Stage14 was all about the summit finish at Sierra de la Pandera.
It’s known as the ‘Angliru of the south,’ certainly to those with an interest in promoting the race, which admittedly only makes sense if you know something about the Angliriu.
Type it into your search engine of choice; in fact, why not mix things up a bit and ‘Bing’it.
No, forget that; book a budget flight, head across to Spain, and have a ride up the Angliru yourself. It’s the only way you’ll get a proper feel for it.
Okay, done that?
Great. Tough, isn’t it?
So now you know what ball park the Pandera is in; we’re talking steep slopes (15%+) at high altitude (1800 metres at the summit). That’s quite a combination. For the Eurosport commentators, they managed to steer admirably clear of the word ‘brutal.’
They settled, instead, for ‘hurt.’
As the road climbed higher they were entering the ‘zone of hurt.’ The right-hand turn onto then sketchy and ragged tarmac of the climb proper was the ‘turn of hurt.’ This, of course, led them right into the ‘suffer area,’ and as the road steepened up in Angliru-esque fashion, commentator Carlton Kirby started to really unfurl his descriptive playbook.
“Nibali is looking calm, and hasn’t quite thrown a whitey yet…Haig is checking up on his leader Chaves, who’s just about OK…Bardet looks like he’s rocking and rolling a bit now…Aru is not in the best place, struggling in the back end….it’s a crazy climb this one, really gnarly…Zakarin tries to issue some hurt…Aru’s not looking to pretty from this angle…in fact It’s not pretty from any angle when it’s Aru…”
It was attack and counter attack, between Bardet, Nibali, Contador, Chaves, Lopez, and one or two others. Chris Froome kept a beady eye on proceedings and saw no reason to do more.
But Rafal Majka was the main event. The last remaining member of the day’s breakaway, he attacked solo in the final ten kilometres but with a lead of less than two minutes.
“It’s a brave effort…you can’t fault him for commitment…it’s going to take something monumental…the peloton are very much bearing down…”
In other words, he hasn’t got a chance. The main group will catch him and divvy up the win for themselves.
Majka, meanwhile, maintained the gap. Skinny and upright on the bike, head shaking in time with his pedal stroke, and Kirby and Sean Kelly started to hedge.
“If he keeps this up for the next four kilometres or so he’s got a chance…if he can get through the next three without haemorrhaging time…is he about to have his heart broken…can someone pass me the ketchup to have with this hat…”
Majka held on to win. Kirby (presumably) did eat his hat.
Lopez snuck away to take secod place. Nibali got grumpy with anyone within arm waving distance, but pipped Froome to gain a tiny handful of bonus seconds. Kelderman was there. Contador wasn’t far back.
The faces of the rest as they dribbed and drabbed across the line – Chaves, Bardet, Aru, Van Garderen, Zakarin – did indeed show ‘hurt.’
(Top Image: Sierra de la Pandera – via letour.fr)