team didn't have to chase so long as he was present in the break. If team leader Ivan Basso is going well on the climbs, Basso can attack the Red Jersey of Astana's Vincenzo Nibali, and ride up to Ratto, who can help Basso with his escape. If Ratto is going well, he can try for the stage win.
What nobody knew was what to expect with the weather.
The cold was causing problems for everybody, some more than others. On the monstrous Port de Envalira climb, Basso started struggling, a surprise, as it's just the kind of ascent that favors his riding style. Ratto, who went over the Envalira third, found himself in the lead when his descending skills outpaced his breakaway companions, one of whom also was struggling in the cold and crashed.
On the road to the next climb, Basso, realizing he was suffering from hypothermia, not only couldn't he hold the pace of the leaders, but he couldn't pedal at all. He and the team made the decision he'd abandon the Vuelta.
Up front Ratto continued on, with his former breakaway companions fading, and the Red Jersey group eight minutes behind.
Concerned for his safety, Ratto rode the next descent carefully, even taking his feet out of the pedals on tight turns to improve balance on the wet roads.
Starting the final climb, seven kilometers (4.3mi) to Gallina, Ratto removed his rain jacket, thinking the final ascent of the Gallina would warm him. With pitches approaching 15% in sections, he was surely right. His gap was just short of nine minutes.
Behind, Nibali's chase group picked up the pace. Nibali's teammates set a pace that shed rider after rider until they were exhausted from their efforts. Then fourth-placed Chris Horner of RadioShack sent a teammate to the front to set the pace. This shed the remainder of the group save Nibali, and suddenly, Horner and Nibali were the only two remaining.
They ate into Ratto's lead, but when the Cannondale rider reached the final kilometer, a rise that punishes the riders with a 10% grade all the way to the line; he had over four minutes in hand. Despite the steep road, the young Italian savored every pedal stroke, smiling, acknowledging his director, and taking his time with a long victory salute.
3:53 behind, Nibali claimed second, two seconds ahead of Horner. The stage was good for Ratto, for his win, and Nibali, who extended his lead over second place, though the second spot was claimed by Horner, while yesterday's second-placed rider, Saxo-Tinkoff's Nicholas Roche, dropped to sixth. And his struggles were minor compared to the rest of the peloton.
After changing into fresh clothes, including a ski hat, Ratto discussed the day. "The idea was to work for Basso. But the way the day panned out, it was a great situation for me. Even if it was raining, I felt very good and managed to deliver the stage victory. I've been waiting for this for three years. I'm disappointed for Basso, but I've done exactly what I thought I was capable of doing."
Basso took longer to recover. When he warmed up, he had this to say. "It's one of the saddest days of my career. I knew I felt good and I wanted to play all my cards to ride to a great result at this Vuelta. I knew I could. Unfortunately arrives this blow. I don't believe in destiny but this season is revealing itself awfully. Ratto's win a boost of morale for the team. My teammates deserve it because they help me every day, especially today. I have to get up again; I don't lack the desire. "
While the riders warmed up, they probably weren't any happier after consulting the race bible and seeing what they have to do tomorrow. Stage fifteen is probably the toughest of the Vuelta, 224.9km from Andorra la Vella to Peyragudes, France. The route crosses three first category climbs en route to a final first category climb, the Peyragudes, which takes in the Col de Peyresourde, a staple climb in the Tour de France. And the weather forecast suggests more cold and wet could be out on the road. Without Basso, Cannondale Pro Cycling is now in the hunt for stage wins. Expect to see another member of the green team in the day's breakaway.
Vuelta a España 2013
Stage 14: Bagà to Collada de la Gallina
1. Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 4:24:00
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:53
3. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:03:55
4. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:04:11
5. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:04:19
Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling
78. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:23:16
88. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:23:37
110. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 0:28:58
120. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 0:29:12
130. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 0:29:18
138. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:29:23
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 53:56:49
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:50
3. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:42
4. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:57
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:43
General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling
51. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 1:00:43
69. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 1:25:51
73. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 1:27:49
83. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 1:32:08
92. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 1:40:16
125. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 2:11:56
148. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 2:31:48