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Launching a strong attack on the steep ramp in the finale, Navarro held off a select group mostly made up of GC riders to take the biggest win of his career; Contador marked his rivals and defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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DANIEL MORENO

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DANIEL NAVARRO GARCIA

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WILCO KELDERMAN

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05.09.2014 @ 17:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) enjoyed the most beautiful moment of his career when he became a surprise winner of a hard stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana. In a tricky finale, the Spaniard launched a strong attack on short, steep climb and managed to hold off a select group mostly made up of GC riders to take a solo win while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) stayed with his rivals and defended the overall lead.

 

Daniel Navarro is known as a strong climber but the Spaniard has never been a prolific winner. Today he took a rare victory on the biggest scene in his home country when he denied the fastest riders in a tricky and hectic stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana.

 

On a stage that was expected to suit both puncheurs and fast GC riders, the Spaniard again proved his aggressive mindset when he responded to an attack from Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) on a short, steep climb inside the final 3km. Having bridged the gap, he left his Italian rival behind and crested the summit with 1.5km to go with a 5-second gap over a 15-rider group that was mostly made up of GC riders.

 

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) had created the selection by accelerating hard on the steepest section but when the group reached the flat section, there was no agreement. Katusha and Belkin were the only teams with more than one rider in the group and they didn’t want to bring Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to the line for a guaranteed sprint finish.

 

Instead, Daniel Martin (Garmin), Chris Froome (Sky) and Robert Gesink (Belkin) tried to attack but Valverde attentively shut everything down. Meanwhile, Navarro extended his advantage and when he passed the 500m to go sign, it was evident that he would take the stage win.

 

Daniel Moreno (Katusha) launched a strong attack and this time Valverde didn’t respond. While Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) took off in pursuit, the Spaniard got close to the Cofidis rider but the reaction had come too late.

 

Navarro held off his chasers and had plenty of time to celebrate the biggest win of his career while Moreno sprinted across the line for second. Kelderman took third while Valverde won the sprint for fourth.

 

The big surprise was Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) who managed to stay with the GC riders in a finale that had been too tough for the likes of Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE). The Frenchman even managed to move into position for the sprint and finished the stage in fifth.

 

Earlier on he had shown his intentions as hid FDJ team had brought back a very strong five-rider break after Orica-GreenEDGE who had led the chase all day, had blown up. In the end, however, he had to settle for a minor placing.

 

For Alberto Contador, the day panned out as he had hoped as Valverde didn’t take any bonus seconds and so he defended his 20-second lead over his compatriot. He faces a big test in tomorrow’s mountain stage which offers a short, very steep climb to the finish. After a flat start, the riders go up two big climbs before a long, flat section leads to the bottom of the final ascent.

 

A tricky stage

After what seemed to be like almost a rest day for most of the peloton, the Vuelta a Espana continued with a tricky stage that was expected to be very fast. It brought the riders over 188.7km from Belorado to Parque de Cabarceno in Obregon and could be split into two. The first half was completely flat but in second part, the riders tackled three categorized climbs. The final 47km were mostly downhill or flat but with 2.5km to go, the riders hit a short 1km climb that was followed by the final mostly flat 1.5km.

 

All 190 riders who finished yesterday’s stage took the start under beautiful sunny conditions. Everybody expected that a breakaway would have a good chance in the stage and so the start was extremely fast. After 3km of racing, a 14-rider group got clear and they fought hard to build an advantage.

 

A big break

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Jay Thomson (MTN-Qhubeka), Peter Sagan, Paolo Longo Borghini (both Cannondale), Yaroslav Popovych, Jasper Stuyven (both Trek), Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida), Stef Clement (Belkin), Johan Vansummeren (Garmin), Marcel Aregger (IAM), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caha Rural), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Damien Gaudin (Ag2r) and Vegard Breen (Lotto) were 20 second ahead at the 9km mark but Movistar were chasing hard. The Spanish team tried to send Jonathan Castrovejo across but the Spaniard never made the junction.

 

Vansummeren lost contact with the front group and a little later, Popovych and Aregger were also dropped. At the 15km mark, the remaining 11 riders were 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.

