Hesjedal will be happy to make the headline for racing reasons, having been accused of ‘motorised doping’ earlier this week. Somewhat ironically, he seemed to gain the advantage of motorised vehicles through the camera bikes that clogged up on the climb’s narrow roads, but the gradients of La Camperona were so steep that his brief bit of drafting was unlikely to have been any help.
The Canadian emerged from behind the moto to overtake Oliver Zaugg (Trek Factory Racing), who had attacked at the onset of the steepest section and looked on course for victory. But Hesjedal timed his effort to perfection, and caught the Swiss rider just a hundred or so metres from the finish line.
Froome also benefited for intelligent judgement of his efforts. At the start of the steepest section he was dropped when Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked, but the Briton clawed his way back up shortly after, and helped set a pace that the Spaniard couldn’t live with – so much so that by the top of the climb, Froome finished 29 seconds ahead of him.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Contador and Fabio Aru (Astana) coped better, however, and only lost one, seven and nine seconds respectively. Nevertheless, they may be ruing having not put more time into Froome earlier, as he now seems back to something like his very best form.
The big loser of the day was Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), who finished over a minute behind Froome and slips to fifth in the general classification.
No bonus points were on offer at the finish for the GC riders, as a group of twelve who broke clear earlier in the stage were allowed a six minute gap heading into the bottom of the La Camperona by a non-committed peloton.
From that group, Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rurual) claimed enough mountains classification points to take over the lead in that competition from his teammate Luis Mas.
The onset of the difficult climbing also prompted a few abandons, among them Peter Sagan (Cannondale), who will now continue to get into top shape for the upcoming world championships.
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage 14: Santander to La Camperona. Valle de Sabero, 200.8km
1. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp in 5-18-10
2. Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Tinkoff-Saxo at 10 secs
3. Imanol Erviti (Spa) Movistar at 30 secs
4. Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) Katusha at 39 secs
5. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka at 42 secs
6. Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 52 secs
7. Romain Sicard (Fra) Europcar at 1-44
8. David Arroyo (Spa) Caja Rural at 2-02
9. Carlos Verona (Spa) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-15
10. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 2-36
Overall classification after stage 14
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 54-20-16
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 42 secs
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-13
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-29
5. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-07
6. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 2-15
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing at 3-26
8. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 4-14
9. Winner Anacona (Col) Lampre-Merida at 4-36
10. Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Sharp at 4-37
Internet video clip of Garmin rider Ryder Hesjedal’s stage seven Vuelta crash led to stories of his ‘motorised’ Cervelo
Solo move up steep final ascent sees Cofidis rider Daniel Navarro take the win