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Finding a late gap, Cort easily passed Bennati and Meersman to take a dominant win on the final stage of the Vuelta a Espana; Quintana won his first Vuelta ahead of Froome and Chaves

Photo: Sirotti


















11.09.2016 @ 22:53 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) ended his memorable grand tour debut on a high as he took his second stage win of the Vuelta a Espana on the final stage in Madrid. After a great lead-out from Jens Keukeleire, he found a late gap to come around Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) and claim the prestigious victory. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished safely and took the overall win ahead of Chris Froome (Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange).


With the World Championships taking place in Qatar, all the big sprinters decided to skip this year’s mountainous Vuelta a Espana and so the door was open for some of the lesser-known riders to make their mark. Going into the race, most were expecting Gianni Meersman, Niccolo Bonifazio and Nikias Arndt to be the dominant forces but after three weeks of racing, it is a grand tour debut that can leave the race as the fastest man in Spain.


Magnus Cort went into his first grand tour in a support role for Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates but hoped to get a few changes in the bunch sprints too. He already proved his speed in stage 2 where he was clearly the fastest rider but due to a late crash, he could only manage third. He then missed out on a few opportunities as he worked for his team but in the final week he has been absolutely flying.


Cort took his first chance in stage 18 where he actually defied team orders by contesting the sprint. However, he was forgiven for his decision as he turned out to be the best in Gandia and so his position changed for today’s final stage in Madrid. This time he had the team at his disposal and he paid them back for their support as he took another dominant victory in his first three-week race.


Orica-BikeExchange showed their intentions when they used Svein Tuft to control the early break and in the end, Jens Keukeleire gave the Dane the perfect lead-out. He briefly seemed to be boxed in due to a moment of hesitation but when he finally found a gap, he proved to be clearly the fastest, easily coming around Daniele Bennati and Gianni Meersman who had both gone from afar.


After yesterday’s big mountain stage, it was time for the traditional parade into Madrid. This year the riders covered 104.1km from Las Rozas to the Spanish capital. The stage was completely flat and ended on the well-known 5.8km circuit. A late change to the course forced the organizers to increase the number of laps from 8 to 9.


It was a fantastic sunny afternoon in the Madrid suburb of Las Rozas when the riders gathered for the start. The four distinctive jerseys, Nairo Quintana in red, Fabio Felline in green, Omar Fraile in polka-dots and Chris Froome in white, rolled through the neutral zone next to each other as the peloton took it easy to celebrate their achievements.


As usual, the riders enjoyed the first part of the stage as they just rolled along, chatting to each other and reflecting on three weeks of fast racing. When he stopped for a natural break, Quintana was greeted by almost every single rider when he moved back up towards the front of the field.


The entire Movistar team gathered on the front to pose for the camera before they moved to the back end of the field. Here they enjoyed a small glass of champagne. Quintana then moved to the front to catch up with his compatriots Darwin Atapuma, Jhonatan Restrepo and Esteban Chaves who celebrated another great race for Colombia.


With 75km to go, the Movistar team gathered on the front again before Quintana, Froome and Chaves gathered for the traditional photo session. The trio enjoyed a glass of champagne and then Movistar slowly upped the pace.


With 65km to go, Movistar finally decided that it was time to get things moving for real when Ruben Fernandez and Jose Herrada hit the front. However, it was when the well-known figures of Imanol Erviti and Rory Sutherland took over that the peloton got going for real.


Alejandro Valverde led the peloton onto the circuit and the Sutherland and Erviti went back to work. The latter was the first rider to cross the line as they embarked on the first of their nine laps.


Moments after the passage of the line, Christian Knees (Sky) launched a first attack and he was joined by Jerome Cousin (Cofidis), Larry Warasse (IAM) and Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r). The quartet was caught immediately and then Cousin, Jauregui and Peter Kennaugh (Sky) made a move.


Jauregui dropped his companions and briefly led the race solo but the trio soon found back together. As they increased their advantage, Movistar again took control with Herrada, Erviti and Sutherland.


Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo) took off in pursuit and at the end of the first lap, he was around 10 seconds behind the three leaders, with the peloton following at around 15 seconds. However, the front trio were not waiting for him and so he was losing ground.


Laurent Didier (Trek) came to the fore to share the work with the Movistar riders but then soon disappeared again. Instead, the Movistar trio allowed the gap to go out to out to one minute before they crossed the line at the end of the second lap.


The front trio opted to wait for Bouwman who joined the leaders just before the start of the third lap where Kennaugh won the intermediate sprint ahead of Jauregui and Chetout. Meanwhile, Giant-Alpecin started to chase as Sindre Lunke joined forces with the three Movistar riders. Orica-GreenEDGE also came to the fore with Sven Tuft as did Bora-Argon 18 with Jose Mendes.


At the end of the third lap, the gap had gone out to 1.10 and this was the signal for Etixx-QuickStep to kick into action. The Belgian team put Martin Velits and Pieter Serry on the front to do his share of the pace-setting while Lunke again disappeared.


The gap stabilized at around a minute and as it hadn’t changed with less than 30km to go, Lunke again started to work. With five laps to go, the gap was still one minute.


BMC also started to work with Dylan Teuns and Darwin Atapuma and slowly the gap started to come down. As they started the fourth last lap, only 35 seconds were left of the advantage.


There was no end to Alberto Contador’s bad luck as he suffered a puncture. Ivan Rovny, Yury Trofimov and Sergio Paulinho dropped back to help their leader rejoin the peloton and he made the junction moments after the next passage of the line where the gap had dropped to 15 seconds.


Gianluca Brambilla was now also contributing to the chase for Etixx-QuickStep but most of the early workers had blown up, leaving it to Etixx-QuickStep, Orica-BikeExchange and Movistar to set the pace. Moments later, Bouwman sat up and left it to Chetout, Jauregui and Kennaugh to press on.


At the start of the penultimate lap, the gap was down to 10 seconds and the leaders were losing ground quickly as Tuft, Erviti, Sutherland, Brambilla, Serry and Velits were chasing hard. Surprisingly, Valverde then took a huge turn.


Kennaugh decided to sit up with 9km to go but Chetout and Jauregui refused to give up. They started the final lap with a small advantage of less than 5 seconds.


Etixx-QuickStep took full control with Brambilla, Serry and Velits and they brought Jauregui back when he sat up. With 5km to go, it was also over for Chetout and everything was set for a bunch sprint.


Maxime Buet took a huge turn for Etixx-QuickStep before Manuele Boaro took over for Tinkoff. The Italian took a massive turn to lead them under the 3km to go banner. As all the sprint teams were waiting to launch their trains, he even stayed there for another kilometre until the approached the final U-turn.


Giant-Alpecin and Sky went head to head with Johannes Fröhlinger and Christian Knees sprinting on the front and it was the German team that won the battle. Tobias Ludvigsson then took over and was the first rider through the final U-turn with 1200m to go.


Danilo Wyss (BMC) sprinted to the front while his captain Jempy Drucker slotted into third behind Nikias Arndt’s lead-out man Koen De Kort. The Dutchman then launched the lead-out but he couldn’t hold off Jens Keukeleire who took the lead with Cort in second position.


Keukeleire started to fade a bit too early and so Cort hesitated when Daniele Bennati launched a long sprint. The Italian went head to head with Gianni Meersman and Cort briefly seemed to be boxed in. He seemed to be out of the battle when a small gap suddenly opened and he was quick to grab the opportunity. As soon as he launched his sprint, he turned out to be in a class of his own and easily came around the two leading riders to take the win, with Bennati taking second and Meersman third.


Nairo Quintana finished safely in the bunch to take his second grand tour win with an advantage of 1.23 over Chris Froome. Esteban Chaves made it two Colombians on the podium while Alberto Contador and Andrew Talansky completed the top 5. Fabio Felline (Trek) won the points jersey and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) was the best climber. Quintana also won the points competition and BMC were the best team.


With the Vuelta a Espana done and dusted, the Spanish season has come to an end. The next WorldTour race is the Eneco Tour which starts on September 19.



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