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“The Giro victory was really special because it was my first one and I also got to wear the maglia rosa. I still have goose bumps when I think about it. But I have to admit that winning ahead of Quintana today is pretty special.”

Photo: Sirotti

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
04.09.2016 @ 22:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) continued his excellent 2016 season by taking his second grand tour stage win of the year on a very dramatic stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana. However, the big winner was Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who exploited a collapse of the entire Sky team to go on the attack already from the start and finally dropped everybody but Brambilla from an elite breakaway. The Italian beat the Colombian in the sprint and Chris Froome (Sky) lost 2.37 to Quintana.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Gianluca Brambilla: It’s pretty special to win ahead of Quintana

Undoubtedly, stage 15 of the Vuelta a España (Sabiñanigo – Aramon Formigal, 118.5 kilometers) will go down in the history books as one of the most memorable seen in the history of Grand Tours. In theory, it should have been just another fight on the last of the day's three classified ascents, but an explosive start meant that the pre-stage script was changed in a truly spectacular way, after several riders ignited a dangerous breakaway, which included Gianluca Brambilla, David De La Cruz, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and overall leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

 

A late attack of Quintana distanced all the riders bar one, Gianluca Brambilla, who climbed superbly on the first-category ascent, taming the 10% gradients omnipresent in the closing kilometers. Brambilla, already a Grand Tour stage winner earlier this season at the Giro d'Italia, where he also got to wear the pink jersey, responded to every acceleration of the Colombian, then patiently bided his time and with 200 meters to go came around his opponent and powered away to Etixx – Quick-Step's 48th victory of the season.

 

Brambilla wasn't the only rider of the team who had reasons to smile at the end of the day, as David De La Cruz got rewarded for his effort and amount of work in the breakaway with a significant jump in the general classification, where he now lies in 9th place, after coming in the top 5 on Aramon Formigal.

 

"It was the hardest but also the most beautiful stage of the race. I've never been in a breakaway with the GC leader in a Grand Tour, so it was fun from this point of view. I was one of the guys to attack from afar and rode full gas together with David, as there was no time for respite until the finish", said 29-year-old Brambilla, one of the only four riders to have won stages in two Grand Tours this season.

 

"On the last climb, I could see that Quintana was looking really good and once he upped the pace, many riders had problems in following him. When Contador was distanced, I jumped into Nairo's wheel and managed to stay there, despite a powerful acceleration he put in with 700 meters to go. Winning this epic stage is one of the best moments of my career and it makes me really proud", continued Brambilla, who credited the team for the constant improvement shown since the start of the season and the results which came with it. "2016 has been a fantastic year for me so far and I want to thank the team for believing in me at all times. It's great knowing that I can count on such a well-organised outfit that is always by my side. Seeing how the team supports and puts its trust in me, coming every time with the best advices and tactics, gives me huge self-confidence and motivation, and this makes me really happy.

 

“Today I believed in it more than yesterday when I got to the finish line with the top guns but already thinking about today. Freshness was key today. I attacked first at 3.5 km into the stage and Contador and the others joined me. Then we rode full gas all day. I was only thinking about winning the stage. In the finale I saw that Alberto was suffering and I kept Quintana’s wheel. I knew I could outsprint him. When he accelerated with 700m left I hung in there and then I saw he was tired so I went myself with 150m to go. I’m happy I won such a bizarre stage than many people will remember.

 

“The Giro victory was really special because it was my first one and I also got to wear the maglia rosa. I still have goose bumps when I think about it. But I have to admit that winning ahead of Quintana today is pretty special.”

 

Nairo Quintana: It wasn’t planned but we took advanatage of the moment

The Movistar Team took a giant step forward to win the 2016 Vuelta a España on a historic stage. Right from eight kilometers into the short (118km) day fifteen in the Spanish grand tour, from Sabiñánigo to Formigal, the squad managed by Eusebio Unzué got themselves into a break that might become decisive for the final outcome. Nairo Quintana hit hard at the end of the second Pyrenes stage and now sits almost four minutes ahead of both Chris Froome (SKY) and Esteban Chaves (OBE), just seven days from glory in Cibeles.

