Vuelta a España: All eyes on the Bola del Mundo finish to stage 20
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Saturday, September 08, 2012

Vuelta a España: All eyes on the Bola del Mundo finish to stage 20

by Ben Atkins at 7:00 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Biggest climb of the race to decide three-way Spanish battle for the race

alberto contadorWith 19 stages down, all eyes in the Vuelta a España are now firmly trained on today’s finish on the top of the Bols del Mundo. The 2247 metre high mountain just outside Madrid will see the final battle for the race’s red jersey fought out between current leader Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), second place Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and third place Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).

The Bola del Mundo has featured just once in the Vuelta route before, when it was host to a similar penultimate day’s stage finish in 2010. That day saw a mano a mano battle between red jersey Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia); Mosquera took the stage, but Nibali was right behind him and secured the race overall.

The three Spanish riders have been largely inseparable in the mountains for most of the race, with each doing his utmost to crack the other. Finally though, on Wednesday’s 17th stage to Fuente Dé, Contador managed to tear himself away from the others and seized the red jersey. Valverde almost managed to pull back the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider before the finish; left isolated from his team though, Rodríguez lost 2’38”, his red jersey, and apparently any hope of winning the race.

Contador lost a few seconds to both riders at the complicated finish of yesterday’s stage to La Lastrilla, but currently leads Valverde by 1’35” and Rodríguez by 2’21”. He might need all of that time though, as both riders will do their utmost to unseat him on the steep climb to the finish.

alejandro valverde“I managed to snatch bonus seconds at both the intermediate sprint and at the finish and that keeps me more calm before tomorrow,” Valverde said after yesterday’s stage. “It will be a hard stage, but it's the final battle in this race.

“Everything might stay as it is now, the podium could change in all positions…” he continued. “It could be a really crazy day. Still, if nothing wrong happens, the podium is assured for the three of us.

“With Alberto in the lead, it's hard to think about improving this 2nd place,” he conceded. “It's possible, but really, really hard. Even so, things are going really well now and I'm satisfied with our results to date."

After losing so much time on Fuente Dé, Rodríguez has - officially anyway - declared that his own quest for the red jersey is over. The Catalan is, however, looking up to Valverde ahead of him, and will try to unseat the Murcian rider by overcoming the 46-second deficit on the final mountain today.

“The final part will be very hard, so I hope to gain some seconds in order to take the second position in general classification,” said Rodríguez . “I know it’s hard, but I’ll do my best.”

There is also a secondary battle between Rodríguez and Valverde as, since yesterday’s stage finish, the two of them are separated by just three points in the race for the green jersey. Rodríguez leads this, and the Combination classification, but Valverde could steal both on the Bola del Mundo if he can escape the Katusha rider.

joaquim rodruiguezContador himself professes to be most worried about Rodríguez, since it was that Catalan who was the only one able to shadow him - then out sprint him - in the high mountains on stages 12, 14, 15 and 16. As a native of the Madrid province, Contador has the local knowledge of the stage’s big climbs, but so does Rodríguez’ teammate Dani Moreno.

“I believe that Katusha will give everything to make ‘Purito’ a winner,” Contador said. I’ll just have to wait. It’s gonna be the last battle.”

Whatever Movistar and Katusha throw at Contador in today’s stage however, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank has, so far, shown itself capable of supporting its team leader.

“He leads with a big margin and I believe a 100 % that Alberto will pull it off tomorrow,” said the team’s directeur sportif Brad McGee after yesterday’s stage. “We just need to stay focused on the job and don't consider this to be all over before it is all over. Some riders are just born to win and Alberto's one of them.

“He's become stronger throughout the race and I don't think he's going to lose his grip now.”

The mountain stages of the Vuelta so far have seen great battles between the three Spanish rivals; today’s finish on the Bola del Mundo should be the mother of them all.

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