The Vuelta a España has reached the third week. The first two weeks brought a lot of drama. We’ve got the usual suspects fighting for the outright victory: Contador as the favourite, Valverde, Rodriguez and Froome trailing him.
While the Colombian cyclists started as favourites, dominating screenplay in the first week, none of them are in contention for the victory anymore. Nairo Quintana crashed out (see sidebar). Rigoberto Uran dropped out of the top 10 after a good start, saying he had a virus. Colombian Winner Anacona won the ninth stage after a long break, shaking off his competitors on the rain-soaked climb to the summit Valdelinares.
Esteban Chaves got off to a good start, but just like his compatriots, lost chunks of time in the latter stages. Carlos Betancur was the talk of the town after the second stage. In a photo that became public, his beer belly gave away his physical state and his chances for the rest of the vuelta.
With the Vuelta a España to finish on Sunday, September 14, the next big event is already in sight. The world championship road racing in Ponferradina, Spain, will be held between September 21 and September 28.
Colombia – currently number six in the per-nation world ranking – will, in absence of Quintana, put forward Rigoberto Uran as the team leader in the road race. With all the European-based Colombians present to assist him, the team looks strong enough to go for the win.
“I was riding right next to him,” recalled Alejandro Valverde after Nairo Quintana’s spectacular crash, which resulted in a shoulder blade fracture that put him out of the race. “Then somebody fell, right by his side. He couldn’t avoid falling. Half a metre to the left and it would have been me.”
So much training, every day, thousands of kilometres in all kinds of weather. Tons of suffering, eating what’s important for your sporting performance not what you like. Limiting beers, sleeping at the right hours. And then the bitter inevitability of the race, a fickle stroke of bad luck, not once, but on two occasions.
First, during one of the umpteenth bends in the race, Nairo went in a bit too fast and ended up in the barriers, somersaulting onto his back. It was during a crucial time trial and he lost more than three minutes. The next day, another fall. Face on the road, the end of the season. How could one feel at that moment?
“You just enjoy the moments when things go well and you try to recover quickly after you fall and you look forward to next races and seasons,” said Quintana afterwards, showing a lot of maturity despite his young age. The injury put an end to Quintana’s season, but he already has his sights set on the Tour de France 2015.
By Arek Peryt