This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) claimed his second stage win in this year's Vuelta a Espana, out-sprinting Sky's Rigoberto Uran on stage 16 from Graus to Aramón Formigal. The Frenchman attacked on the slopes of the final climb of Formigal and despite a brave fight back from Uran, the Frenchman edged out his rival in a desperate lunge for the line.
In the battle for the overall, Vincezno Nibali (Astana) conceded time to all his major rivals. The Italian cracked inside the final three kilometres as Chris Horner (RadioShack), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) all went on the offensive. Nibali still leads the race.
Barguil's first stage win to Castelldefels demonstrated his willingness to take race by the scuff of the neck, and that skill was evident once again on stage 16. Not content with merely following, the 21-year-old attacked on the lower slopes of the final climb. Clearly enjoying the form of his life, he opened up a lead of 30 seconds on a chase group containing far more established and experienced climbers and even when Uran dragged himself up to the Frenchman's wheel with 1000 meters remaining, he refused to buckle. Not even the fast approaching chase from Bartosz Huzarski (Team NetApp-Endura) and Dominik Nerz (BMC Racing Team) could force Barguil into a panic and when Uran opened up for the line it looked as though the Colombian would have enough to win. However Barguil, winner of the Tour de l'Avenir last year, moved to the Sky rider's left to cement his place as the revelation of this year's Vuelta.
Lower down the climb, Nibali appeared to have his rivals under control when Alejandro Valverde launched an attack. Using his last teammate in the chase, Nibali merely had to control rather than gain time. Rodriguez was the first to bolt, quickly linking up with a teammate who had survived the day's earlier break.
Valverde, Horner and Pinot were next as Nibali, for the first time this week, showed that this race is far from over. Although he recovered slightly he had lost 22 seconds to Horner at the summit, and now leads the race by 28 seconds from the American. Valerde remains in third at 1:14.
All roads lead to Formigal
Thirty-seven years ago, the Vuelta visited its first summit finish with the 15km climb to Formigal. No quarter was given to the sentimental and nostalgic as the opening hour of racing saw multiple attacks. An early move including (Lotto Belisol), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) was briefly allowed to dangle off the front of the peloton but Movistar, looking to seize every opportunity for Valverde quickly helped to nullify the break.
Astana, mindful of Movistar's aggression, quickly established a tempo fast enough to dissuade further attacks and with 50 kilometres covered the peloton were still as one.
Eventually a move did go clear. Unsurprisingly, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) was at the heart of things and the former Euskaltel rider was joined by Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Dominik Nerz (BMC), Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo-Tinkoff), Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura), Rigoberto Uran (Sky) and Martin Kohler (BMC). On the Cotefablo, they established a lead of 1:20 but Movistar, having missed the move, dispersed Benat Ixtausti and Sylvester Szmyd.
Drawn out once more, Astana were forced to establish their control, but the break only became stronger
Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge), Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Niki Sorensen (Saxo-Tinkoff), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Juan Manuel Garate (Belkin) made the connection.
A lead of 2:30 with 27 kilometres remaining quickly became 3:10 in little under a kilometre. Cue Euskaltel moving to Astana's aid. The Spanish team, who have yet to win a stage in their swansong tour, have a healthy chance of winning the teams' classification and mindful of Movistar's numbers up the road, had to do everything to limit their losses.
The break itself, swelling to over 20 riders, hardly epitomised collaboration. Uran drifted around, waiting for his opportunity, while only a handful of riders truly committed to the cause.
Garate attempted to instigate another assault and was briefly joined by Barguil and Cherel. Barguil was like a young pup, bounding up to any move that hand even a hint of succeeding but with nine kilometres to go and after his move with Garate and Cherel had been neutralised, he attacked alone.
The final climb, needed someone with a cool head if the varying pitches in gradient were to be conquered from so far out. While the Frenchman swiftly opened up a lead of 34 seconds Txurruka, Uran and Nerz began to fight back.
Uran made a solo attack soon after and although Nerz tried to match him, the BMC rider was forced to ride at his own pace. Roche and Rodriguez were now attacking Nibali's resolve but all eyes were on Uran as he churned his way up to Barguil with one kilometre to go.
Most neo-pros would have cracked, having seen their advantage decimated in such a fashion but Barguil hung on when Uran attacked straight after the catch, and allowed the apparently fresher rider to set the pace. With 100 meters to go, as Huzarski inched towards the pair, Uran unleashed what he must have thought was his winning sprint, but Barguil hung on and came through for the win inside the closing meters.