By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historian



Also read:

La Vuelta: A Colorful
& Caliente History

Vuelta a Espana Champions
Living and Dead









Vuelta Travelogue - Anticipation and Trepidation

Stage 17, September 13th, Adra to Granada, 166.7 km

The Lion's Court

Today's stage starts in the delightful holiday resort Town of Adra which is the western-most coastal town in the province of Almeria. The town is surrounded by magnificent beaches and is rich in history, having been founded in the 8th Century. Adra remains a working fishing harbor and favorite tourist destination. Leaving this relaxing and tranquil spot the race traces the Mediterranean coast for about 15 km before turning inland and another day of challenging climbs.

Image © Unipublic / Google

The stage finishes in Granada which must be one of the most famous of all towns and cities in Spain. Its history goes back to prehistoric times but it is possibly most well known as the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.

There is much to see in Granada but it is the Alhambra that attracts most visitors. This series of palaces and gardens were built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th Century. The mighty compound of buildings - including the summer palace called Generalife, with its fountains and gardens - stands at the foot of Spain's highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada and overlooks the city below and the fertile plain of Granada.

Standing in this architectural gem today it is hard to imagine that the entire complex was neglected for centuries. While many had visited and looted the palaces it was not until the American Wallace Irving arrived here in the late 1820's that the Alhambra started to make a long recovery to its present glorious condition. Irving 's Tales of the Alhambra more than anything else contributed to the fame of Moorish Spain and Granada , as well as the saving of the legacy of Alhambra.

Granada - the Lion's Court in the Alhambra

Within the Alhambra there is a particularly spectacular area known as the Lion's Court' and it takes a thick skin to not feel the ancient atmosphere of this magical place. Irving 's own words captured the spirit perhaps of not just the Lion's Court but of all historical Spain with these words:

"It is impossible to contemplate this scene, so perfectly Oriental, without feeling the early associations of Arabian romance, and almost expecting to see the white arm of some mysterious princess beckoning from the gallery, or some dark eye sparkling though the lattice. The abode of beauty is here as if it had been inhabited but yesterday."

For the riders of the Vuelta there will be little time to contemplate the glory of Spain past and the beauty of Spain present, for they face a challenging and mountainous route with two Category 1 climbs and one Category 3 climb. Unlike yesterday the finish is relatively flat having made the final ascent of the day over the Alto de Monachil (1510m), which includes ramps up to 13%, some 20kms before the finish.

It would seem that if you want to race in the Vuelta then you need to get up early every day and get out doing a solid warm up ride. Again today the attacks started from the gun. With only 15kms from the start to the beginning of the Category 1 Alto de Albondon many riders were inspired to create ‘the break of the day'. The most interesting escapees at this point were Pietro Caucchioli (Crédit Agricole) and Egoi Martinez (Discovery) who are conducting a terrific battle for the ‘Mountains Jersey'. At the summit of the Albondon Martinez won the sprint from Caucchioli and as a result both riders became equal on mountain points. While these two grappled for the Mountains Jersey two other interesting riders were also very active in the escape action on the mountain. Tom Danielson (Discovery) who appears to be coming into his own in this final week of Vuelta racing and David Millar who had a dismal day yesterday on the way up to Calar Alto .

Martinez and Caucchioli on the Alto de Albondon ( Image © Unipublic )

Recognizing the quality of the lead group, Alejandro Valverde accompanied by his ‘Royal Court of Pretenders' to the Vuelta throne, split from the front of the peloton on the ascent. Already it was clear that he was being put under massive pressure by endless attacks on the long descent. In spite of the high powered action behind them, the lead group continued to extend their advantage over Valverde and company.

The next obstacle, coming at 86kms, was the Category 3 Alto de Lanjaron . While Danielson was the best placed GC rider up front, his 8:05 minute deficit was not yet of concern to the chasers. However it is dangerous to allow a rider of his quality too much. With Danielson's six-man group 3:00 minutes up at the base of the Lanjaron one can be sure that team managers were back in their cars feverishly mapping out their immediate short term tactics. But plan as they may Danielson's group crested the Lanjaron with another 42 seconds added to their advantage. The Discovery rider was challenging for fifth place on GC.

There followed a rolling 50kms of road to the final major climb of the day, the Category 1 Alto de Monachil. With about 20 kms to the climb Danielson's group was hovering at 4:25 minutes ahead of Valverde's group who in turn were about 3:40 minutes ahead of the main peloton. Danielson looked extremely good causing Team CSC behind him to hit the front of the group ‘en masse'.

The CSC juggernaut quickly trimmed the bunch down. Several of Valverde's teammates were the first victims of the torrid pace. All hell broke loose as Kashechkin attacked and Valverde looked to be in trouble. At about the same time Danielson rode away from his breakaway. Kashechkin, Piepoli, Marchante and Luis Perez formed a chase and began to ride away from the Valverde bunch. A few kilometers later Valverde attacked with only Vinokourov and Sastre able to go with him. Now we were treated to a “no-holds-barred” section of racing with the Vuelta hanging in the balance.

Danielson rode away from his breakaway comapnions ( Image © Unipublic )

While the thrust and counter-thrust was in full play behind him, Danielson was now alone and riding strongly to the summit. Just over 1km before the top of the Monachil Vinokourov put in a massive attack that left Valverde and Sastre for dead. Over the top Vino caught the remnants of Danielson's break (Paulihno and Goubert). Valverde meanwhile put in a tremendous effort to reach Vino and drop Sastre in the process.

As the leaders screamed down the mountain at 80km/h, Vino had fire in his soul. He attacked like a madman to catch Danielson. With 12km to go Vino was 31 seconds behind Danielson and 13 seconds ahead of Valverde. At 9km to go gaps are 17 seconds and 45 seconds. Vino caught Danielson with 5km to go with the Valverde group 44 seconds back. At this point Vino needed about another minute to take Valverde's Golden Jersey.

Danielson and Vino quickly formed an alliance. Together they set about turning the race on its head. The two fugitives, in full flight, were now heading for home as desperation drove the chasers behind them. This was bike racing at its best. Into the final km Vino hammered like a man possessed in order to squeeze every possible second out of Valverde.

Stage win for Discovery's Danielson ( Image © Unipublic )

Danielson won the sprint and Vinokourov claimed the Golden Jersey of race leadership. From his attack near the top of the Monachil to the finish line 23kms later, Vinokourov took 1 minute 38 seconds out of Valverde who now trailed Vinokurov by 9 seconds on General Classification. If these guys have anything left in their legs, then tomorrow's final mountain stage and the TT on Saturday will be a ‘battle royale '.

"How Sweet it is!" ( Image © Unipublic )

Almost forgotten in the excitement of the fantastic race for the GC today was the earlier battle between Martinez and Caucchioli for the climber's jersey. They finished the day on equal points. Consequently tomorrow should see real fireworks between these two. This Vuelta is certainly not over yet in any of the classifications.

The manner of Vinokourov's claim to the Vuelta throne was in a style that would have greatly appealed to the rulers and warriors of times past. Now pausing on the road to Madrid , Vino would most certainly have been welcomed as an honored guest within the Alhambra to enjoy the secret pleasures of the Lion's Court.


Return to Vuelta ToC >>> Previous Stage >>> Next Stage >>> Return to GT ToC


All materials are property of CyclingRevealed and Copyright © 2006-2018
unless otherwise noted

Home | Contact Us





Vuelta a Espana 06
(Click to enlarge)