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(Cancellara is even contemplating going for gold in the Worlds road race), expect fireworks in Italy next week.
Despite slowly losing his grip on the overall lead during the Vuelta tough final week, Astana Vincenzo Nibali has to be counted among the winners after finishing second in a tour many thought he came to underprepared. And by following up his victory in May Tour of Italy with a podium place in Spain, the Italian has now twice won a Grand Tour and finished on the podium in another in the same season (he won the 2010 Tour of Spain after finishing third in that season Tour of Italy). Nibali now heads home to rest before taking the starting line in Florence at the World Road Race Championship next weekend. Then next year, a Tour de France showdown with Chris Froome awaits.
While his third place finish at the Tour de France was a career best for Katusha Spanish climber, one has to wonder what Rodriguez might Nike Jacket White have done in the Tour of Spain had he arrived without the French Grand Tour in his legs. After all, the Vuelta organizers gifted the climber with a course tailored to his strengths and the best he could muster was a fourth place finish. Time is running out for the rider who has nine top 10 Grand Tour finishes on his resume. The question now remains: If he couldn win this one, can he win one at all?
2013 Tour of Spain Winners and Losers
With a seemingly endless string of summit Nike Windrunner Yellow
The Basque squad won no stages, and its best placed rider was Samuel Sanchez, in eighth place overall. In fact, the only thing the orange clad team won on the road was the Team Classification relatively minor accomplishment considering the importance of the race for the team Spanish supporters. But the team took a big anyway after it was announced during the Vuelta first week that Formula One star Fernando Alonso would be stepping in to save the squad for the next several seasons. For many riders on the team roster, it was career saving news.
2014, Farrar was left home during the Tour de France and needed a solid Vuelta to show potential suitors that he still has the speed to compete at the World Tour level. After a lackluster performance, doubts still remain.
Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin each came to the Tour of Spain to build form for their upcoming battle in the World Individual Time Trial Championships next Wednesday. And if their performances are any indication, expect another classic battle. Omega Pharma Quick Step Martin drew first blood after a long solo breakaway saw him come agonizingly close to taking a road stage victory in Stage 6. Six days later, RadioShack Leopard Cancellara got the better of Martin in winning the Vuelta only individual race against the clock. With both men in the form of their lives Nike Windrunner Red Blue
After facing two seasons of questions thanks to its wild card invitations to the Tours of Italy and Spain, Team NetApp Endura used this year Vuelta to prove to the world that it deserves a place in the world most prestigious races. Leopold Koenig, a 2013 Tour of California stage winner, led the way for the German squad with a mountaintop stage win and a top 10 finish overall. The success will mean more race invitations for the Pro Continental squad less head scratching when they accepted.
The French have traditionally fared well in the Spanish Grand Tour, and this year was no different. Argos Shimano Warren Barguil kicked things off with a dramatic win at the end of the Stage 13 first of two stage victories for the former U23 World Champion. Alexandre Geniez and Kenny Elissonde each won impressive mountain stages for FDJ, while team captain Thibaut Pinot shrugged off his dismal Tour de France with a top 10 finish overall. Last but not least, Cofidis rider Nicolas Edet took home the Mountains Classification for his French team.
In winning the 2013 Tour of Spain, RadioShack Leopard Chris Horner became the oldest rider ever to win a Grand Tour (he almost 42) and the first American to win the Spanish event. Just two months ago, Horner season looked to be a disaster: A knee injury kept him out of the Tour of California and the Tour de France, and the Tour of Utah was his only race preparation before the Tour of Spain. But after two stage wins and a calculating, tactical performance in which he consistently stayed within 60 seconds of the overall lead, Horner has once again proved his value. And that a good thing for the American as he still without a contract for 2014. Let the bidding begin!
Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin
or uphill finishes, this was not a Vuelta suited to sprinters. In the end, only three stages were decided by large group sprints and of those, hybrid sprinters who were able to handle the preceding hills emerged victorious. The biggest loser might just be American Tyler Farrar. Still without a contract for Nike Grey Long Sleeve
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