This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Warren Barguil (Team Argos-Shimano) claimed the biggest win of his career with victory on stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana from Valls to Castelldefels. The 21-year-old attacked from a break with one kilometre remaining and held off a late surge from Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) to win the stage, while race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished safely in the main field and retained his 31 second advantage over Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff).
Barguil may have been one of the least experienced riders in the late ten-man move that included Nocentini, Mollema, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Beñat Intxausti (Movistar), Ivan Santaromita (BMC), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida) but the 2012 Tour de l'Avenir winner timed his attack to perfection.
With the leaders strung out and exhausted from a fraught day of attacks, Barguil launched his move just as the group reformed one last time before the long uphill drag to the finish. In the few seconds of hesitation that followed he opened up enough clean air to distance himself from the break and hold on for the win.
Barguil has already delivered a number of strong performances on his grand tour debut, with two top tens in the opening half of the race, and his win in Castelldefels owed as much to his timing as it did to his pure talent.
How it unfolded
The early exchanges were marred by a crash after ten kilometres, with both Pablo Lastras (Movistar) and Laurens ten Dam (Belkin) crashing out of the race. Both men recently re-signed for their respective teams and they were joined on the sidelines soon after with David De La Cruz (NetApp-Endura) forced out due to a knee injury.
Those left in the race carried on towards Castelldefels and another uphill finish in this year’s race. Such was the desire to stir the race into life and infiltrate the main break that it took almost 60km of racing for the main move to establish itself.
Mollema, clearly not in the same form that saw him crack the top ten in the Tour de France, led the first successful move and brought Txurruka, Barguil, Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Iker Camano (NetApp-Endura) and Nocentini with him. What looked like one of the strongest breaks in this year’s race so far was provided with valuable reinforcements when Beñat Intxausti (Movistar), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Ivan Santaromita (BMC), Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol) and Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) joined the cause.
The escapees rocketed towards the foot of the Alto del Rat Penat with three minutes in hand on the bunch. The climb itself whittled down the leaders to a more selective group. GreenEdge and then Katusha led the peloton but it was Scarponi who was doing the damage on the front of the race.
The Italian, who hasn’t won a race since being retrospectively handed the 2011 Giro d’Italia crown, lashed out a vicious pace at the head of the break and led over the climb. With 50 kilometres still to race he wisely sat up but his efforts had reduced the leaders to Nocentini, Barguil, Mollema, Santaromita, Txurruka, Coppel, Martinez and Zandio.
Katusha had burnt up their matches on the climb and Vincenzo Nibali ushered his men to the front on the descent. A more sensible pace from the head of the peloton saw the lead stretch out to over three minutes as up ahead the final nine organised a working collaboration.
Cannondale, FDJ and finally Omega Pharma QuickStep attempted to revitalise a chase of sorts but with 10 kilometres to go, and the break still over two minutes clear, the stage was lost.
Intxausti crashed on a corner with 8km to go, ruling himself out of a chance to win his second Grand Tour stage of the year.
Coppel and Martinez were the first to roll the dice and break the fickle harmony of the break and when Scarponi scampered up to the pair, it briefly looked as though the stage’s top three would be settled.
However the Vuelta is never predictable and Zando and the rest of the chasers were able to reel the leaders back.
Coppel, clearly not wanting to wait for the sprint attacked once more with 2.2km to go. Barguil briefly showed his hand, jumping across with Zandio and Nocentini as the line drew ever closer.
When Mollema and Txurruka dragged the whole group – minus Intxausti - back together there was a slight easing in pace, but sensing a moment’s hesitation, Barguil seized the moment to steal his gap and with it a Vuelta debut to remember.