Ezequiel Mosquera (Xacobeo-Galicia) is poised for one of the biggest upsets in recent cycling history if he can topple Vincenzo Nibali and his powerful Liquigas team in an expected showdown on Saturday’s showdown on the Bola del Mundo in the Vuelta a España.
Mosquera was the big winner in Wednesday’s 46km time trial, clawing within 38 seconds of Nibali’s narrow grip on the red leader’s jersey and positioning himself for overall victory.
Not bad for a 34-year-old journeyman who has never won a stage in the Vuelta or been on the final podium of a grand tour.
“Before the time trial I was just hoping to try to finish on the final podium,” Mosquera said. “Now I have a chance to win the overall. I have to keep calm and just race my bike. I will give everything on Bola del Mundo. I will attack to try to win. I have nothing to lose and don’t want to let this opportunity pass me by.”
What’s certain is that the torturous Bola del Mundo finale will give Mosquera ample opportunity to try to extract the winning difference out of Nibali. The Italian has been the most consistent throughout the Vuelta so far, but showed chinks in his armor in the final kilometer of the Cotobello summit finish, when he lost time to both Mosquera and Joaquim Rodríguez.
The final three kilometers up Bola del Mundo are extremely steep, with ramps as steep as 20 percent. Road conditions are equally horrible, with just a narrow strip of concrete up the side of a mountain ridge.
Christian Vande Velde described it like this: “I have not seen it, but my neighbor did and he said it was crazy. He showed me photos and it looked they drove a truck up there and just dumped concrete out the back of it. It’s going to be insane.”
Mosquera admits he won’t have it easy, but said he has nothing to lose. Time bonuses could also come into play if a breakaway doesn’t stay clear of the GC contenders.
“I’ve been close to the Vuelta podium a few times before and I came here this year really motivated to finish on the podium,” he said. “Now I have a chance to win it. If I have a good day, anything’s possible. I will make it a real battle on Bola del Mundo.”