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Young Frenchman emerges as the strongest from big 28-rider group on the Vuelta's only stage on French soil while Nibali stays safe despite numerous attacks and comfortably defends his lead

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson

ALEXANDRE GENIEZ

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GROUPAMA-FDJ

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08.09.2013 @ 17:21 Posted by Frederik Palle Pedersen

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) realized a dream when he won the queen stage of the Vuelta a Espana which brought the riders into his native France. The young Frenchman was the strongest in a big 28-rider group that went clear on the day's first climb while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) responded to several attacks from his rivals and so it remained status quo at the top of the GC.

 

Every Frenchman in the Vuelta peloton dreamed about winning the race's queen stage which celebrated the 100th edition of the Tour de France by bringing the riders onto French soil and up the legendary Port de Bales and Col du Peyresoude leading to a finish in Peyragudes. Alexandre Geniez accomplished the feat when he took a beautiful solo win on a day when the sun returned to the Vuelta peloton.

 

Geniez had proved his strength when he had made it into a 28-rider group made up of some of the strongest climbers in the peloton. The escape went clear on the day's first climb, Puerto del Cantu, and from then on it evolved into an elimination race with gradually dropping off over the numerous climbs.

 

On the top of the day's penultimate climb, Port de Bales, Geniez only had Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural) for company but the Frenchman was a superior descender and left his Portuguese companion behind. He started the final climb with a 6-minute gap over the main peloton and that was enough for him to stay away to the finish, taking the biggest win of his career.

 

Michele Scarponi (Lampre) was the only other survivor from the big escape and the veteran finished in 2nd place, more than 3 minutes later than Geniez. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) had made a gutsy move on the Port de Bales and dug deep to keep the main contenders at bay, finishing 3rd on the stage.

 

Behind, the race favourites kept attacking each other with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Thibaut Pinot being particularly active. Race leader Vincenzo Nibali even tried his own move but as he was unable to drop Chris Horner (Radioshack), he was content to ride conservatively to the finish.

 

Nibali, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Horner, Rodriguez and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) stayed together to the finish and so it remained status quo in the top 5 on GC. Hence, Nibali still as a comfortable 50-second lead over Horner.

 

He faces his next big jersey defence tomorrow on the final of the three Pyrenean stages. Another uphill finish awaits the riders but the gradients are much more gentle and massive time gaps aren't expected.

 

Starting at 15.00 CEST you can follow the stage on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

The queen stage

With a tough category 1 climb coming immediately after the start, the stage was expected to get off to an aggressive beginning and that was exactly what happened. On the lower slopes of the Puerto del Canto, Euskaltel set a hard tempo to set up an attack from one of the many climbers.

 

It was, however, Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) who kicked off the attacking, the Basque looking to pick up a massive amount of mountain points today. He was joined by Javier Moreno (Movistar) and Dario Cataldo (Sky) and later Mikel Nieve (Euskatel), Sergio Henao (Sky), Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff), Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) and Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel) also bridged across. However, Vacansoleil had missed the move and so the Dutch team brought it back together.

 

Txurruka remains aggressive

Txurruka refused to give up and he launched another attack, creating a 10-rider group. The composition was, however, not the right one and the break got caught.

 

Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp) was the next to try his hand and a big 27-rider group set off in pursuit. After a little while, the lone Pole was caught by his chasers and suddenly a 28-rider group was more than a minute ahead of the peloton. The group consisted of Jose Herrada (Movistar)Javier Moreno (Movistar)Mikael Cherel (Ag2r)Warren Barguil (Argos)Juan Manuel Garate (Belkin)Yannick Eijssen (BMC)David Arroyo (Caja Rural)Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural)Maciej Paterski (Cannondale)Nicolas Edet (Cofidis)Mikel Landa (Euskaltel)Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel)Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel)Kenny Elissonde (FDJ)Alexandre Geniez (FDJ)Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha)Michele Scarponi (Lampre)Francis De Greef (Lotto),Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp)Jose Joao Mendes (NetApp)Serge Pauwels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)Yaroslav Popovych (Radioshack)Sergio Luis Henao (Sky)Dario Cataldo (Sky)Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff),Oliver Zaugg (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil).

 

Edet takes KOM points

Only Garmin and Astana had missed the move and so most teams were content with the situation. Euskaltel and Sky were the driving forces in the break which build up a gap of more than 2 minutes. At the top of the climb, Edet who is 7th in the mountains classification, picked up maximum points.

 

Arroyo was best-placed on GC in 12th and so Astana didn't want to get the situation out of control. As they approached the 2nd climb, the Bonaigua, the Kazakh team brought the gap down to 1.40.

 

The break splits up

On the lower slopes, Barguil, Geniez and De Greef attacked and they were joined by Cherel to form a strong quartet. Cardoso and Edet bridged across and those 6 riders kept extending their lead over the big chase group. Geniez briefly tried to attack on his own but they were back together when Edet crested the summit in first position.

 

The chase group fell apart on the climb as Matthews, Popovych, Cataldo, Eijssen, Flecha and Verdugo all got dropped. The latter three were picked up by the peloton but the latter three managed to rejoin the big group. Elissonde was in difficulty on the descent but the tiny French climber managed to get back to his companions.

 

Astana reduces the gap

At one point, the peloton was more than 8 minutes behind the front sextet but Astana made good use of the valley to accelerates and reduce the gap. When they hit the bottom of the Port de Bales, they were only 4 minutes behind the front group while the chase group was only 1 minute ahead.

