Rein Taaramae of Cofidisthis afternoon clinched the French team's second stage win of this year's Vuelta on the summit of La Farrapona, but the real drama was unfolding behind as Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome again blew the GC group apart, just as they had done on the climb up to La Covatilla last Sunday. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali was among those dropped, losing more than a minute to the British pair. The British pair now lie 1st and 2nd overall, a fitting tribute to Team Sky carer Txema Gonzalez, who died a year ago today during the 2010 Vuelta.
This morning, race leader Wiggins held just a 4-second advantage over the Sicilian in the overall standings, with Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff and Leopard Trek’s Jakob Fuglsang also both within 20 seconds of him, and many had predicted that the red jersey would change hands today.
On the day’s penultimate climb, the Category 1 Alto de San Lorenzo, it certainly seemed as though that was a realistic prospect, with Wiggins, accompanied by Froome who had started the day third overall, seemingly unable to stay with a fast pace being set at the front of the GC group on that ascent by Katusha and Leopard Trek.
Then, on the final climb on a road clearly resurfaced specially to greet the Vuelta for the first ever time, the Team Sky pair bided their time before moving to the front of the group they were riding with and, just as they had done to great effect last weekend, set a tempo that some of their chief rivals were just unable to stay with.
One by one, riders with aspirations to the podium in Madrid next Sunday were dropped from the group, only Denis Menchov of Geox-TMC and Bauke Mollema of Rabobank, who now lies 3rd overall, 36 seconds behind Wiggins, able to stay with them, plus Wouter Poels of Vacansoleil, who nipped ahead to clinch 4th on the stage.
The first pair of riders onto today’s final, 16-kilometre climb, Taaramae and the Geox rider David de la Fuente, were the last two members of what had been a 17-man breakaway group which had got away early on in today’s stage.
Further back, Juan Jose Cobo, whose 8th position on GC made him the best-placed Geox rider, attacked off the front of the group containing the overall contenders, and de la Fuente dropped back to help him.
That left the way clear for the Estonian Taarmae to solo his way to his first Grand Tour stage win, with Cobo and de la Fuente taking second and third. Team mate and former Vuelta winner Denis Menchov also got into the top 10, finishing 8th today.
The 12 bonus seconds that Cobo got for finishing second were enough to elevate him to 4th overall, 55 seconds behind Wiggins, but the biggest loser today was undoubtedly Nibali, who lost 1 minute 21 seconds to the Team Sky man and slid to 7th position overall.
BMC Racing’s Kartsen Kroon and the Garmin Cervelo rider Sep Vanmarcke, both involved in today’s early breakaway, crashed over a barrier into a gully during the descent from the day’s first climb, the Category 2 Puerto de la Ventana.
Helped back to up to the road by the nearby spectators, Vanmarcke was able to continue but BMC subsequently confirmed that Kroon had been taken to hospital as a precaution, his Vuelta over.
Vuelta Stage 14 result 1 TAARAMAE, Rein Cofidis 4h 39' 01'' 2 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC + 25'' 3 DE LA FUENTE, David Geox-TMC + 29'' 4 POELS, Wouter Vacansoleil-DCM + 40'' 5 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky + 45'' 6 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky + 45'' 7 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 45'' 8 MENCHOV, Denis Geox-TMC + 45'' 9 NIEVE, Mikel Euskaltel-Euskadi + 55'' 10 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 1' 00'' 11 PARDILLA, Sergio Movistar + 1' 12'' 12 LAGUTIN, Sergey Vacansoleil-DCM + 1' 15'' 13 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 1' 17'' 14 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 1' 18'' 15 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 1' 24'' 16 MARTIN, Daniel Garmin Cervelo + 1' 37'' 17 ZAUGG, Oliver Leopard Trek + 1' 40'' 18 SEELDRAYERS, Kevin Quick Step + 1' 40'' 19 SÖRENSEN, Chris Saxo Bank-SunGard + 1' 42'' 20 MAJKA, Rafal Saxo Bank-SunGard + 1' 48'' Vuelta Overall Standings after Stage 14 1 WIGGINS, Bradley Team Sky 55h 54' 45'' 2 FROOME, Christopher Team Sky + 7'' 3 MOLLEMA, Bauke Rabobank + 36'' 4 COBO, Juan José Geox-TMC + 55'' 5 FUGLSANG, Jakob Leopard Trek + 58'' 6 KESSIAKOFF, Fredrik Astana + 1' 23'' 7 NIBALI, Vincenzo Liquigas-Cannondale + 1' 25'' 8 MONFORT, Maxime Leopard Trek + 1' 37'' 9 VAN DEN BROECK, Jurgen Omega Pharma-Lotto + 2' 16'' 10 MORENO, Daniel Katusha + 2' 24''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.