Warren Barguil of Argos-Shimano has won Stage 13 of the Vuelta at the age of 21 after attacking from a strong escape group with just a kilometre left. The young Frenchman outwitted some big names including a one-time wearer of the Tour de France's yellow jersey, Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale, who finished second, and Belkin's Bauke Mollema, third, to take victory in Castelldefels.
Beforehand, two other men in the break, Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel Esuskadi and Jerome Coppel of Cofidis had attacked inside the closing kilometres, the pair joined with 5km left by Lampre-ISD's Michele Scarponi, winner of the day's combativity award after cresting the Category 1 climb of the Rat Penat out front on his own.
The trio were brought back with a little more than 2km remaining, but in a group bursting with experience, it was the youngest and least well known of them whose tactics carried the day.
Astana's Vincenzo Nibali retains the race lead.
It wasn’t until almost 10km shy of the halfway point of today’s 169km stage from Valls that the men who would eventually form the break that would produce the winner got clear of the peloton.
Several early attacks, including a group of 25 riders, were chased down as the main group kept the tempo high, and a crash after just 10 kilometres would see Movistar’s Pablo Lastras, who broke his collarbone, and Belkin rider Laurens Ten Dam abandon the race.
Pablo Lastras down and out (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
Barguil was one of six riders who got clear 74km into the stage, and they would soon be joined by 12 others, some of whom would be shed on the Alto del Rat Penat, a Category 1 ascent crested some 50 kilometres out.
Scarponi led by 30 seconds going over the top as the race headed back down towards the Catalan coast just south of Barcelona, but was joined by nine fellow members of the break on the descent.
Amets Txurruka leads the break (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
Besides Barguil, Nocentini, Coppel, Martinez and Mollema, also in the mix were Team Sky’s Xabier Zandio, Italian champion Ivan Santaromita of BMC Racing, the Caja Rural rider Amets Txurruka and Movistar’s Beñat Intxausti.
The peloton, initially led by Katusha, had never allowed the escapees too much leeway, and as the break entered the closing 20km its advantage was around 3 minutes, FDJ joining Cannondale in riding hard at the front as they tried to pull it back.
But inside the last 15km, FDJ pulled off the front and the peloton knocked off its previously frantic pace as it became clear the break was going to carry the day.
Missing from the group that contested the finale was Intxausti, who had lost contact with his nine companions after crashing in a tunnel with a little over 10km to ride.
Following his victory, first year pro Barguil reflected on the fact that he had almost abandoned the race earlier this week following a crash: "The crash happened in the neutral zone. It wasn’t like if I had done a mistake. I was pretty disappointed but I didn’t give up.
"My directeur sportif Marc Reef reminded me that our initial plan was to live it day by day.
"I’m really happy that I insisted because now, it’s only joy. In the finale, as we were ten at the front, I’ve told myself: I can’t finish tenth!
"In the team, we have someone who analyses the last 5km with a video, so I knew exactly what to expect. The uphill sprint could have suited me as well but I’ve felt the right moment to go when everyone else looked like resting a bit."
On media reaction to his win, he said: "I don’t know if it’s the birth of a champion. I only know it comes from a lot of work and sacrifices and that it brings happiness. This victory is for my grand-father who died recently. He gives me strength in the legs when I’m on the bike.
Winner of the 2012 Tour de l'Avenir, Barguild revealed that he had noy yet fully mapped out his career. "It’s still a bit early. My first pro season is a year for discovery. I’m happy with the trust I’m given at Argos-Shimano. I’ve been protected and I received a great help before the uphill finishes.
"I hope to have the stature of a team captain but it’s also a question of handling the pressure. I’m not sure about the career plan yet but my dream is to win a stage at the Tour de France."
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.