A 14-man split, with three from the telephone squad, Quintana, Jonathan Castroviejo and Rubén Fernández, plus three from Tinkoff, including Alberto Contador, took both the Briton and the Bogotan out of situation and soon opened a gap which grew up to 1'30" at the foot of Petralba (Cat-3), the first real climb of the day. Imanol Erviti and Alejandro Valverde put on big efforts to isolate Froome and keep him out of morale, a series of attacks which the 'green jersey' holder kept coming on the Formigal. Only the efforts from Orica, BMC and most notably Astana, in order to defend their overall positions, could try to reduce the gap as the lead group reached three minutes at the bottom of Cotefablo (Cat-2).

 

Despite the accelerations from Yates (OBE) and Sánchez (BMC) cutting the margin in half, Froome always riding alone, the prodigious efforts by Fernández, on the climb, and Castroviejo, superb in the flats, allowed Quintana to consolidate his advantage towards the end of the last climb. Quintana finished 29” ahead of Contador, 1’49” up against Chaves and 2’30” over Valverdeand Froome, as Gianluca Brambilla (EQS), the only able to follow his wheel in the end, took the stage. 3’37” is the margin Quintana will enjoy against Froome, heading into the last five real competition stages in this Vuelta, prior to the final parade into Madrid.

 

Nairo Quintana said:

 

“It went way, way better than we expected. To be honest, we were thinking more about taking some moves in the finale. However, you never really know what’s gonna happen. It turned out to be a really great stage in the least of expected ways. We opened bigger gaps here than in yesterday’s big mountains. At the start, a split was created into a lumpy section, full of twists and different slopes where our bodies suffered a lot after yesterday’s efforts. We struggled, yet we kept focus, went ahead with Alberto and our teams cooperated well.

 

“My team helped me out so much: a huge labour from Jonathan Castroviejo and Rubén Fernández, I was screaming to them: ‘Full gas, full gas, we’re leaving Froome behind’- and then, the rest of the team, taking care of what was going on behind. We opened a gap, we kept it high and at the final climb, I gave everything to keep Chris well behind.

 

“Fortunately, I’ve opened the gap I considered I needed before the TT; I just hope I can keep it and stay strong until Madrid. We will remain cautious, yet we know we’ve got a great team: Alejandro, Castro… all of us are confident.

 

“Every time we do someting like this it is great but pulling something like we did today with this kind of strategy is special. Today was a great day and I will never forget it in my life. The team were fantastic. I want to thank all the riders in the team who worked for me. Alberto did a great thing, he was interested in the podium. We knew how to maintain our gap overall, and Alberto was a big player in this strategy, too. He’s a great tactician, a very cunning rider, and this has played in his favour. We saw that in Fuente De in the 2012 Vuelta and we saw that again today.

 

“It was one of the best, a big moment. The team were brilliant, always with riders ahead and in general, riders like Jonathan Castroviejo and Ruben Fernandez did a superb job, whilst Alejandro was controlling from behind.”

 

“The race is still very long and we have to be careful. We can’t take anything for granted. There’s the big time trial and we will have to watch what happens.

 

”The attack was not planned, our strategy was different but we took advantage of the moment. I think Froome and Sky will try to regain time but I have a great team supporting me. I’m ready to fight and defend the jersey. Alberto loves to draw big plans in key moments so we can’t stop looking at him, he’s such an astute rider.

 

“Of course they are going to try to do that, and I’m lucky to have Alejandro there, supporting me. Without my team I wouldn’t be where I stand overall.

 

”At the moment, I’m not too scared of anything. I’ve got a lot of respect for that time trial, although hopefully it won’t be too unfavourable and I will play a defensive game on the mountain stages to come.”

 

Alejandro Valverde: I tried to make Froome nervous

Alejandro Valverde said:

 

“I really didn’t enjoy today’s racing much, I struggled as badly as yesterday, though a bit closer to the front. It was a different way of suffering. We knew that such a short, tough course could create havoc. We took a big lead in the overall standings now - even though you can’t say this is already won, as many difficult days are still ahead, we’re many steps closer to our goal.

