02 Oct 2014
An atypical course (no Pyrenees), capricious weather (rain and cold), exasperated tactics (those of the THREE CABALLEROS, Valverde-Purito-Contador), some miraculous fitness recoveries (Froome and Contador) have made this edition of the Vuelta a Espana particularly interesting.
The climbing performances of the best riders (all very close to each other) were up there with the best of the latest editions of the major stage races: between 6.0 and 6.4 w/kg for climbs of 40-20 min, with peaks of 6.6-6.8 w/kg for Contador's winning attacks in the last 1-2 km.
Alto de Covadonga : the classic uphill finish saw Valverde, Contador and Purito climb in 34'00", with the first 9 km at 1823 m/h = 6.28 w/kg.
Alto de Camperona : 21'10" was the time on the 8 km at 7.6%, VAM = 1757m/h = 6.5 w/kg by Froome, a "transformed" athlete with regards to the performances of the previous days (I wonder how his "buddy" Wiggins commented on this sudden change in fitness...).
Up to more than half-way in the Vuelta, Froome was clearly having difficulties with his climbing (but in his time trialling as well, losing time from Contador as well as from Valverde): he got dropped with each acceleration from either of the spiteful Three Caballeros, all intent in controlling each other, thus allowing the always dangerous British rival to regain the lost ground through a constant and high pace.
The many accelerations cost treasures of energy for everyone (glycogen) and the three Spaniards really never took advantage of their obvious superiority and eliminate the captain of the Sky early on, who was able in the last mountain stages to impose the selection himself, bypassing Purito and Valverde in the general classification and dragging with him a great Contador, in the end the worthy winner of the GC.
The development of the race has brought back to the fore the issue of "motorized bicycles": the video of Hesjedal's crash has been watched around the world by millions, causing evident perplexity.
Beyond all the interpretations of the event, it's remarkable the absolute silence from the UCI in relation to a problem of which it knows a lot more than it seems.
A problem whose resolution would be facilitated by prohibiting bike changes during the race without sufficient justification and/or reducing the absurd limit on the weight of the bikes themselves.