 

Both escape groups exploded to pieces on the climb. Geniez and Cardoso rode away from their companions in the front group while Verdugo, Landa, Flecha and Elissonde were the first to fall off the pace in the chase group. Halfway up the climb, only Caruso, Scarponi, Majka Herrada, Garate and Arroyo remained while Henao, Zaugg and Landa followed a little further behind.

 

Saxo-Tinkoff have big plans

Saxo-Tinkoff had big plans for Roche and so Chris Anker Sørensen set a fierce pace in the peloton, gradually whittling down the size of the main group until only around 20 riders remained. A few kilometres from the top, the Dane finishes his job and so Roche launched his attack.

 

The Irishman did a good job to catch numerous escapees along the way and when he crested the summit, he was 23 seconds ahead of the peloton. Impressively, Geniez and Cardoso had extended their lead to 5 minutes with just 27km to go.

 

Anton and Pinot try their hands

Igor Anton (Euskaltel) attacked near the top and Thibaut Pinot bridged across on the descent. However, their attack was futile and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) gradually drew them back as they continued downhill.

 

Geniez proved excellent descending skills by dropping and Cardoso and when he reached the bottom of the Col de Peyresourde, he was more than 6 minutes ahead. Roche had caught his teammate Zaugg and those two combined forces to build up a 1.20 gap over the main peloton.

 

Roux sets the pace

FDJ were confident that the peloton wasn't going to catch Geniez and so they put Anthony Roux on the front, the Frenchman preparing an attack from Pinot. They gradually picked up numerous escapees while several riders fell off the pace. The chase group had splintered even further and now only Scarponi, Arroyo and Herrada remained while Majka had been asked to wait for Roche. The two Saxo-Tinkoff riders joined forces for some time until Majka finally dropped off.

 

With 11km to go, Roux had used up his last bit of energy and the peloton slowed down a bit. Angel Vicioso (Katusha) launched an attack but it was the acceleration from his teammate Daniel Moreno that did the damage. Benat Intxausti (Movistar) and Robert Kiserlovski (Radioshack) were the first to respond and moments later Horner, Nibali, Tanel Kangert (Astana), Rodriguez, Pozzovivo (Ag2r), Leopold König (NetApp) and Rigoberto Uran (Sky) closed the gap. Pinot overcame a bad moment to also return to the main group as did Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel).

 

Nibali attacks

Moreno kept the pace high for some time and when he stopped, Kangert hit the front. The ceasefire didn't last as Valverde made an immediate attack but it was the subsequent acceleration by Nibali that was efficient.

 

Only Horner could respond but as they slowed down, Uran, Kiserlovski, Valverde, Rodriguez and Pinot got back on. Uran slipped clear and stayed ahead for some time while Moreno, Pozzovivo, König and Sanchez all rejoined the main group.

 

A festival of attacks

Pinot bridged across to Uran but it came back together. From there, it evolved into a festival of attacks with Rodriguez, Sanchez, Pinot and Pozzovivo all trying different moves.

 

Horner showed his intentions when he asked teammate Kiserlovski to set a fierce pace and only Horner, Nibali, Valverde, Pinot, Rodriguez and Uran were able to keep up with the fast Croatian. Those 7 riders reached the small descent together and Sanchez and König both managed to get back on.

 

Rodriguez launches a fierce acceleration

Sanchez launched an immediate counterattack when they hit the final steep 4km ramp to the finish. He stayed away for a little while but was caught when Rodriguez made an attack that spelled the end for Kiserlovski.

 

The Katusha captain never got away and instead Horner hit the front, setting a fierce tempo. Only Nibali, Valverde, Rodriguez and Pozzovivo could maintain the high speed and those 5 riders hit the final flat kilometre together.

 

However, they were not going to catch Geniez who crossed the line in solo fashion to take a magnificent win on home soil. Scarponi was the only other survivor from the original break and took 2nd while Roche just managed to hold off his rivals to take 3rd. Nibali beat Valverde in the sprint for 4th and comfortably defended his leader's jersey.

 

Result:

1. Alexandre Geniez 6.20.12

2. Michele Scarponi +3.07

3. Nicolas Roche +3.11

4. Vincenzo Nibali +3.20

5. Alejandro Valverde

6. Chris Horner

7. Joaquim Rodriguez

8. Domenico Pozzovivo

9. Jose Herrada +3.23

10. David Arroyo

 

General classification:

1. Vincenzo Nibali 60.20.21

2. Chris Horner +0.50

3. Alejandro Valverde +1.42

4. Joaquim Rodriguez +2.57

5. Domenico Pozzovivo+3.43

6. Nicolas Roche +3.49

7. Thibaut Pinot +4.59

8. Leopold König +6.18

9. Samuel Sanchez +7.46

10. Tanel Kangert +9.11

 

Points classification:

1. Alejandro Valverde 114

2. Nicolas Roche 105

3. Daniel Moreno 98

4. Chris Horner 84

5. Joaquim Rodriguez 84

 

Mountains classification:

1. Nicolas Edet 33

2. Daniele Ratto 30

3. Chris Horner 22

4. Andre Cardoso 20

5. Nicolas Roche 19

 

Combination classification:

1. Chris Horner 9

2. Vincenzo Nibali 13

3. Nicolas Roche 13

4. Alejandro Valverde 16

5. Daniel Moreno 25

 

Teams classification:

1. Astana 180.26.37

2. Euskaltel +3.53

3. Movistar +4.20

4. Saxo-Tinkoff +9.23

5. Katusha +22.49

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