 

“It was a split created by both Alberto and us, a joint strategy which both teams took advantage from to create some gaps. Behind, and especially on the final ascent, I was always keeping Froome’s wheel, trying to make him nervous. And, as soon as he stopped taking turns, I jumped so he never recovered.

 

“What do I want to do now? Winning the red jersey with Nairo. Fighting for stages might be impossible for me, as you never want to cooperate with someone who is faster at a sprint, and at this point of the race, what really motivates me is staying close to Nairo.”

 

Fabio Felline after ‘crazy’ third place: Today I broke all my records

An unexpected breakaway with overall leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and sixth overall Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) made for a riveting stage 15, and Fabio Felline – also joining the thrilling action out front – climbed to an incredible third in the summit finish at the end of the 118-kilometer race.

 

"Today was a crazy day, a crazy breakaway," agreed Felline. "I started today with the idea to go into the breakaway, we spoke about this in the pre-race meeting, but I did not expect the breakaway to make it to the finish with Quintana and Contador there!

 

"But every day all the riders are giving their maximum; every day the race is à bloc. I think today I broke all my records! Unfortunately, every stage I am finding some riders who are stronger than me, and today was impossible to win, and it was another third place. I think it was important that I kept fighting, and I am happy with how I did.

 

“It’s incredible. I gave my best but for me, Brambilla and Quintana were too fast in the final climb. Ending up third in this stage is incredible. It’s the good  thing in this Vuelta for me.”

 

The action began when Contador attacked in the opening kilometers in the short but climb-packed stage, creating a dangerous 14-man move that an attentive and motivated Felline did not miss.

 

With Sky's Chris Froome (second GC) and Estevan Chaves of Orica-BikeExchange (third GC) caught behind, it became a high-stakes game of pursuit, but they could never claw back the two-minute deficit ahead of the 14-kilometer finish climb.

 

Quintana led for most of the last climb, paring the breakaway to eight, including Felline, and when the gradient steepened with just under three kilometers to go, he jumped away with Contador and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) for company.

 

Felline, second-to-last wheel of the eight leaders, immediately fell off the pace.  Contador exploded while Quintana and Brambilla rode away and battled out the win.

 

Meanwhile Felline, in his typical never-say-die style, fought back, caught back the rest of the breakaway, and accelerated across the line for an incredible third place.

 

"Again Fabio showed his talent and proved again how a good rider he is, especially after such a hard stage yesterday," gushed director Dirk Demol. "He was very motivated for today: our hotel was close to the final climb, and we came to see the final 5 kilometers. He was there [in the breakaway], but when you see who he was there with - Quintana and Contador – two of the best climbers in the world, then a third place is reason to be very happy.

 

"Fabio is not a pure climber, he's a good climber, but he cannot follow the accelerations from the real climbers, so he had to find his own rhythm.  The good thing with Fabio is that he never blows up, and he can continue at his hard pace, and that is why he could come back again after being one of the first dropped when there was eight left. It was a great performance."

 

Kenny Elissonde: The polka-dot jersey is not a sure thing yet

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) finished 4th and is still the polka-dot jersey holder. He said:

 

“I did not know how I would feel after yesterday but I was motivated to snatch some points. It was a crazy scenario but it’s still a great day. I paced myself in the climbs.

 

“The polka dot jersey is not a sure thing because of Quintana and Fraile, who is a brave rider who often manages to get into the break. We’ll take it day by day.

 

”After my knee surgery I stayed in Nice to get back kinto shape. Before the Tour of Switzerland I had improved already but I needed some time before it showed in races. I hope I achieved that in this Vuelta. I’m happy for Julien (Pinot, coach) and the team.”

 

Alberto Contador: I knew it was a big gamble

On one of the shortest stages of the Vuelta a España at just 118km, the 15th day saw a large shake up on GC as Tinkoff and Alberto Contador set the race alight from the early stages. Eventually racing to sixth over the finish line atop the final ascent of Formigal, Contador gained time of many of his GC rivals to close the gap to the podium to only five seconds, and climb from sixth to fourth overall.

 

The action got underway from the opening kilometres as Contador press on over an early uncategorised climb. He was joined in a split of 14 riders by teammates Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov, together with the overall race leader. Importantly, all of the other riders in the top 10 going into the stage were not present.