 

Europcar leads the chase

The bunch briefly slowed down and allowed the gap to reach 1.10 but now Europcar realized that they had missed the move. The French team started to chase hard and in a long battle, the gap remained at around a minute for a long time.

 

However, the French team started to lose the battle and after 33km of racing, they were 2.02 behind. That prompted them to give up and the gap reached 3.17.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE take control

This was the signal for Orica-GreenEDGE to kick into action. Working for Michael Matthews, the Australian team had brought the gap down to 2.43 at the 50 km mark.

 

For a long time, the gap remained stable at around 2.45 and when Clement led Longo Borghini and Cunego across the line in the first intermediate sprint, the escapees were still 2.43 ahead. At this point, Murilo Fischer (FDJ) who crashed yesterday, abandoned the race and a little later, Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto Belisol) also stepped into his team car.

 

The gap comes down

When Sanchez led Breen and Cunego over the top of the first climb, the gap had come down to 2.33 but they made use of the descent to increase it to 2.50. As they have started to climb the second ascent, their advantage was just 2.20.

 

Sanchez led Cunego and Clement over the top while Cameron Meyer was riding really fast for Orica-GreenEDGE in the peloton. As they started the final climb, the gap was only 1.40.

 

Lutsenko attacks

This was the signal for Lutsenko to launch an attack and he got a small gap before Cunego, Sanchez and Wyss bridged across. Sagan and Gaudin followed a little further back and while the Slovakian blew completely up, the Frenchman managed to make the junction.

 

The quintet reopened their advantage 20 2.05 while Simon Clarke and Sam Bewley were now the only riders working in the peloton. They quickly brought Sagan and the rest of the chasers back while the peloton started to splinter to pieces.

 

Bewley blows up

Gaudin was briefly dropped by his companions but managed to rejoin them and the quintet was still together when they crested the summit. Near the top, Bewley blew up, leaving just Clarke to finish off the chase.

 

Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and later Maxime Mederel (Europcar) attacked from the peloton before Clarke led the bunch over the summit with a deficit of 2.03. Docker returned from the middle of the peloton and he and Clarke led the peloton down the descent.

 

FDJ take control

At the bottom of the climb, the gap was 1.30 and Mederel and Mate were now brought back. However, Orica-GreenEDGE had blown up and after a very short-lived effort from Movistar, Sergio Paulinho hit the front for Tinkoff-Saxo.

 

The Portuguese had no intention of bringing the break back and this allowed the gap to grow to 2.10. That was when Bouhanni decided to give it a go and he asked Cedric Pineau (FDJ) to up the pace.

 

Lutsenko tries again

The Frenchman was joined by Anthony Roux and Johan Le Bon and that completely changed the stage. With 15km to go, they had brought the gap down to just 45 seconds and it was clear that the break was doomed.

 

Lutsenko launched an attack and quickly got a gap. Gaudin took off in pursuit and briefly dropped Cunego and Sanchez but the chasers found back together.

 

The break is caught

However, there was no cooperation and as Bart De Clercq (Lotto) and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) started to chase, they were brought back with 10km to go.

 

The fight for position was now fierce and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) sprinted ahead of Valverde to pick up the final bonus second behind Lutsenko and Gaudin who was still ahead at that point. Cannondale now took over the pace-setting and when Docker and Clarke again hit the front with 6km to go, Lutsenko was caught.

 

Brambilla attacks

Tinkoff now took over with Matteo Tosatto and Daniele Bennati before Sergei Chernetskii (Katusha) led the peloton into the crucial right-hand turn that signaled the start of the final climb.

 

A Cofidis rider launched a brief attack but he was quickly caught by the peloton led by Alesandro De Marchi (Cannondale). Gianluca Brambilla (OQPS) was the next to try and he got a nice gap.

 

Navarro makes his move

Navarro now made his move and he quickly passed the fading Brambilla. Behind, Rodriguez was riding ahrd on the front to create a selection and at the top a 15-rider group was in pursuit of Navarro.

 

Martin launched an immediate attack and alter Froome made a move. Valverde shut both attempts down while Robert Gesink responded to an attack from Martin.

 

That’s when Moreno and later Kelderman made their moves and they managed to get clear. It was all too late though as Navarro held on to take a solo win.

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