Daniele Ratto soloed in to victory atop the Collada de la Gallina in Andorra in the 14th stage of the Vuelta a Espana. The Italian Cannondale rider was part of a breakaway group which got away 3km into the day, and he took off on his own in the final 45km to take the biggest win of his career. On a miserably cold and rainy day in the Pyrenees race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took second place at 3:53 followed by Chris Horner (RadioShack) for third two seconds later.
Nibali easily retained his overall lead, while seeing a number of his closest rivals in difficulty. Ivan Basso (Cannondale), who had come into the stage in seventh place overall, suffered from hypothermia and withdrew. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), previously third, dropped back and fought hard, but unsuccessfully, to get back to the group on the climb to the finish. Second-ranked Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) struggled on the final climb and lost seven minutes.
Horner's strong ride moved him back up to second place, 50 seconds down on Nibali, and Valverde maintained his third place overall, but is now 1:42 down. Roche dropped to sixth place.
Ratto, 23, had won only one previous race as a pro, the GP Industria & Artigianato di Larciano in 2010. This is only his second year in the WorldTour, having joined Cannondale last year.
"I've been waiting for a big win for three years. It's very important for me and for the team. It's incredible for me," Ratto said, overjoyed to have won the stage.
"The idea was to ride for Ivan today but the way the stage worked out it was ideal for me to go for it. Despite the rain and cold, I felt ok and was able to win."
Ratto was shocked to discover that Basso had retired during the stage due to the cold and rain.
"I didn’t know that. It was very cold and it clearly affected a lot of people. I dressed for the conditions. I'm sorry for Ivan Basso but I did what I could to win."
How it unfolded
The race started at midday in the rain and much cooler temperatures in Baga, on a day which promised few if any flat sections. Only 174 riders were there, as Orica-GreenEdge had the two non-starters of the day in Simon Gerrans and Sam Bewley.
Almost immediately a group formed around world champion and stage 12 winner Philippe Gilbert (BMC). Along with him were Steve Chainel (AG2R), Daniele Ratto (Cannondale) and two Belkin riders, Luis Leon Sanchez and Graeme Brown.
Surprisingly enough, the peloton let this group go. And go they did. After only 45 km of the 155 km stage, the gap had grown to 8:18 as they started up the day's first – and hardest – climb. That was the Port de Envalira, an HC climb which went up to the highest point of this year's Vuelta, 2410 meters. The 26.7 km long climb started out easily enough, but about halfway up showed its teeth, with a gradient up to 15%.
The leading quintet carried their gap of over 8 minutes into Andorra, as the Vuelta left Spain.
Both intermediate sprints were on the ascent, with the first coming at km 59.5. Chainel took it ahead of Ratto and Gilbert. Only then did the “official” climb up the Envalira start, with the lead group taking a 10:35 gap onto the climb. By the time they reached the second intermediate sprint, at km 70.4, Chainel and Brown had dropped back, and the three in front had a gap over the peloton of more than 11 minutes.
Katusha moved to the head of the peloton and turned up the speed, decimating the field on this long, brutal climb. Only about 40 riders were left in the group as it headed to the highest point of the race, and the corresponding 5.5°C temperatures.
Gilbert picked up 20 points by being first over the mountain, followed by Sanchez and Ratto. Chainel and Brown were fourth and fifth. Shortly before the greatly-reduced field came to the summit, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) jumped and secured the remaining two points as sixth.
They all then faced a 20 km descent before the next climb, and the tricky descent and rain caused havoc. Sanchez crashed and abandoned the race, while Ratto moved into the lead ahead of Gilbert. Behind them, the gap dropped to 8:30 and Ivan Basso (Cannondale) was the first of the favourites to have troubles.
The leaders started the next climb, the category 2 Coll de Ordino, with Ratto maintaining a lead over Gilbert, with Sanchez somewhere behind. The pace, course and difficult weather conditions continued to take a toll on the field,which by this point had split into multiple groups.
Ratto and Gilbert conquered the second climb, and the field was now 8:17 back. A group of nine attacked out of that field: Jose Herrado (Movistar), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Igor Anton (Euskaltel), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel), Thibaut Pinot (FdJ), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil). But they were unable to stay away for long.
With 20 km and still two categorised climbs to go, Ratto had two minutes on Gilbert. The new chase group was at 8:05 and the field at 8:40. The cool temperatures and rain continued to make life difficult for them all. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) had difficulties on the descent of the Ordino and fell back.
Ratto kept on going and soloed across the category two Alto de la Comelia. It was a tricky descent in the wet, and even he had problems along the way, putting his foot out of the pedals to take one corner.
Basso's troubles were confirmed when it was announced that he had abandoned the race. He had started the stage in seventh place overall but went close to suffering from hypothermia in the cold. Valverde too seemed to be suffering from the severe weather and was 40 seconds behind the field as the final climb to the finish kicked in.
