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"I joined team Lampre at the request of Rui Costa, whom I knew from Movistar. I dedicate this victory to my family but also to Rui, as his withdrawal was a harsh blow for the team."

Photo: Sirotti






20.07.2015 @ 21:17 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Ruben Plaza saved what seemed to be a disastrous Tour de France for Lampre-Merida when he took a fantastic solo win in the classic breakaway stage to Gap. The Spaniard joined a big 23-rider front group after a very fast start to the race and turned out to be in a class of his own on the Col de Manse before he held off a desperate chase by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) on the descent to claim the victory. 


Going into the Tour de France, Lampre-Merida had big hopes that Rui Costa would finally emerge as a grand tour contender. The team selected a line-up that was fully devoted to the former world champion who was the undisputed leader.


However, it all came to nothing when the captain crashed in stage 3 and after several days of suffering with an injured knee, he left the race in the Pyrenees. That left Lampre-Merida with a team of domestiques who are not accustomed to ride for personal success.


One of them is Ruben Plaza who has been a loyal support rider for his entire career. However, he has been keen to grab the opportunity to ride for himself and today he saved the race for his team when he won stage 16 that finished with the classic climb of Col du Manse and the difficult descent to the finishing city.


Plaza had already shown good condition by making it into the successful breakaway in the stage to Mende but the final ascent in that stage was too steep for him. The longer, more gradual Col de Manse suited him much better and he turned out to be the strongest from a big 23-rider breakaway that had escaped after a very fast start.


This is the first victory in 2015 for Plaza who's the fourteenth riders from his team to obtain a success for a total of 23 wins. It is the first Lampre victory in the the Tour de France since the victories of Petacchi in 2010.


Plaza's teammate Nelson Oliveira was 20th.


"It's such an exciting victory, such a great success," Plaza said. "This triumph gives happiness to the team and to me. In this Tour de France, we have been unlucky and we suffered after the withdrawal of our captain Rui Costa who won here two years ago. We tried hard to reach an important target, we did not give up and we made a lot of attempts by attacking or fighting in the sprints. Today we achieved our goal. 


"It was very difficult to get to the finish of the stage today, for the stage victory. I felt pretty good in the breakaway today, and everyone was working pretty well together. This was a stage that had interested me. Thank you very much to my team.


"It's always so difficult to win in the Tour de France, but today everything was in its right place and I added my good legs and my fighting spirit. I put everything into the attack on the Col de Manse and in the descent I try to keep my mind well focused on the road. In my career I have obtained 22 victories, but today the feelings are so special.


"I joined team Lampre at the request of Rui Costa, whom I knew from Movistar. I dedicate this victory to my family but also to Rui, as his withdrawal was a harsh blow for the team.


"At 35, you appreciate a victory more than at 25. My last victory on a grand Tour was on the 2005 Vuelta, and it was a time trial. It's nice to win a stage like this too.


"I knew that Sagan was coming back and I know how good he is in descents but I had a comfortable enough lead at the top, about 50 seconds, not to panic. It's true that I had a little fright towards the end when my wheel slid, but I managed. I finished full gas but keeping just a little margin to avoid any upset. I'm extremely happy."


"I'm very happy for Ruben because he's always dedicated to the team and makes big efforts for the team," sports director Philippe Mauduir said. "He made it, he won, and it's just fantastic. He was tired this morning because yesterday and the day before he tried also to be on the breakaway. He went in the break and unfortunately the breakaway split and he was in the second part.


"This morning even though he was tired he said, 'I'm going to try again because you never know'. He just did it. It's always important - a stage in the Tour de France whether you're young or old, you have experience, you haven't won for a while or you won yesterday, it's always important."



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