 

After the finish, Sport Director Steven De Jongh praised the efforts of all of the team on a strong performance.

 

“It was a great ride from all of the guys today. We knew the start would be hectic and so we wanted to have as many as possible in the front with the small roads coming up. In the end the bunch split so much that Alberto decided to push on. Orica and Sky found themselves isolated and lost more and more time.

 

“It was great work by the team, from all the riders and from Alberto. Chapeau to Ivan and Yuri as they worked so, so hard today, and to Alberto as it’s amazing how he was fighting. He’s helping to turn the Vuelta. Again, I’m proud of the work that all the boys did today.”

 

The lead group worked well together and pushed on, pressing ahead their advantage to put nearly three minutes between themselves and the chase with 50km to race. Rovny and Trofimov provided superb support to Alberto in pushing the pace and aiding their leader during the stage.

 

After a third category and second category climb, the race headed to the base of the final ascent of Formigal – 14km uphill with varying ramps of up to 10% at times. At the foot of the climb, the advantage was still over two minutes as the chase group thinned down behind. While at the front of the race, Trofimov and Rovny eventually peeled off in the final kilometres to leave their GC leader in a small group to keep fighting for both GC and stage honours.

 

As Quintana pressed on in the final 1500m, a brave Contador had to settle into his own pace, after huge efforts over the course of the stage, and by the finish he came home just 34” behind the stage winner in sixth place. As a reward for his efforts, Contador was awarded the most combative award for the day.

 

Contador himself said after the stage:

 

"I'm happy with the stage today. When I crossed the finish line yesterday, I was gutted because the form of my legs didn't correspond to the result. I had a very strange sensation after the stage and I wanted to put it behind me and focus on today.

 

"After yesterday’s stage I was so disappointed. My legs weren’t bad at all, but Nairo and Froome were controlling each other and so did we, which is a logical thing, but some riders attacked. After crossing the finish line, I was only thinking about today. I saw the last climb was no so hard, but it was an interesting start. I had this in mind and I didn’t look back. I thought there would be a break, and you saw it was finally a beautiful stage. I had a clear idea. Yesterday, I checked the roadbook when we were going to the hotel. end of the Vuelta.

 

“I wasn't extremely optimistic because the climbs weren't very hard. Yesterday evening, I was reading the race book, looking at the gradients of the climbs in order to see what we could do. I knew it it would be complicated, so I decided to start at full pace. I was aware I was making a dangerous gamble because I knew that if they were able to catch me in the finale they would be able to drop me from the group of favorites. It was a gamble and I think it led to a great result. Sometimes you don't win, like today. The final kilometers were tough. I got cramps in the last kilometre, but it was a nice spectacle. These sorts of stages are the kind that create a fanbase in the sport. I'll sleep a lot better tonight than I did yesterday.

 

“However, I think we had a beautiful showing today and the spectators enjoyed it, regardless of the result of the stage or the GC. I'm happy with what we achieved, it was a better day than yesterday. I think I had to pull hard because if I hadn't done it the breakaway would have slowed down. Maybe in the first hour I was generous but I think I did the right thing.

 

” "Looking at the overall, I have to be realistic, this year my two big objectives [the Tour and Vuelta] are not working out as I'd like. But I'm already thinking about next year. “For me, the GC is almost impossible.

 

“Thinking about the stage, maybe I was too generous in the first hour and a half, when I was pulling full gas. I think the crowd enjoyed the stage. Tomorrow will be another day. This year, I started the Tour and the Vuelta off-balance. Sometimes it is how it goes. I will keep fighting until the end.

 

“Tomorrow will be less demanding than today and yesterday but, again, every day is a different story. I have to be realistic about the rest of the Vuelta. This year victory in Paris-Nice and Catalunya slipped by for a handful of seconds. I had to abandon the Tour despite the fact I had started in optimal form and condition. I will give my best in the rest of the Vuelta now. It isn't over yet!

 

"The nice thing is we tore up the script. We don't have many climbers, we don't have the power of Sky or Movistar, but they gave it everything and they did a spectacular job."