No fear for Nibali and Horner
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali didn't have anything to fear from Ratto. The Italian came into the stage in 113th place overall, nearly one and a half hours down. Gilbert apparently decided to save his powder for another day, dropping further and further back, over six minutes with only 5 km to go. The group of favourites had by then also dwindled to only 20 or so riders.
That group fell apart on the final climb., and even Nicolas Roche suffered in the end, dropping back.
Horner, Kiserlovski and Nibali were alone in the final four kilometres, with Kiserlovski soon dropped. Horner saw his chance to move back up to the top three, and took advantage of the opportunity. Nibali let the American do the lead work on the way up, every now and then coming up alongside of him as if to let his rival know that he was in no fear of losing time. They caught and quickly passed Gilbert.
Ratto was showing signs of exhaustion on the final way up. The rain was no longer so heavy, but the gradients of up to 15% were hard on his tired legs. He wearily wound his way up the seemingly interminable final kilometer, and still had enough energy to celebrate his win as he crossed the finish line.
The stage was still far from over, though. Horner and Nibali still dueled their way up the mountain, and Valverde, forced into a pursuit match, still struggled to make contact with the riders ahead of him.
As expected, Nibali took off in the final meters to secure second place and the bonus seconds, even managing to build up a two-second gap on Horner, who finished third. Valverde limited his losses better than expected, coming in some 45 seconds later as sixth.
|1||Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||4:24:00|
|2||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:03:53|
|3||Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard||0:03:55|
|4||Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha||0:04:11|
|5||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:04:19|
|6||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team||0:04:43|
|7||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:04:46|
|8||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:05:17|
|10||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura||0:05:21|
|11||Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team||0:05:27|
|12||Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:05:33|
|13||David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:05:40|
|15||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:06:14|
|16||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha||0:06:19|
|17||Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:06:27|
|18||Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard||0:06:44|
|19||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||0:07:05|
|20||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:07:22|
|21||Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing Team||0:07:25|
|22||Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:07:58|
|23||José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team||0:08:08|
|24||Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:08:23|
|25||Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||0:08:24|
|26||Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky Procycling||0:08:31|
|27||Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:09:00|
|28||Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling||0:09:02|
|29||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:09:05|
|30||Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:09:31|
|31||Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar Team||0:09:37|
|32||Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano||0:09:48|
|33||Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha||0:09:59|
|34||Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Katusha||0:11:12|
|35||Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:11:34|
|36||Alex Howes (USA) Garmin-Sharp||Row 35 - Cell 2|
|37||Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:12:30|
|38||Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 37 - Cell 2|
|39||Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp-Endura||0:13:06|
|40||Grégory Rast (Swi) RadioShack Leopard||0:13:10|
|41||Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:13:40|
|42||Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||0:14:34|
|43||Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||0:15:16|
|44||Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||0:15:49|
|45||Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:16:49|
|46||Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 47 - Cell 2|
|49||Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 48 - Cell 2|
|50||Iker Camano (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 49 - Cell 2|
|51||Jose Joao Mendes (Por) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 50 - Cell 2|
|52||Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp||0:18:07|
|54||Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale||0:18:22|
|55||Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Argos-Shimano||0:18:43|
|56||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:18:47|
|57||Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha||0:19:32|
|58||Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling||0:19:58|
|59||Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Movistar Team||0:20:04|
|60||Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Sharp||0:20:20|
|61||Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:20:31|
|62||Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdge||0:20:37|
|63||Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:20:46|
|64||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||0:21:20|
|67||Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack Leopard||0:21:50|
|68||Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:22:19|
|69||Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 68 - Cell 2|
|70||Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 69 - Cell 2|
|71||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling||Row 70 - Cell 2|
|72||Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling||Row 71 - Cell 2|
|73||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack Leopard||0:23:16|
|74||Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Antonio Piedra Perez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Sky Procycling||0:23:31|
|80||Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:23:32|
|82||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team||0:23:33|
|83||Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Caleb Fairly (USA) Garmin-Sharp||Row 85 - Cell 2|
|87||Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:23:37|
|89||Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack Leopard||0:24:27|
|90||Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol||0:24:32|
|91||Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:24:36|
|92||Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:24:45|
|93||Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Argos-Shimano||0:25:03|
|94||Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:25:35|
|95||Stéphane Poulhies (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:25:36|
|96||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:25:44|
|97||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:25:50|
|98||Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:25:54|
|99||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|100||Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|101||Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:26:09|
|102||Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard||0:26:19|
|103||Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:26:22|
|104||Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:27:24|
|105||Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:27:43|
|106||Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:28:12|
|107||David Tanner (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:28:13|
|108||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|109||Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|110||Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:28:58|
|111||Vladimir Isaychev (Rus) Katusha||0:29:12|
|112||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Sky Procycling||Row 111 - Cell 2|
|113||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|114||Baden Cooke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|115||Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 114 - Cell 2|
|116||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|117||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|118||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|