Vuelta Travelogue - Quintessential Spain
Stage 10, Sept. 4th,
La Vail d'En Bas to Ordino Arcalis (Andorra), 206.3 km
Into the Mountains
A short transfer from Lloret takes the race to the stage start in Girona (a famous base for many elite American riders) in the foothills of the Pyrenees for two days of very serious classic Spanish climbing. One Category 2 and two Category 1 climbs on Stage 10 lead the peloton into the wild and rugged terrain up the Categoría Especial (above category) climb to the legendary principality of Andorra at 2,220 meters (7,283 feet).
Andorra is an independent principality that proclaims itself to be Europe 's number one tax haven. Tucked high up in the Pyrenees, it has long been on the road between Spain and France, with often questionable activities being orchestrated out of the area. Its current tax status has its roots back in the Spanish Civil War days, when food, equipment and ammunition were smuggled from France through Andorra. This flow reversed itself during World War II when materials were smuggled from Spain into Nazi-occupied France for the resistance.
SPECIAL NOTE: For cycle racing fans, Andorra is the site of one of the most famous legends in the sport. In 1964 the Tour de France stayed in Andorra for one of its rest days. While everyone else rested and went for the customary ‘training ride,' Jacques Anquetil attended a barbeque held in his honor. A great lover of the good life, Jacques ate too much good food, washed it down with liberal quantities of alcohol and smoked to relieve the tensions of the race. The next day, soon after the start, the race encountered the fearful Port d'Envalira. Anquetil was soon in trouble and the rest of the field reacted. His principal rivals attacked en masse. At the top, Anquetil was more than four minutes back and on the verge of abandoning. His team manager and teammates would have none of it. Under great duress, he plummeted like a madman from the top of the Envalira and eventually reconnected with the leaders. This saved his race and, after the famous duel with Raymond Poulidor up the Puy de Dome several stages later, he rode into Paris to become the first five-time Tour de France winner.
After 206.5 km of racing through the Pyrenees Mountains a 5 rider breakaway sprinted for the stage win. The Categoría Especial finishing climb to the ski station at Ordino Arcalis, Andorra held the excitement of the day.
Large early breakaways were unsuccessful as the parcours of the stage proved to be too much. Rabobank delivered race leader Denis Menchov to the base of the final climb with only one remaining rider away. At the 9 km to go mark the fireworks began. Carlos Garcia Quesada (Comunidad Valenciana) and Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) broke away with the Golden Jersey group closing the gap quickly.
Final 5 rider seletion under the 2 km banner ( Image © Unipublic )
Roberto Heras changed to tempo to test the legs of Menchov. Slowly the chasing group of 10 was reduced to 3 as the junction with the 2 leaders was made under the 2 km to go banner. Heras attacked again, Menchov followed his wheel. Mercado attack and Heras answered, but Menchov was still present.
Heras ups the tempo with Menchov close ( Image © Unipublic )
Heras started the uphill sprint and gained what looked like the win gap. But Franciso Mancebo found something extra and drove past Heras for the stage win. Race leader Menchov rolled in a close third behind Heras and held onto the Golden Jersey for another day.
Stage winner Francisco Mancebo ( Image © Unipublic )
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