Five times Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain says he feels that the Vuelta a España remains wide open as it reaches its decisive third week, but, interestingly, Spain’s greatest ever athlete says that Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) could yet “get an unexpected reward.”
“In the front group of favourites any of the top riders could yet win,” Indurain told MARCA on Wednesday, “because there are some very hard stages left to come and Nibali, Horner and Valverde are watching each other closely.
“So Purito and Roche, who are both riding exceptionally bravely – particularly the Irishman – could suddenly strike lucky any day.”
Indurain recognises that general fatigue in what is probably the hardest Vuelta since the infamous 2009 edition is setting in, and that while the rest day will have been welcome for all “you can’t expect miracles [of recovery] to happen in a single day. The ‘bill’ for the [racing in the] Pyrenees is yet to arrive.”
Indurain believes that the how Astana raced on the final climb of the final stage in the Pyrenees, forcing the pace on the ascent to Formigal with Jani Brajkovic, shows that “what happened to Nibali was only a bad day.”
“If he was having more problems, his team wouldn’t have worked so hard,” Indurain reasoned, although others would argue that at times teams make a high pace to dissuade attacks at the front of the bunch when their leaders are actually in trouble.
Rather than the Angliru, in any case, Indurain believes Peña Cabarga’s summit finish on Thursday could be the decisive climb of the race.
“On the Angliru people will go into survival mode,” Indurain told MARCA. “Whatever benefits you get there are more due to your rivals cracking than your own strength.
“On Peña Cabarga, we will see if Nibali was on a bad day on Monday or if it was something more, if Horner is still able to open up the gaps on the climbs, if Valverde is going as well as he seems and if Purito is going to have as good a third week in the Vuelta as he had in the Tour.”