By Susan Westemeyer and Hernan Alvarez
Inclement weather didn't stop 31 year-old Andreas Klier of T-Mobile from overpowering Tom Stamsnijder (Gerolsteiner) on the way to the finish line in stage 13 of the Vuelta a España. On a day when there were no changes in the overall standings, the two battled it out for the stage win, comfortably ahead of the main bunch which had more trouble negotiating the slippery roads in treacherous weather conditions.
Klier proved he was back in action and recovered following a training crash involving a tractor this spring. He had suffered a broken cheekbone and a severe concussion.
The two, plus their dropped break-away companion, Jérémy Roy (Française des Jeux), finished roughly four minutes in front of the peloton. Daniele Bennati of Lampre beat out Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) by a whisker to take the sprint of the field.
Although the forecast was for partly cloudy with only a chance of showers, much of the stage ended up being ridden in a heavy to torrential rain, with a little hail thrown in. The rain and wet roads caused a number of crashes and mechanical problems.
"Today there were so many crashes," said Rubén Lobato. "The rain made the road slippery. In a bend we touched the brakes, and I went down with De la Fuente. Fortunately, it was only the fall itself, as nothing serious happened to us. We all escaped the mass crash occurring later on. It was impressive. They'd said it would be a transition stage, but it's been one of the toughest days. It was so rainy that we couldn't see with our glasses and all, we couldn't eat either."
Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse D'Epargne), a native of the region, told TVE, "I have never seen so much rain here. There were rivers of water; it was impressive. We were lucky because we didn't have to be sorry for any crash."
Karpin Galicia's Ezequiel Mosquera said, "The problem here is that it rains and the road is full of water and it's very dangerous. It doesn't rain much here, and when it does, the road is truly an ice field. There were moments when it was nearly impossible to stay standing on the bike."
"It poured down and riders were crashing left right and center," said Kim Andersen according to team-csc.com. "A couple of our guys were involved and Michael Blaudzun suffered the worst damage with an open wound on one knuckle. It doesn't look good and we'll have to wait and see if he's able to carry on. Because of the storm the stage really took a dramatic turn for the peloton even though the break decided the winner. The terrible rain made it quite dangerous out there and although the riders tried to be careful a lot of them still ended up face down."
Saturday's stage 14 will run 207km, the longest stage of the Vuelta, from Puerto Lumbreras to Villacarrillo (Parque Natural Sierra de Cazorla). The riders will be going up and down all day, although there are only four ranked climbs, all category 3.