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Part of a 12-rider breakaway, De La Cruz dropped Devenyns less than 1km from the top of Alto del Naranco to win stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana and take the overall lead; the main contenders arrived together

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep / Tim De Waele










28.08.2016 @ 18:14 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

David De La Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) bounced back from bad luck at the Giro d’Italia when he claimed the biggest win of his career on the famous Alto del Naranco in stage 9 of the Vuelta a Espana. Having joined a formidable 12-rider breakaway, he followed an attack from Dries Devenyns (IAM) and then dropped his companion with less than 1km to go before soloing to the finish. The main contenders didn’t attack each other and arrived 2.56 behind the young Spaniard which allowed him to move into the lead with a 22-second advantage over Nairo Quintana (Movistar).


At the Giro d’Italia, David De La Cruz seemed to be in the form of his life and was destined to do great things in the mountains in the final week. However, the Spaniard had one of the biggest disappointments of his career when he crashed and was forced out of the race with a broken collarbone.


However, De La Cruz refused to give up and quickly set his sights on the Vuelta a Espana. After a great ride in support of Gianni Meersman at the Tour de Wallonie, it was evident that he was back on form but few would have expected him to turn his fortunes around in the way he did in today’s ninth stage of his home grand tour.


De La Cruz had showed good climbing legs in the first mountain stages and so started the stage only 2.45 behind race leader Nairo Quintana. Knowing that Movistar were not too keen on defending the jersey, he saw an opportunity to join an early break and with a remarkable ride, he took both his first pro win and the overall lead.


De La Cruz found himself up against formidable rivals when he attacked alongside Dylan Teuns (BMC), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Jan Bakelants (AG2R - La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto - Soudal), Moreno Moser and Simon Clarke (Cannondale - Drapac), Mathias Frank and Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon18) and Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) but that didn’t hold him back. He was quick to join an attack from Devenyns and as the chasers failed to cooperate, the pair managed to stay away on te final climb of Alto del Naranco. Inside the final kilometre, he dropped his Belgian rival and then soloed to victory and the red jersey.


For the GC contenders, it was a ceasefire as the famous climb in Asturias was not hard enough to make a difference. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) tried a late attack but all the big names arrived together and so it remained status quo ahead of the big stage to Lagos De Covadonga.


After some early attacks, the battle for the stage win really started on an uncategorized climb with 25km to go where the front group was still 4.30 ahead of the peloton which was led by the Movistar pair of Imanol Erviti and Rory Sutherland. De Gendt set a brutal pace on the hill and it was too much for Clarke, Bilbao and Geniez who all fell off the pace. However, the latter two managed to make it back when De Gendt eased off. Devenyns made a brief attack but apart from Clarke, the group was back together with 23km to go.


Devenyns attacked again and this time he got an advantage. Bakelants gave chase and he soon bridged the gap. The pair hit the final 20km with a 25-second advantage over the chasers and 4.45 on the peloton which was now led by Erviti and Jose Herrada.


As they headed down the descent towards the penultimate climb, Clarke made it back to the chasers before the front pair hit the ascent with a 30-second advantage. Here Teuns made a big attack and De La Cruz was showing some weakness as he failed in his attempt to follow.


Teuns bridged the gap and this forced Sanchez into action. The Spaniard took a massive turn that split the group to pieces. Clarke and Bilbao were the first to get dropped and later De Gendt and Huzarski were also left behind. The rest of the group caught the front trio.


Geniez worked hard in the group to make sure that he won the KOM sprint ahead of De La Cruz and Bakelants while Jose Herrada had now taken over the pace-setting in the peloton. The Spaniard didn’t respond when Matvey Mamykin (Katusha) launched a short-lived attack and then led the group to the top 4.30 behind the leaders.


As they went down the descent, there was still not much cooperation in the front group and this opened the door for Devenyns to attack again. This time De La Cruz followed and the pair already had an 18-second advantage with 8km to go.


Again there was no cooperation among the chasers and so Huzarski, De Gendt and Bilbao all made it back. De Gendt made an immediate attack and reached the final climb 30 seconds behind the two leaders.


In the peloton, there was a big fight for position and it was Jonathan Catroviejo who hit the front for Movistar. Hence, the gap was down to 3.50 when the bunch hit the climb.


While the chasers continued to work very badly together, Devenyns and De La Cruz cooperared smoothly. Bilbao, Teuns and Bakelants made a first attempt to bridge the gap before Bilbao easily rode away. However, he had to close a gap of 50 seconds in the last 4km.


Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) led the peloton onto the climb 3.50 behind the front duo and while he created a selection, the attacks continued in the chase group. Moser was the next to ty and then Sanchez gave it a shot while Huzarski was left behind. However, it was Teuns who caught Bilbao.


The group came back together and as they passed under the 2km to go banner, De Gendt was also brought back and left behind. At this point the gaps were 45 seconds and 3.30 respectively. Rojas was still leading the peloton which seemed to be content with the sitation.


The attacking started in the bunch when Peter Kennaugh (Sky) took off. Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) joined him as Ruben Fernandez took over for Movistar. Meanwhile, the two leaders passed the flamme rouge and it was clear that they were going to stay away.