 

De Jongh added:

 

“Tomorrow we’ll have to pay attention as it comes between a hard day and the rest day. I think some teams will go for the break and then some may push for a sprint, but the final could be tricky so we’ll be ready.”

 

Cannondale: We thought that Formolo could win the stage

The typical script of Grand Tour stage racing was upended at the Vuelta a España on Sunday when Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) attacked during the chaotic opening kilometers and race leader Nairo Quintano (Movistar) jumped to follow. The result? The formation of a 14-rider breakaway that included Moreno Moser and Davide Formolo and did not include several of the general contenders – most notably Chris Froome (Team Sky).

 

“It was crazy,” said sport director Bingen Fernandez. “We knew it would be fast from the start, and we told the guys to be ready for it – and it was. It was crazy from the first kilometer.”

 

“First we had Ben and Joe way,” Fernandez noted. “Then it was Pierre with Moreno. Then it was Moreno again with Formolo. That was how we ended up.”

 

Andrew Talansky, who started the stage in eighth place, rode in was was dubbed the “Froome” group. This group, the first chase group, separated from the peloton in response to Contador’s attack and the subsequent formation of the leading escape and effectively separated Froome from most his teammates. It was this dynamic  – an isolated Froome – that would shape much of the action to follow.

 

“The guys out front were riding full gas to keep the gap,” noted Fernandez. “It exploded from the back.”

 

Keenly aware of the general classification gains up for grabs, Cannondale-Drapac also harbored stage ambitions.

 

“We saw a really strong Formolo yesterday, and we hoped he had the legs to win the stage today,” said Fernandez. “That was the idea. He did a super, super stage, and he moved up to eighth overall, but he didn’t have the legs for the stage. There were others who were stronger today.”

 

In Formolo’s wake, Talansky continued to show that his form is on the upswing, climbing to 12th place up the Formigal summit. The effort afforded him a one spot jump on the overall. Now in seventh place, Talansky leads Formolo, who rose to eighth place following stage 15, by 34 seconds.

 

“The result today is good, and the team performance was really, really goody,” said Fernandez. “The only thing is that we have to be honest about the stage. We had hope for more, and it didn’t work out today.”

 

“Hats off to the ride that we saw for many of the riders out front today,” added Fernandez. “We saw exciting racing. For us? There’s still one more week left. We’ll see if we can get something more.”

 

Neo-pro Matvey Mamykin mixes it up with the stars on toughest day in the Vuelta

It was time for a shake-up at the 71st Vuelta a España on Sunday. After 15 days of racing and a classification that wasn’t moving much at the top, several GC riders took the race in hand from the start in Sabiñánigo to see what gains could be made on the short 118 km day. Team KATUSHA’s 21-year old Matvey Mamykin saw his opportunity to ride with the current stars of cycling and ended up taking 8th place among a stellar line-up of top pros.

 

“I was able to go in the break from the start. It was a very strong break with many important GC riders. My sports director told me to stay on the wheel, save my energy, but I had to go in front from time to time. In the end I felt quite good, but there were few hard moments for me. I just did my best to overcome those times and I mostly succeeded. But with 3 km to go I just felt empty. I tried to pass over it, but it was too much for me. I dropped from the leaders. It's a pity. I understand I am still so young, but I am really motivated to get a win. Of course, it is cool to be in front of the race together with Contador and Quintana at just 21 years old, but you know, appetite comes with eating,” said Matvey Mamykin.

 

Mamykin was 8th at 1:16.

 

“Our strategy like always was to put someone in the break. We thought it could be Pavel Kochetkov or Matvey, those are the two we asked to sit at the front and follow the breaks. Mamykin got into the right group and of course he paid a little bit for it at the end. This is normal, he is a young rider in his first year as a professional and this is his first big tour. His attitude is good and he has so much potential. We saw at the end that he was very disappointed with his eighth place. This is good because it shows he is ambitious. He was riding with Froome, with Quintana, with Contador! Some of the best riders in the world with so much experience! He’s 15 days into a grand tour now; it is normal that he would be tired. He just needs to continue to believe in himself and maintain his spirit to win. At his age, this is something very important,” said director José Azevedo.

