Vuelta a España: Daniele Ratto solos through the Andorran rain to take stage 14
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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Vuelta a España: Daniele Ratto solos through the Andorran rain to take stage 14

by Ben Atkins at 11:31 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
 
Nibali and Horner win the war of attrition as the big favourites fight through the Pyrénées

daniele rattoDaniele Ratto (Cannondale) took the biggest victory of his career to date as he won the 14th stage of the 2013 Vuelta a España, between Bagà and Andorra’s Collada De La Gallina in a solo break through the Pyrenéen rain. The 23-year-old Italian hd been part of a five-man breakaway group that escaped in the early kilometres of the 155.7km stage, then left the others behind on the wet descent of the especial category Port de Envalira at just after half way.

Having been allowed to open up a huge lead, Ratto was able to old out to the finish, despite the battle between the general classification riders unfolding behind him.

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took second place, 3’53” behind Ratto’s stage victory, two seconds ahead of former red jersey Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), after the two of them had broken clear of the rest on the steep final climb.

“The idea was that I’d be away to help Ivan [Basso] in some downhills when the favourites would catch us,” Ratto explained. “But the peloton let a lot of time to the breakaway. I was feeling good for a couple of days. Unfortunately I got to know after the finish that Ivan had pulled out. He was very lean while I’m the opposite. The extra fat I carry has helped me resisting to the cold today. But my victory is a poor consolation price for Ivan’s withdrawal. I’m sure he was going to finish on the podium.

“I didn’t believe much in my chances,” Ratto added. “When I remained alone in the lead, there were two climbs left. I’ve made a difference on the wet downhills. Riding a motorbike has made me used to putting my foot out as I did today to avoid crashing. At the bottom of the last one, I knew that I had eight minutes lead. At that point, it was clear that except if I got a serious hungerflat, I could win the stage. I was scared as I felt I was cramping a bit but I managed to deal with that. It’s a special moment for me to succeed in the mountains.”

Ratto escaped after just three kilometres, with Luis León Sánchez and Graeme Brown (Belkin), World champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and cyclocross specialist Steve Chainel (AG2R La Mondiale) and - with Nibali’s Astana team showing its usual indifference to controlling breakaways of no threat to the Italian’s lead - were able to get more than 12 minutes clear by the time they hit the early slopes of the Port de Envalira.

Brown and Chainel lost contact with the others almost immediately and, following the summit, Ratto pulled clear. Sánchez crashed on the wet descent, and was forced to abandon with a combination of his injuries and hypothermia.

Ratto continued to open his lead over Gilbert on the approach to the final climb but, in the peloton behind him, his Cannondale leader Ivan Basso was also succumbing to the cold, wet descent, and he too pulled out of the race with hypothermia, having begun the day in seventh place.

With more than seven minutes in hand at the foot of the final climb to the finish, there was little chance of Ratto being denied a stage win, but hostilities began in the peloton behind him, as RadioShack-Leopard and Astana began sparring at the front. The two teams soon had the front group reduced to just half a dozen riders, with third place Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) off the back, having been uncharacteristically dropped on the descent.

Horner then accelerated away from the group with Nibali on his wheel, and the two of them steadily moved clear of the others. Nibali managed to put a little time into many of his rivals by the finish, while Horner climbed from fourth to second after Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) lost more than three minutes.

The rain falls on the Pyrénées as Astana lets five riders go long

Setting out under the first rain experienced by the 2013 Vuelta, Sánchez, Brown, Gilbert, Chainel and Ratto escaped after three kilometres and, as usual, Nibali’s Astana team was quite happy to let them go. By the 15km point the five riders were 2’10” ahead, and this gap had widened to 4’19” by the 24km point.

As they crossed the border into Andorra 49.3km they were 8’24” ahead and, as Chainel took the intermediate sprint, in Andorra la Vella after 59.5km - shortly before the Port de Envalira climb began - the group’s lead was up to 10’35”. As the road began to rise just over a kilometre later Chainel and Brown were soon left behind; as Gilbert took the second intermediate sprint, in Canillo after 70.4km, Chainel was holding on just 24 seconds behind, but Brown was already more than two minutes back.

The group’s lead hit its maximum at this point, with the peloton now 12’20” behind.

As the Katusha team of Joaquim Rodríguez began to apply pressure at the front of the bunch, the gap began to come down but, as Gilbert led over the top of the climb, it was still 8’30”.

Sánchez crashed on the wet descent. He was quickly back up and riding, but then abandoned soon afterwards. Ratto was pushing on alone by now and, taking a lot of risks around the corners, was quickly opening a lead between himself and Gilbert.

Onto the 2nd category Coll de Ordino, with 47.7km to go, Ratto was still pulling away from Gilbert. In the peloton behind him, a group containing Jose Herrada (Movistar), Amets Txurruka and David Arroyo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Igor Anton, Egoï Martinez and Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) was moving ahead.

This new group was joined by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) before it reached the top, with 38.9km, but was caught by the peloton on the descent. This chase saw Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dropped from the bunch of overall contenders, and he was more than 30 seconds behind as the other favourites crossed the 2nd category Alto de la Comella and arrived at the foot of the final climb to the finish.

The favourites begin to spar for the overall title but the stage victory has already gone

Astana and RadioShack-Leopard then began to lift the pace at the head of the bunch, which was quickly thinned down to no more than 15 riders. Croatian champion Robert Kiserlovski then hit the front, which saw second overall Roche dropped with six kilometres to go. Kiserlovski accelerated again, and only Horner and Nibali could follow.

Horner then took over, leaving his teammate behind, but Nibali was right on his wheel as they rapidly pulled away from the others.

Ratto suffering as he approached the final kilometre, but he still had almost seven minutes on the two big names that were powering up the mountain behind him.

Horner quickly led Nibali past the floundering Gilbert, with Nibali taking the inside line around every bend, forcing Horner to take a far wider route.

Ratto broke into a wide smile with 400 metres still to climb, then began to wave his arms to the crowd as he rounded the final bends. Sitting up as he crossed the line, the 23-year-old pulled a quick wheelie to emulate Slovakian teammate Peter Sagan, then raised both arms in the air to celebrate his biggest ever victory.

Nibali finally took the front into the last half kilometre, just as Valverde was catching Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) and Pinot 40 seconds behind them. Rodríguez was still ahead of this trio, with Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), but Horner and Nibali were approaching the finish.

With 100 metres to go Nibali accelerated, and Horner could only watch him go as he crossed the line to take the six second bonus and a two second gap. Horner took four seconds for third place, meaning that Nibali had inched his overall lead four seconds wider, but both had gained time on all of those on the road behind them.

Result stage 14
1. Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Pro Team Astana @ 3’53”
3. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard @ 3’55”
4. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team @ 4’11”
5. Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 4’19”
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 4’43”
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr @ 4’46”
8. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
9. Mikel Landa (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi @ 5’17”
10. Leopold König (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura @ 5’21”

Standings after stage 14
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Pro Team Astana
2. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard @ 50s
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 1’42”
4. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team @ 2’57”
5. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale @ 3’43”
6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 4’06”
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr @ 4’34”
8. Leopold König (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura @ 5’42”
9. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team @ 6’28”
10. Tanel Kangert (Est) Pro Team Astana @ 6’45”

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