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Italian sprinter makes it into early breakaway and emerges as the strongest on an epic, rainy day in the Pyrenees while Horner and Nibali battle each other on the final mountain

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson




07.09.2013 @ 17:12 Posted by

Daniele Ratto (Cannondale) benefited from epic weather conditions and became a surprise winner of the first big stage in the Pyrenees  in this year's Vuelta when he emerged as the strongest from a 5-rider breakaway. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Chris Horner (Radioshack) went head to head on the final climb with the Italian edging slightly ahead inside the final 200m while the GC saw a major shake-up as several riders fell out of GC contention due to the treacherous conditions.


Few would have predicted a sprinter to win the first Pyrenean stage of this year's Vuelta but Daniele Ratto defied expectations by taking a beautiful solo win on Collada de la Gallina in the Pyrenees. Ratto made it into a 5-rider breakaway as soon as the flag was dropped and battled the rain and cold to come out as the strongest from an epic survival battle.


The Italian left behind none other than world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) on a day where the weather turned the usual climbing hierarchy upside down. Luis-Leon Sanchez (Belkin) who was also part of the break, crashed on a descent and was forced to abandon due to hypothermia (low body temperature) in the extreme cold.


Several GC riders struggled in the cold and Ivan Basso (Cannondale) suffered the same cruel fate as Sanchez. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff), Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Daniel Moreno (Katusha) all lost plenty of time due to the brutal conditions.


Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Horner were not too bothered by the cold and once again underlined that they are the strongest climbers in the race. Horner tried to ride away from his Italian rival but couldn't get rid of the race leader as the two riders rode up the final climb side by side.


Horner did most of the work in the duo but inside the final 200m, Nibali made a small acceleration to take 2nd on the stage, 2 seconds ahead of his American rival. Those two riders now also occupy the top 2 positions on GC with Nibali sitting 50 seconds ahead of Horner.


Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was dropped on the penultimate descent and appeared to have lost all GC hopes but the Spaniard recovered impressively to overtake several riders on the final climb. He finished 6th and remains comfortably in 3rd place on GC.


The riders will have to go through it all once again tomorrow when an even longer stage in the Pyrenees is scheduled. 224,9km and 4 mighty mountains await the peloton on a day where more cold is expected and another shake-up of the GC may be in store.


A tough stage

The 155,7km 14th stage was a brutal one and send the riders up the highest mountain of the entire race at its midpoint before finishing with two category 2 climbs and a category 1 ascent to the finish line. The stage was plagued by cold and rain with the temperature at the top of the Port de Envalira being only 5 degrees.


Surprisingly, there was no big fight to get into the breakaway and the first attack was the successful one. Sanchez, Ratto, Gilbert, Graeme Brown (Belkin) and Steve Chainel (Ag2r) attacked as soon as the flag was dropped and those 5 riders were allowed to build up a massive 12.30 gap over the peloton in which Astana was content to set a gentle pace.


The break falls apart

Brown sacrificed himself for teammate Sanchez in the valley and as soon as they hit the big Port de Envalira climb, he fell off the pace. A little later, Chainel also lost contact while Gilbert, Sanchez and Ratto cooperated well to crest the summit in the front positions.


Joaquim Rodriguez lives in Andorra and had red-circled this stage as a clear target. Hence, he asked his teammates to take control on the ascent and the Russian squad whittled down the main peloton to just a 40-rider group. Just before the top Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) attacked to take the KOM points as the 6th rider across the line.


Sanchez abandons

Drama unfolded on the descent when Sanchez crashed and later abandoned the race due to hypothermia. Gilbert fell off the pace and kept losing time to Ratto who proved his strong descending skills.


Moreno and Basso both fell off the pace on the descent as Luca Paolini (Katusha) guided the peloton down. The Italian was so fast that he drew a small group clear, the Italian being joined by teammate Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Jose Herrada (Movistar) and Vasil Kiryienka (Sky). When they started to climb the first of the category 2 climbs, Coll de Ordino, the group fell back to the peloton.


