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Launching a powerful sprint on the steepest section of the 9% ramp to the finish, Lobato easily distanced Degenkolb to win the final stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia; Froome took the overall win

Photo: Sirotti

ALBERTO CONTADOR

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BEÑAT INTXAUSTI

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CHRIS FROOME

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JOHN DEGENKOLB

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JUAN JOSE LOBATO

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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SYLVAIN CHAVANEL

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VUELTA A ANDALUCIA

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22.02.2015 @ 15:32 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Three days after his first win in the Vuelta a Andalusia, Juan Jose Lobato continued his excellent start to the season when he took a hugely dominant victory in the final stage of the Spanish race. Launching a powerful sprint on the steepest part of the late 9% ramp, he easily distanced John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) to double his tally while Chris Froome (Sky) finished safely in the top 10 to win the race overall.

 

Three days ago Juan Jose Lobato almost humiliated John Degenkolb by crushing the powerful German in the uphill sprint on stage 2 of the Vuelta a Andalucia. Hence, the German started today’s final stage of the Spanish race in a determined mood, eager to get his revenge.

 

However, Lobato again proved that he is currently very hard to beat in the kind of explosive finale that was on offer in Southern Spain. With his win in the uphill sprint in Stirling at the Tour Down Under and his third place in the Dubai Tour queen stage, he went into the stage with lots of confidence and that kind of belief in his abilities allowed him to put on another show.

 

The stage had a 300m ramp with a gradient of 9% before the riders took a right-hand turn onto the final flat 200m and it was on the steepest section that Lobato made his move. Having used his Movistar team to chase down a strong breakaway, he found himself in a good position near the front but suddenly got a late scare.

 

Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) decided not to wait for the sprint and instead he launched a strong attack at the bottom of the climb. With the lead-out trains all lacking strength, no one managed to organize a chase and suddenly the in-form Belgian had a big gap.

 

This forced Lobato hit out early as it seemed that Theuns was riding away with the win. However, he was no match against the powerful Spaniard who flew fast the lone Belgian and easily distanced all his rivals.

 

Degenkolb took off in pursuit but when Lobato took the turn at the top, he was a few seconds ahead of the German. He had plenty of time to celebrate his win and still managed to cross the line one second before the Giant-Alpecin sprinter. Those two riders turned out to be in a class of their own as Sylvain Chavanel was a very distant third, one second further adrift.

 

Chris Froome left nothing to chance in the tricky finale and sprinted to a solid 6th. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished a few positions further back in 9th and so the Brit won the race overall with a 2-second advantage over the Spaniard while Benat Intxausti (Movistar) crowned a great performance by finishing on the podium.

 

With his great sprint, Froome managed to take the win in the points competition one point ahead of Contador while Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) took the mountains jersey. Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) will travel back to Germany with the sprints jersey on his shoulders while Froome won the combination competition. Team Sky had four riders in the overall top 7 and so took a big win in the teams competition.

 

With the Vuelta a Andalucia done and dusted, the sprinters and classics riders will head to Belgium for the first cobbled classics. Meanwhile, the stage race specialists will turn their attention to Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico while the next big race in Spain is the Volta a Catalunya in the end of March.

 

A difficult finale

After yesterday’s big mountain stage, the riders faced one final challenge in the Vuelta a Andalucia. It brought them over 169.8km from Montilla to Alhaurin de la Torre and was a mostly flat affair with just a single category 3 climb at the 108.5km mark. The final third of the stage consisted of a mostly downhill run to the coast but the stage had a nasty sting in its tail as the final kilometre was mostly uphill before it flattened out after the final corner with 200m to go.

 

After yesterday’s bad weather, the 126 remaining riders took the start under a beautiful sunny sky and with a nice temperature of 15 degrees. Two riders didn’t head to the sign in as Danilo Napolitano (Wanty) and an ill Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo) decided not to do the final stage.

 

A strong break

The riders got the stage off to its usual fast start with lots of attacks but unlike yesterday, the break was formed after just a few kilometres of attacking. At the 7km mark, Peio Bilbao (Caja Rural), Johnny Hoogerland (Roompot), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), Songezo Jim, Merhawi Kudus (both MTN-Qhubeka), Victor Martin (Burgos) and Maciej Paterski (CCC) had a 15-second advantage and as the peloton slowed down, they had extended it to 1.00 after 15km of racing.

 

Caja Rural sprinter Francesco Lasca and Igor Merino (Burgos) became the next riders to leave the race while the escapees continued to increase their advantage. At the 23km mark, they were 1.43 ahead but Sky had no intention of letting them get too much of advantage.

 

Sky in control

After 40km of racing, the escapees had not been allowed to get a gap of more than 2 minutes and despite covering an impressive 44.7km, it was only 3 minutes at the end of the first hour. That was the maximum they would get tough and at the 77km mark, they had already lost 40 seconds of that advantage as Sky continued their fast riding.

 

The mass exodus continued as Anthony Roux (FDJ), Caleb Fairly (Giant-Alpecin) and Laurens Ten Dam (LottoNL-Jumbo) all left the race. Meanwhile, the escapees managed to extend their advantage to 2.45 and a solid tailwind helped them cover 43.8km in the second hour.

 

Movistar start to chase

Movistar decided that it was time to set Juan Jose Lobato up for a stage win and so they started to chase, bringing the gap down to 1.55 after 100km of racing. Moments later, Bilbao moved back into the lead in the mountains competition when he beat Torres and Hoogerland in the final KOM sprint of the race.

 

An unfortunate crash forced Marco Canola (Unitedhealthcare) to abandon the race while more riders started to contribute to the chase. Giant-Alpecin came to the fore with Daan Olivier who worked with Javier Moreno and Jose Herrada.

 

The break splits up

With 41km to go, the gap was down to just 35 seconds and now both the escapees and the peloton were riding full gas. Lotto Soudal also started to chase with Maxime Monfort while a small climb was too much for Jim who dropped back to the peloton.

 

With 36km to go, the gap was down to 25 seconds and this prompted Kudus to attack on a small climb. Initially, only Paterski could keep up wth him but Hoogerland managed to claw himself back to the leaders. Meanwhile, Torres, Bilbao and Martin fell back to the peloton.

 

Paterski takes off

Kudus won the intermediate sprint ahead of Paterski and Hoogerland and the fast pace allowed the trio to extend their advantage to 45 seconds with 29km to go. Meanwhile, the fast pace in the peloton created a lot of splits, with several riders getting dropped. For a long time, a big 20-rider group was desperately fighting to get back but they made the junction with 15km to go.

 

With 20km to go, the gap was down to just 20 seconds as Moreno, Monfort and Olivier were the riders working on the front. This prompted Paterski to attack and while Kudus and Hoogerland sat up, the Pole managed to extend his advantage from 15 to 25 seconds.

 

A fight for position

The fight for position had now intensified as several teams were starting to move up. With 10km to go, it was Movistar doing all the work as Herrada had gone back to the front.

 

With 7km to go, Paterski blew up and fell back to the peloton where Monfort had gone back to work. He was passed by Ivan Basso who took a huge turn for Tinkoff-Saxo before CCC hit the front with one rider leading their sprinter Grega Bole.

 

Topsport Vlaanderen and LottoNL-Jumbo fought hard for the top positions and it was the Dutch team that won the battle. Maaten Tjallingii took a huge turn before he left it to Tom Leezer. As they passed the flamme rouge, Jos van Emden took over but just in that moment, Theuns launched his attack. In the end, however, he was no match to Lobato who took a dominant victory.

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