Graus to Aramón Formigal 146.8km
Good weather returned to the Vuelta. Neither the sunny sky nor the warm temperature caused the riders to want to ease up on the throttle. The 146.8km (91.2mi) Sixteenth Stage started in Graus and lead the riders to the summit finish at Aramón Formigal, site of the first-ever Vuelta mountain top finish 37 years ago, and both the mountains and the rapidly disappearing chances for stage glory motivated the peloton.
As with yesterday, the attacks came from kilometer zero, and big groups were forming. While the lower-ranked riders were eager to break free of their comrades, the big chiefs in the peloton were not. Race leader Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team rode hard at the front in fear of seeing a large group ride away. Cannondale Pro Cycling, without their chief, was in the mix, trying to break free. After 59km (36.7mi), the race was still all together, and Movistar's Alejandro Valverde, sitting in third place overall, won the intermediate sprint to score both points and a four-second time bonus, moving him closer to both second and first.
With the sprint dispatched, attacks began anew. A group finally broke free of the peloton, but they were kept on a tight leash until the second-category Puerto de Cotefablo climb. The escape grew to eleven riders. Over the top of the Cotefablo, the eleven stayed together, with another twelve riding off the front on the descent. In there was Cannondale's Maciej Paterski, an animator in yesterday's stage as well.
Going into the final climb, the two groups off the front merged, and the peloton was a healthy three minutes behind. 23 riders in a group is a recipe for constant attacking. And they came aplenty. At the foot of the final climb to Formigal, fifteen kilometers (9.3mi) remained on the day and only eight were left in front. Team Euskatel was leading the peloton, working to reduce the deficit in order to keep their lead in the team competition.
As the climb got steeper, the lead group was reduced to eight. Out of the eight came Belkin's Juan Manuel Garate. He was quickly joined by AG2R's Mikael Cherel and Argos-Shimano's Warren Barguil, a stage winner last week. Barguil wasn't satisified with the pace, and attacked with ten kilometers (6.2mi) remaining.
Behind him, a chase group formed. In it was Paterski as well as Sky's Rigoberto Uran, NetApp's Bartosz Huzarski, and BMC's Dominik Nerz. Barguil started struggling with two kilometers left. The chase started closing down on him, and Uran took the lead as they passed under the red kite (.62mi). Both riders slowed, and Huzarski and Nerz caught them with 200 meters remaining, which caused Uran to lead out the sprint. Barguil passed him on the line for a second win of the Vuelta. Paterski came in 37 seconds behind in seventh place.
Behind them, the race for the Red Jersey heated up in the final kilometers. Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, and others took their best shot at Nibali. With two kilometers remaining, Rodriguez broke clear. Nibali started to suffer and both Valverde and second-placed Chris Horner of RadioShack made hay. Nibali conceded 28 seconds to Rodriguez, and slightly less to the other general classification contenders.
Tomorrow, this Vuelta gives the weary racers their second rest day. On Wednesday, the riders return to the roads of Spain to contest Stage Seventeen, a 184.5km ride from Calahorra to Burgos. The profile is fairly gentle and favors a mass sprint finish. Cannondale Pro Cycling left their fast-twitch riders at home, so they'll be working on an escape and trying to get to the finish with a small group.
Vuelta a España 2013
Stage 16: Graus to Aramón Formigal
1. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano 3:43:31
2. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling same time
3. Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp-Endura 0:00:03
4. Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing Team 0:00:08
5. José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
7. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 0:00:37
38. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 0:03:42
88. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 0:16:12
109. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 0:17:53
115. Daniele Ratto (Ita) same time
116. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) same time
123. Cameron Wurf (Aus) same time
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 64:06:01
2. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:28
3. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:14
4. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:29
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:38
44. Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) 1:14:12
58. Maciej Paterski (Pol) 1:41:34
84. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 2:13:24
87. Cameron Wurf (Aus) 2:15:22
97. Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) 2:27:49
119. Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) 2:57:48
144. Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) 3:19:21
1. Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 36 pts
2. Daniele Ratto (Ita) 30
3. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 22
4. Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural 20
5. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 19