JOACHIM RODRIGUEZ was the fastest on virtually all the uphill finishes in this edition of the Vuelta, but ALBERTO CONTADOR managed, with a typical Manolo Saiz-style attack, to blow up the race in the seemingly unimportant 17th stage, held right after the second day of rest.
That same morning on the 53x12.com Forum, a Spanish user asked me how Contador could effectively drop Rodriguez, since his numerous attempts were unsuccessful. I replied that the only way was to "render the race" hard and tough far away from the finish in order to shift the challenge into terms of endurance, since the power of Joachim seemed to be superior than that of Alberto.
In fact, Contador's attack came 53 km from the finish, on a 2nd Category hill, disintegrating a peloton that was already fatigued by a fast beginning of the stage, isolating Rodriguez, left with only one teammate (Losada) and with Valverde who did not cooperate in the pursuit.
Alberto found the legs, teammates and allies (Tiralongo) that were crucial to determine the race in the flat stretch before the final climb (15km at 4%): in fact, the advantage went up to 2'20" as the final easy ascent to Fuente Dé ramped up.
Rodriguez defended himself effectively (only losing less than 20" to Contador in the 33min of climbing), but lost the second place in GC, caught by an excellent VALVERDE who gained more than two minutes on everybody in this last ascent.
Behind we saw a procession of single exhausted riders, with gaps much larger than those effectively produced on the often too steep final uphill finishes that were proposed in this Vuelta.
Some rather good VAM performances by the best riders on the main climbs:
- Mirador de Ezaro: 2km at 12%, 2068m/h, 6.89 w/kg
- Arrate: 5 km at 8%, 1846 m/h, 6.59 w/kg
- Andorra: 7.3 km at 8%, 1740 m/h, 6.21 w/kg
- Ancares: 9.5 km at 8%, 1756 m/h, 6.27 w/kg
- Covadonga: 8.5 km at 9%, 1788 m/h, 6.16 w/kg
- Bola del Mundo: 11.4 km at 8.7%, 1666 m/h, 5.95 w/kg