Collado de la Gallina – not routine but full of surprises

Yesterdays ascent to the Collado de la Gallina in Andorra  in stage 8 of the Vuelta a España 2012 was described in El Pais by saying

there is nothing more beautiful than the surprising, the unexpected, the unpredictable.  And routine only provokes tiredness. And cycling is surprise, amen of being tiring,  or it’s not cycling, only routine.

Allowing for what is lost in translation, that does sum up yesterdays stage and in particular the last climb up the Collado de la Gallina which was full of surprises and devoid of routine.  This climb was described by the TV commentators as  Andorras’ Alpe d’Huez, as it winds its way up the mountain side with classic hairpin bends it does look like a smaller version of the famous French climb. The difference is that although it is shorter at somewhere over 7 km of climbing it is a whole lot steeper with ramps of 23% if the TV commentary was correct.

And it produced  a fascinating finale to the stage with first an electric attack by Valverde who appeared to escape but was then dragged back by gravity re-join the bunch. Then immediately a counter-attack by Froome who broke clear dragging Contador along with him. It then appeared it would be between these two riders but Contador refused to do any work in spite of Froome almost coming to a complete stop on the steepest sections of the climb.

So Froome and Contandor where caught again by the bunch, which by now was reduced to being a bunch of six that included the red jersey Rodríguez as well as Valverde. As they reached the steeper sections at the top of the climb Froome tried to get away at least twice before Contador made what appeared to the definitive escape dancing away from his three rivals and distancing them by quite a gap. Froome tried to bridge the gap and seemed to be getting away from the the other two riders then almost in the last 300 metres Valverde and Contador counter-attacked and swept past Froome who suddenly appeared to be standing still then they swept up to Contador with Valverde diving in the last corner to take his second stage.

It was fine attacking cycling and lovely to watch, in the end Froome lost some time, Valverde surprised everyone at least twice, Contador looked strong and inscrutable, and Purito Rodríguez kept the red jersey. So the Vuelta a España 2012 continues and there is no clear leader, we no wait for the time trial on Wednesday to see whether Froome will take some time back from Rodríguez and whether Contador can take time from Valverde.


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