Joaquim Rodriguez would like a bit more Vuelta
Perhaps irritated by Chris Horner’s habit of making him sound like he’s from Turkey or somewhere, “Hakim” Rodriguez finally found the zip he seems to have been lacking for most of the Vuelta and won stage 19 with one of his vertical sprints. Just as in the Tour, Purito appears to be coming into his best form just as the race draws to a close.
I hope he wins. His persistent bridesmaidery in the Grand Tours is becoming painful to witness. He’ll have to shake all three of his main rivals and put two minutes into Horner in order to emerge on top. It’s highly unlikely, but at least he’s got the kind of terrain where he can have a damn good go at it. Joaquim Rodriguez loves a summit finish.
If you didn’t follow yesterday’s stage, you’ll have been struck by my references to Chris Horner in the previous section. Vincenzo Nibali lost another six seconds to him yesterday and therefore ceded the red jersey.
I still feel like Horner’s a bit too American to win this, even if his cheery optimism is somewhat endearing. He’s the overwhelming favourite now though and even the Angliru shouldn’t pose too much of a problem as he’s been climbing better than Vince Nibbles and Alejandro Valverde in recent days and has a significant lead over Rodriguez. One potential issue that’s been highlighted in a couple of places is that stage 20 might be wet and this combined with the steep ramps of that final climb might make Horner’s standing climbing style impractical as he might lose traction. It’s an odd little thing, but worth watching out for.
I know I’ve been going on about it all race, but the Angliru really is something. It’s up there with the hardest climbs in professional cycling. It’s certainly harder than anything that appears in the Tour. Here’s the stage profile and here’s the Angliru in detail.
It all comes down to this. May the best man win. And may that best man be referred to as “Hakim” by the guy who comes second.