Before this past weekend only two men had ever won the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España in the same year. And nobody had ever done it with the Vuelta coming after the Tour in the current calendar.
For Chris Froome held off the opposition to secure a historic double. Since the start of the Tour and the end of the Vuelta, 72 days had past. In that time Froome raced in Grand Tours for 42 days. And of those, he has spent 32 days in the leaders jersey. It was a remarkable level of consistency of both physical endurance and mental fortitude. It was a fine achievement.
When I last wrote about this Vuelta, almost a week ago, everything was looking good for Chris Froome. He had crashed twice in as many corners that day but his lead stood at 59 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali and nobody had put him in trouble. Indeed, everyone else was starting to fall out of touch. Fast forward six days and you could say that everything still looks good for Froome. But it hasn’t all been easy in the days between.
The stage had everything you don’t wish to see and everything you do, all at the same time. It was a stage full of drama but which, when it came down to the details of the standings, didn’t have a dramatic impact. Cycling can be funny that way. It was the incidents rather than the results that told the story. Cycling can be so often that way.
It would be quite the achievement to win a Tour de France and a Vuelta a Espana in the same year. It would be all the more remarkable to do it without winning a stage in either. The former is still on for Chris Froome, but any hopes of the later, not that he would have held any, vanished yesterday on the summit finish to Cumbre del Sol. It was there that Froome kicked hard inside a horrid final 500m to shatter the last man hanging onto his wheel and take a fine victory. Not even Alberto Contador, so often his match in recent days, could hang on.
I didn’t get seeing much of the stage but when I did turn on I thought for a moment I had traveled back to somewhere around 2009. For there was Alberto Contador, dancing on the pedals and putting everyone into trouble.
They say a solar eclipse can do funny things to animals. Which might explain the reports today of a shark attack in the mountains of Andorra. Over 100km away from the nearest body of salt water as the moon crossed the sun.
The sharks name was Vincenzo Niabli, and it was a predatory attack of stealth precision.. I am speaking of his victory on today’s stage at the Vuelta, of course. Dropped on the final climb he used the descent to make the catch. And once among them he didn’t hesitate. He chewed them up and spat them out, crossing the line with a visible gap; his had mimicking a sharks fin.
Cross winds created a layer of stress today that the contenders could have done without. In the end it didn’t create any major drama though a frantic run in left time gaps measured in the handful of seconds.