Vuelta a Espana 2012

5 Sep

Having never watched the full Vuelta a Espana before this year, I don’t know if it is usually so difficult (mountainous) or relentlessly contested, but I’m glad I decided to watch it this year! Especially after a less than exciting Tour de France earlier this summer.

Don’t know if you’ve been following it, but every stage has been raced aggressively with daily attacks by the favorites and top placed riders. There have been no free rides – no deference to the leader’s red jersey – no riding to protect overall position.

This grand tour has had a remarkable display of skill and race tactics throughout the almost 3 weeks of racing. Not to mention the brutal summit finishes and climbs.

279683_412414862141232_836325079_oStage 17 was no exception – except for the brutal summit finish. At the beginning of today the general classification (GC) looked like this:

  • 1. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Katusha, in 63:38:24
  • 2. Alberto CONTADOR VELASCO, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, at :28
  • 3. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, Movistar, at 2:04

At the end of Stage 17 the GC looked like this:

  • 1. Alberto CONTADOR VELASCO, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank, in 68:07:54
  • 2. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, Movistar, at 1:52
  • 3. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Katusha, at 2:28

After the brutal mountaintop finishes – most recently Stage 16 – the top 3 podium spots looked set as the best grand tour this year (and arguably best in many years) was coming to a close. Yesterday was a rest day and today’s Stage 17 was a medium mountain type of stage. Rodriguez and his team Katusha probably started the stage pretty confident.

The 2nd place Contador who has attacked Rodriguez repeatedly in the high mountain stages (of which there have been many) all to no avail, attacked on the 2nd climb today – and caught Rodriguez and Valverde unaware. Contador had teammates in the break up the road and had a former teammate of Astana also help him. Valverde had teammates to support him so was able to make up much of the time gap but Rodriguez was all alone and couldn’t.

Contador held off Valverde and won Stage 17, Valverde took second at just :06 back and Rodrigues finished 10th losing 2:38 to Contador. A race that appeared to be settled was turned upside-down today – fortunately I got to watch it online via Steephill TV and  Eurosport.

A video of the highlights of Stage 17:

It is isn’t easy these days to believe what you see in professional bike racing, but if seeing is believing this one of the finest days of racing you’ll ever see, both in terms of racing and strategy.

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