Ryder Hesjedal motors up final climb

Ryder Hesjedal got in the break, stayed away and paced himself well up the steep final climb to take victory on stage 14. The odd thing is that this is his first win since 2012 when he won… the Giro d’Italia.

It’s easy to forget that Hesjedal has a Grand Tour to his name. He’s a very good rider – and on a bike, he’s undeniably the best Ryder – but he’s not someone who’s always up with the leaders in three-week races. In fact, this was partly how he won the Giro. His rivals assumed he would eventually crack – but he never did.

On the slopes of La Camperona, he appeared to ambush Oliver Zaugg who had ridden alone at the head of the race for most of the climb. Suddenly, with just a couple of hundred metres to go, Hesjedal materialised from behind a motorbike, an unnervingly short distance behind Zaugg. A few meaty shoves of the pedals and he shot right past.

Chris Froome paces himself

Hill climbing advice for amateurs always hinges on pacing yourself. Start steadily because if you do too much too soon, you’ll never recover – that’s what they say. Maybe the pros should do a bit of reading.

La Camperona is steep and then steepens, but yet Alejandro Valverde thought he would put in an attack early on. He was soon reeled in by Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez who followed with slightly less urgency. Soon enough, Valverde was behind them, never to be seen again.

Valverde was still ahead of Chris Froome though. In this race, other riders simply do not exist to Froome. While pro cyclists often talk about riding their own race, few actually have the ability to let rivals ride away from them without even trying to respond. Froome, however, just watched everyone go. Or at least he would have done, if his eyes hadn’t been locked on his stem.

So his race was over. Apparently. But maybe we should have paid more attention to his toing and froing on the stage 11 summit finish. Froome has adopted a method and it’s not a bad one. Everyone else can thrust and parry and punch and counterpunch and he’ll just pace himself and meet them at the finish once they’ve stopped playing games.

A kilometre from the finish, perhaps utilising the same teleportation portal as Hesjedal, there was Froome, back with the main contenders. And oh, now he’s attacking. While he only gained seven seconds on Contador, what’s far more important is that he finished ahead of him.

Carlos Betancur watch

Those Colombians, eh? They love the steep stuff. Betancur loved this finish way more than both Sébastien Turgot and Andrew Guardini, who were the only riders he beat. This means than even Jimmy Engoulvent has overtaken him in the general classification and only Matteo Pelucchi is keeping him from bottom spot by the small matter of 27 minutes.

Stage 15

Typical Vuelta fare. Largely flat and then a big mountaintop finish. Here’s the profile.

The Tour of Britain

This starts today and being as it’s my home tour, I’ll try and cover it somehow – although I’ve no idea how. Let’s just see what happens, eh?

Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel are the headline names, but watch out for Steve Cummings from the Wirral, who is leading Team BMC. Cummings was looking really good early in the season, winning the Tour of the Mediterranean and finishing second in the Tour of Dubai. If he’s back in form, I think he could do well.