The thousands of spectators who lined the 22% slopes of the climb could have pulled back, stopped for a moment and looked around from their 360 degree view, perched at the top of Cuitunigru. They could have fully immersed themselves in the splendor of the view of the mountains of Asturias, jagged and barren, rockes propelling towards the clouds. But… they didn’t. Instead, they were intently focused on the riders, clawing so slowly and painfully up the wall that stood between torture and respite. For Dario Cataldo, he was the winner bringing glory to him Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, but perhaps more importantly, he finished, he was the first to get it over with. Over the line Cataldo collapsed onto his bike, unable to move or interview for minutes. Just behind him, moving at a walking pace, turning himself inside out to catch the Italian was Thomas DeGendt, finishing just 7 seconds later.
By the time Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde got to the obscene slopes of Cuitinigru just over 2 minutes in arrears, the tension, the dynamism and the no holds barred shootout between the trio had built to an explosive fervour. The Spanish fans were rabid, and Contador and Rodriguez were ready, willing and trying to blow one another off the mountain. Contador, again, as was the case in the previous two stages, attacked relentlessly. Over and over again. Alberto tried in vain to crack Rodriguez. Valverde was a step below as in previous stages not able to handle the duo’s pace, but continuously clawing himself back to their wheels. Within the final hundreds of metres, Rodriguez went, and stomped his authourity on the red jersey, showing Contador that not only could he handle all the attacks, but he could counterpunch too, finishing third on the stage gaining the last crumbs of bonus time and putting a small gap into Contador. With one mountain stage remaining, the podium becomes clearer.
Viva La Vuelta!
Stage 16 Top Five
1. Dario Cataldo (OPQ)_______5h18’28”
2. Thomas De Gendt (VAC)______+7″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)____+2’39”
4. Alberto Contador (STB)_____+2’41”
5. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)___+2’58”
Complete Stage Results: La Vuelta Official
Overall Classification after 16 stages
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (KAT)_______63h38’24″
2. Alberto Contador (STB)________+28″
3. Alejandro Valverde (MOV)______+2’04″
4. Chris Froome (SKY)___________+4’52″
5. Daniel Moreno (KAT)__________+6’58″
6. Robert Gesink (RAB)__________+7’28″
7. Andrew Talansky (GRM)________+8’28″
8. Laurens Ten Dam (RAB)________+9’00″
9. Igor Anton (EUS)_____________+9’11”
10. Nicolas Roche (ALM)_________+11’44″
Complete Overall Classification: La Vuelta Official