Vuelta a Espana 2013: Riders Who Will Threaten Vincenzo Nibali in Stage 15
Heading into the final week of this year’s Vuelta a Espana, Vincenzo Nibali has so far lived up to his favourite tag and has assumed top spot in the rankings.
The Italian has been a relentless force for the rest of the field to fight off over the last fortnight, always maintaining a strong presence at the head of the pack and at no point looking far off the pace.
However, that won’t discourage those still hoping to dethrone the 2013 Giro d’Italia champion from his place at the tour’s summit, with a few key names looking more likely to do so as we approach Sunday’s Stage 15 outing.
Coming into this year’s Tour of Spain, Alejandro Valverde was another firm favourite being tipped for the title, and he hasn’t failed to stake a convincing claim of his own.
The Spaniard could only manage a sixth-place finish in Saturday’s Stage 14 trip from Baga to Andorra’s Collada de la Gallina, however—almost a whole minute behind Nibali, who was a distant second to Daniele Ratto.
That being said, such a result may work in Valverde’s favour by making the 33-year-old more aware of the time deficit he now faces.
As things stand, Valverde is in third place, one minute and 42 seconds behind leader Nibali, but with only three mountain stages left after Sunday, the climber will need to make more efficient use of his energy.
A constant bane to Nibali’s lead in recent weeks, Christopher Horner is somewhat of a surprise feature among this year’s leaders.
The 41-year-old hasn’t won anything since moving to the RadioShack Leopard team in 2012, but is keeping some good hopes alive of ending that drought on the Iberian Peninsula.
Fabian Cancellara posted his support for his squadmate after seeing him win Stage 10:
Horner has even gone so far as to take the red leader jersey for a few days in this summer’s tour, so who’s to say the American isn’t capable of doing so with another fine performance in the mountains this weekend?
As things stand, Katusha rider Joaquim Rodriguez sits in fourth place in the overall standings, nearly three minutes off the pace being set by Nibali.
The Tour of Spain has been a fine mistress to the Barcelona native in the past, with Rodriguez winning seven of the competition’s stages since 2003.
On Sunday’s climb from Andorra to Peyragudes, as many as four peaks will test the 34-year-old to see just whether he’s up to the challenge of maintaining his pace.
Yet to win a stage this year, Stage 15 could provide a challenge that some will find a bit of a shock, but Rodriguez is no stranger to the task. His experience of the terrain could lend him a massive hand.
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