Bakelants was dropped from the chase group from which Moser and Geniez attacked. The latter was unable to keep up and Moser gave it his all in a late attempt to get back.


De La Cruz was giving it his all in attempt to take the red jersey and suddenly Devenyns seemed to have a mechanical problem. The Belgian stopped pedaling for a brief moment and when he started again, it was too late. De La Cruz sprinted to the line to take the win and then faced a nervous wait to see how much he would gain on the peloton. Devenyns took second and Moser third before Sanchez beat Frank and Geniez in the sprint for fourth.


In the peloton, Fernandez brought a Katusha rider back before he swung off and left it to Daniel Moreno to up the pace even more. His acceleration brought both Kennaugh and Fraile back before Samuel Sanchez made a move. Gianluca Brambilla followed and then Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) sprinted across. However, while the group started to splinter, the main contenders made it back to the trio and only Brambilla managed to gain a second on his rivals when he crossed the line in 12th, 2.55 behind De La Cruz.


The gains were enough for the Spaniard to move into the race lead with a 22-second advantage over Quintana and a 41-second gap to Valverde. However, it will be virtually impossible to defend the jersey as there’s another big mountain stage coming up. On stage 10, the riders will follow lumpy coastal roads for most of the day before they get to the category 1 Alto del Fito in the finale. It serves as a warm-up for the famous climb to Lagos de Covadonga, a 12.2km climb that averages 7.2%, where a big battle between the main contenders is expected.


A tough summit finish

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, there was more climbing on the menu on stage 9 which brought the riders over 164.5km from Cistierna to the top of Alto del Naranco on the outskirts of Oviedo. After an uphill start, flat roads led to a category 2 climb at the midpoint. A logs descent then led to the difficult finale where the riders faced three category 3 climbs as a warm-up for the final ascent which averaged 6.1% over 5.7km.


Unfortunately, an ill Igor Anton (Dimension Data) stayed in the hotel and therefore only 185 riders started the stage under a sunny sky. Several mechanical in the neutral zone delayed the start slightly, but when they finally got underway, the attacking started right from the start. Especially Dimension Data were active, but it was Silvan Dillier (BMC), who got the first real gap. While Dillier was slowly being brought back, Enrico Battaglig (LottoNL-Jumbo) who crashed a few days ago, abandoned.


12 riders get clear

Already after 12km  of racing, Dylan Teuns (BMC), Alexandre Geniez (FDJ), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Jan Bakelants (AG2R - La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto - Soudal), David De La Cruz (Etixx - Quick Step), Moreno Moser and Simon Clarke (Cannondale - Drapac), Mathias Frank and Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon18) and Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) to build a gap of 23 seconds. Trek had missed the break and so kept it at 30 seconds for a long time. Also Dimension Data gave a hand, but nonetheless the gap was still 36 seconds at the 20km mark..


The peloton gave up and therefore the advantage began to grow. It was 1.03 after 22 km of racing, and after 40 km it was 2.50. Thus De La Cruz, who started the stage just 2.50 behind Quintana in the GC, was virtually in red.


KOM points for De Gendt

Movistar took control, but allowed the lead to grow more. After an hour during which 47km had been covered, it had gone out to 4.20. Here Tony Hurel (Direct Energie) became the third rider to leave the race.


The front group hit the first climb with a lead of 4.50, but here Movistar increased the pace. When De Gendt beat Geniez and Clarke in the battle for the mountain points, the field had reduced it to 4.35. At the same time, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) stepped off.


De Gendt attacks

Imanol Erviti and Rory Sutherland (Movistar) kept the gap stable at 4.15 as they went down the rainy and foggy descent. With De La Cruz presenting a threat for Quintana, the pair continued to ride hard in the flat section, keeping the gap at 4.30 despite the excellent cooperation in the break.


The gap had gone out to 4.50 when the front group hit the second climb with 50km to go. The group worked well together until De Gendt attacked 1km from the top. Geniez followed but when the Belgian went again, he soloed to the top. De La Cruz was first from the chase group 20 seconds later. Meanwhile, a small crash involving Damien Howson (Orica-BikeExchange) created some confusion in the field.


De Gendt is caught

Geniez dropped back to the chase group but De Gendt continued his solo attack. When he won the intermediate sprint at the bottom of the descent, he had an advantage of 35 seconds over the chase group which was led across the line by De La Cruz and Huzarski. The peloton arrived 5.20 later.


De Gendt realized that it made no sense to continue his breakaway and so waited for the rest of the group before they hit the next climb with an advantage of 5.10. Erviti and Sutherland were still leading the chasing and slowly started to reduce the gap as they headed up the climb.


More KOM points for De Gendt

As they approached the top, De Gendt took a huge turn and Geniez didn’t even try to pass him in the KOM sprint. Clarke made a small sprint to join the pair and the trio continued their attack after the summit.


The trio decided to continue their attack but De Gendt soon sat up. The group was back together as they hit an uncategorized climb with an advantage of 4.30 and this is where the finale really started.



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