Basso abandons

Moreno returned to the main group while Basso was forced to leave the race. Meanwhile, Radioshack hit the front and joined forces with Katusha, the two teams gradually reducing the size of the bunch. They brought back Brown and Chainel, leaving just Ratto and Gilbert up the road.


Euskaltel had big plans and so they launched an attack, creating a 9-rider group with Igor Anton, Egoi Martinez, Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel), Amets Txurruka, David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Herrada, Thibaut Pinot  (FDJ), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) and Alex Howes (Garmin). However, that move was quickly neutralized as Katusha and Radioshack continued their hard pace-setting.


Valverde is dropped

Surprisingly, Valverde fell off the pace on the descent and as they started to climb the Alto de la Comella, he was 40 seconds behind. Supported by teammate Herrada, he gradually overtook several riders that fell off the pace from the main group which was led by Gusev and Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha).


Once again, Txurruka attacked to take the remaining points but was quickly reeled in. Astana and Katusha combined forces to safely negotiate the tricky turns with Jakob Fuglsang hitting the front in the valley that led to the final climb of the day.


Kiserlovski does the damage

When Ratto started the 7km climb, he was still 9 minutes clear and it was now evident that he would go on to win the stage. Radioshack showed their intentions by putting Robert Kiserlovski on the front and the Croatian severely whittled down the main group.


Suddenly, only Vasil Kiriyenka (Sky), Pinot, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural), Rodriguez, Horner, Kiserlovski and Nibali were left in the main group while Valverde had left Herrada behind and was now only 15 seconds behind the best riders. Kiserlovski put in his last big effort and only Nibali and Horner could match his speed.


Horner attacks

Finally, Horner launched his attack but he was unable to drop the race leader. Rodriguez and Sanchez formed a chase duo while Pinot and Pozzovivo combined forces a little bit further behind.


Horner did most of the work but Nibali appeared to be in no difficulty at all. They overtook Gilbert and continued past the world champion as they tried to maximize their time gains.


Ratto takes the win

Nobody was, however, going to catch Ratto who took a beautiful solo win. With less than 200m to go, Nibali accelerated to take 2nd ahead of Horner while Rodriguez dropped Sanchez with one of his trademark attacks to take 4th.


Valverde had done an impressive job to catch Pinot and Pozzovivo and he even left the duo behind to cross the line in 6th. Cold and wet riders continued finishing their race for a long time on one of the most epic stages in recent Vuelta history.



1. Daniele Ratto 4.24.00

2. Vincenzo Nibali +3.53

3. Chris Horner +3.55

4. Joaquim Rodriguez +4.11

5. Samuel Sanchez +4.19

6. Alejandro Valverde +4.43

7. Thibaut Pinot +4.46

8. Domenico Pozzovivo

9. Mikel Landa +5.17

10. Leopold König +5.21


General classification:

1. Vincenzo Nibali 53.56.49

2. Chris Horner +0.50

3. Alejandro Valverde +1.42

4. Joaquim Rodriguez +2.57

5. Domenico Pozzovivo +3.43

6. Nicolas Roche +4.06

7. Thibaut Pinot +4.34

8. Leopold König +5.42

9. Daniel Moreno +6.28

10. Tanel Kangert +6.45


Points classification:

1. Alejandro Valverde 102

2. Daniel Moreno 98

3. Nicolas Roche 89

4. Joaquim Rodriguez 75

5. Chris Horner 74


Mountains classification:

1. Daniele Ratto 30

2. Philippe Gilbert 26

3. Chris Horner 22

4. Vincenzo Nibali 17

5. Nicolas Roche 15


Combination classification:

1. Chris Horner 10

2. Vincenzo Nibali 12

3. Nicolas Roche 14

4. Alejandro Valverde 16

5. Daniel Moreno 20


Teams classification:

1. Astana 161.08.27

2. Euskaltel +4.43

3. Movistar +8.32

4. Saxo-Tinkoff +11.40

5. Katusha +15.30



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