The Helta Skelta Vuelta rides again.
It’s the grand tour nobody can control or predict, a full gas loco-a-go-go.
Today on stage 17 Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) did the unthinkable and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) did the inadvisable. After three brutal summit finishes, this was supposed to be a relatively simple day for Rodriguez and El Pistolero was expected to rest up for one final do-or-die effort on Bola del Mundo.
That was the script everyone had in hand but this isn’t the Giro or Le Tour de France. Contador bridged up to a break containing several teammates and then shocked Rodriguez by sling-shooting past them and riding into red at the top of Fuente De. He put 2:38 into Rodriguez who finished in 10th, crushed and stunned.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was slow to react but at least he had the legs to go after Contador. He would get within about 6 seconds of Contador and jump into second place on GC. Sadly, after 13 days in red, “Purito” had the dread jours sans or whatever they call it in Spanish. He watched his entire Vuelta go up in cigar smoke. Twisted Spoke feels genuinely bad for the little guy who has worked so hard and been so lively. We expect he will give everything on the Bola del Mundo to salvage some pride.
Contador, however, showed the world that yes, he is the greatest stage racer of his era — just in case anyone had forgotten during his 2 year — really six month — doping suspension. He may still be missing that extra gear but it was hard to tell, given his daring and ruthless attacks.
The fall of the likable Rodriguez makes his remarks of yesterday more than a little prophetic. ”If I seem so calm about what I’m doing it’s because I keep on expecting Contador to beat me,” said J-Rod. A day later Contador did just that on Fuente De.
Nobody expected that except perhaps Joaquin Rodriguez.