Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde experienced what is probably going to be his worst day in the Vuelta a España yesterday. Rain and cold temperatures of stage 12 taking the riders from Burgos to Suances, as well as a tricky descent off a Cat. 2 climb put an end to his GC hopes.
With about 50 kilometres to go, while the bunch was still descending the Alto del Caracol, Valverde was riding towards the back of the strung-out field. Maybe he misjudged the situation, as the peloton had been taking things slowly on the wet roads of the stage's downhills – in any case, he explained later that he had been getting a rain coat at his team car, which is why he delayed from the front. Teams Astana and Euskaltel seized their chance and put on a tremendous rhythm, which made the peloton split in several groups.
In the end, Valverde lost 3'23 minutes, and thereby the Vuelta on a transitional stage which should have been without consequences on the overall classification. Yesterday, the Caisse d'Epargne leader left the finish area in Suances without commenting, but his teammate Oscar Pereiro, himself an experienced Grand Tour racer, couldn't hold back: "A man of his category and experience should not lose the Vuelta on a stage like this. Once again, a stage race slips through his fingers because of a crappy mistake," he told Spanish media.
Astana leader and Vuelta favourite Alberto Contador was happy to have distanced his direct rival. "Of course I'm glad that we could take time back on Valverde," he said after the race. "I don't understand how he could be so inattentive but that's cycling. You have to be at the front of the race. I am happy, and happy as well with the work of my team. They all worked so hard. Because of their work today they have been able to make a time difference with Valverde that gives me peace of mind."
Team CSC-Saxo Bank's Carlos Sastre, who came to the finish line within the first group and thus took Valverde's fourth placing at 1'38 minutes off the leader, resumed what happened: "I've said many times that you can't win the Vuelta a España in one day, but you can lose it in a day. [Yesterday], we saw how a stage that theoretically should have seen the whole group come in together or some breakaway, became a super fast, super nervous and super dangerous stage – in which, if you just fell a little bit back and were not in an opportune situation, you could lose all of your opportunities, like it was the case of Valverde."
Even though Sastre's teammates did not specifically help in the pulling of the front group, Sastre said it had been a good day for him, even if it had been tiring. "It was a hard and cold day, especially in the descent of the Lunada climb. It was in no case an easy stage, as the differences were made in the downhill. However, I didn't feel bad descending, I was always in the front. I was there too when the splitting happened, once it was known that Alejandro was behind and two teams raced flat out to increase the advantage. I came to the finish with the best, and continue my way in this Vuelta."