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Cannondale’s Daniele Ratto prevailed as many another man failed — among them team leader Ivan Basso — on stage 14 of the Vuelta a España.
Ratto won the 155.7km stage from Andorra to Collada de la Gallina in atrocious conditions that saw Basso, Luis Leon Sanchez (Belkin) and others abandon, suffering from hypothermia or crashes on rain-slick roads.
After getting into the break of the day and then leaving it behind with more than 40km to go, the young Cannondale rider took the victory by nearly four minutes over race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who dogged Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) all the way up the final leg-breaking ascent and then nipped away to take second place. Horner held on for third, two seconds later.
“We were working for Ivan,” said Ratto, who added that he didn’t know Basso had abandoned. “We wanted to get into a breakaway, so I was in a good situation. I was feeling good in the breakaway. I feel good in the rain. It doesn’t bother me.”
That being said, the 24-year-old was taking few chances on the descents, throwing out first one leg and then the other as a counterbalance in the corners.
“It was so dangerous, if I wasn’t doing that, I would have crashed for sure,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done before. I did it in the Giro as well. It gives me more confidence and a bit security. It’s like the motorcyclists do it. I feel more stable.”
Nibali continues to lead the Vuelta while Horner moved back into second at 50 seconds. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who lost ground on a descent earlier in the stage, fought back in the finale to finish sixth on the day at 4:43 and hold third overall at 1:42.
“Today was another step forward, but nothing is finished yet,” said Nibali. “I made some gains on Valverde and [Joaquim] Rodriguez, but they have strong teams, and they are still there.
“Horner set a very high rhythm and I preferred to stay on his wheel. There are still some hard stages to come, so it’s important to measure the effort. Today was very difficult, with the wind, the cold, the rain. Tomorrow will be even harder.”