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Vuelta Stage 20: Best of Doom vs. Fab

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Where we find out the answer to the threshold question... who wins?

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Jaime Reina, AFP/Getty

Stage 20: San Lorenzo de El Escorial - Cercedilla, 175km

Time to decide matters, presumably once and for all. It's tough to imagine anything changing on the streets of Madrid, though Tom Dumoulin and his amazing cronoman pedigree are capable of just about anything at this point. Here is a list of the closest grand tours in history, and what made them great races.

1984 Vuelta: Eric Caritoux, by four seconds over Alberto Fernandez Blanco

Caritoux took over the lead on stage 12 from a then-24-year-old Pedro Delgado, on the Lagos de Covadonga stage. That gave him a lead of 32 seconds over Fernandez, who twice reduced the gap in time trial stages but got it no closer than the final six seconds following the ITT on the penultimate day.

1989 Tour de France: Greg LeMond, by eight seconds over Laurent Fignon

I've carried on about this race enough for one year. Well, one summer anyway. Let's just say that it ended all hope of me not being a huge cycling fan.

1948 Giro d'Italia: Fiorenzo Magni, by 11 seconds over Enzo Cecchi

This is one of races that has to be re-lived to be believed. Also, cycling is like politics in that, as crazy as you think stuff gets nowadays, that's a conceit based on direct experience. If you go back and read up on what our forefathers, in politics, cycling, and probably everything else under the sun, were up to... Seriously. Life is so much tamer now.

The 1948 Giro contained the following elements:

  • a Coppi vs. Bartali showdown, and all the machinations you can and should associate with that
  • a lot of other notable riders of that era, starting with Giordano Cottur, who led the race for the first eight days
  • a breakaway stage where the big names finished 13 minutes behind the eventual winner (oops)
  • a flat by Vito Ortelli, costing him the lead
  • a battle between Cecchi and Magni colored by Magni's team lining the Pordoi with fans who allegedly pushed the Classics specialist over the pass...
  • which led to Coppi quitting the Giro in anger
  • and, of course, Spy-gate level arguments about whether any of the last two facts were true or decisive (e.g., fans were pushing everyone that day, etc)
Read all about it here and in this great book. Anyway, Magni clawed back nearly five minutes from Cecci on the Pordoi stage, reversing an over two-minute deficit to 11 seconds, after a two-minute penalty for assistance. For emphasis he won the sprint into Milan, in case anyone was having trouble accepting him as the winner. Which they were, and probably still do.

Stage Details

Madrid beckons from just beyond the hills...

stage 20 map

If today was advantage Doom, this stage swings back in Aru's favor. Granted, there were some odd events leading to speculation that maybe Aru wasn't feeling great today, but assuming he's up for a fight Saturday, this is what he's looking at:

st 20

The Navacerrada is an old favorite but it's too early, as is the first (tougher) pass of the Puerto de la Morcuera. Here are the final two slopes:

Puerto Morcuera

and at last...

Final climb of the Vuelta

The numbers speak for themselves. Nowhere is there a climb where Dumoulin is sure to get waxed by Astana, particularly given how well he's going, but neither can Aru complain that he didn't have a chance.

Implications:

General Classification:

Vuelta red jersey

Your Vuelta a Espana wrapped up in one final event, senores y senoritas.

Points Classification:

new Vuelta green

More J-Rod vs Valverde, as Purito retained his two point lead today. I wonder if it'll come down to a sprint in Madrid, which Valverde can insert himself into and maybe J-Rod can't?

Mountains Classification:

Vuelta KOM jersey

There was some discussion in yesterday's preview about which riders have held a jersey for an entire grand tour. Obviously the list is not nothing, but in modern times it's rarely done. Congratulations on joining the list, Omar Fraile.

Combined Classification:

Vuelta white jersey

No change in the I Can't Believe It's a Classification.

Who'll win?

Honestly I bet you Dumoulin wins the stage and salts away the Vuelta. He just looks so solid now.