 

Other team riders had successes today, too, namely Egor Silin and Kochetkov, who both spent most of the day in the Froome group. At the end Silin ended up finishing ahead of the 3-time Tour de France winner, noting at the team bus, “Great, I dropped Froome today!”

 

“We did a great race today. No one was expecting the situation we saw today. It was very fast from kilometer zero. The first 6-7 km were really hard on some narrow roads. And the attacks came, from the GC guys like Contador and Froome and Quintana. No one expected attacks from those guys. After 10 km the group in the front of 14 riders formed. Froome missed this group so Movistar and Tinkoff pulled to make a gap to him. But we also saw other teams working because they saw a chance for their riders to move up on the GC too. For the 118 kilometers it was pretty much full gas all day,” explained Azevedo of the stage ending uphill at Aramon Formigal.

 

Crash catches Esteban Chaves out on dramatic day in the Pyrenees

Colombian Esteban Chaves gritted his teeth and produced a fantastic late attack in the finale of stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana today, making up ground and retaking some valuable seconds as the general classification experienced a significant shake up.

 

A lightening quick start to the stage saw an unlikely breakaway form early on after an attack by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was followed by race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

 

Both riders had teammates up with them and once they realized a gap had developed on the other favourites the pace shot up again. Due to the terrain and the speed of the stage start many teams were caught napping.

 

Despite the huge efforts from Orica-BikeExchange throughout the stage, it eventually was won from the initial breakaway by Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep). Quintana came second and extended his advantage in the general classification, with Chaves now in third and gaining time on second place Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) with Contador in fourth and stage six winner Simon Yates now in fifth overall.

 

Esteban Chaves said:

 

"It was a tense, tough stage. The first 5 kilometres were pretty aggressive. After a stage like the one we had yesterday, the legs are still on fire and Quintana and Contador made it in the break. From then on, it was almost a TTT, in the first and in the second groups. We, Sky and Astana put our teams to work and we tried to reduce the time gap as much as we could. Movistar did an incredible job, they are a pretty strong team, just as Sky, Orica or Astana. I think today was a beautiful stage for the fans”

 

Simon Yates added:

 

“It was some aggressive racing. (Quintana and Contador) are aggressive. I was not surprised at all that Contador attacked.”

 

Sport director Neil Stephens believes the team has come through the Pyrenees positively and praised their efforts.

 

“Esteban (Chaves) and Jens Keukeleire were very close to being part of the Contador attack,” said Stephens. “But a crash happened right in front of them at the wrong moment, they got held up and by the time they were round it was too late.

 

“We put a lot of effort into the chase, but we obviously couldn’t commit everyone and at the end of the day there we wanted to limit the time loss and maintain our positions on the general classification.

 

“The team fought hard and on balance we have seen a positive outcome from the Pyrenees, we have two guys in the top five, third and fifth and we have won two stages, we are very happy with that.

 

“We had the upper hand yesterday and today it was Movistar and Tinkoff’s turn, that’s bike racing at the highest level and I congratulate them on their performances. There’s another week of racing to come and we are certainly going to give it all we can.”

 

Michele Scarponi: Cycling is an unpredictable sport

“Cycling is just an unpredictable sport,” said Michele Scarponi. “One day does not go as you expect, the next you are very strong .

 

“After yesterday’s disappointing performance, today I found the right feeling and the leg started to run at full capacity, so much that I made up ground and I arrived before some GC opponents.”

 

"We made our race committing ourselves to control the escape to not affect the GC of Michele who is still in the Top Ten,” said sports director Dmitri Sedoun.

 

Louis Meintjes bounces back at the Vuelta a Espaa

No Lampre-Merida riders succeeded in joining the breakaway but blue-fuchsia-green jerseys of Meintjes, Conti, Cattaneo, Durasek and Grmay were in the second group. Meintjes did a good performance which allowed him to obtain the 11th place, at 2’10”.

 

Samuel Sanchez: It was a day of survival

Stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana may have only been 118.5km but it served up the most dramatic day of racing so far for the General Classification contenders, which saw Samuel Sánchez move up to sixth overall.

 

It was a case of explosive racing from KM 0 with attacks playing out immediately, but it was a move from Alberto Contador after 6km that saw a 14-rider breakaway, including race leader Nairo Quintana, split from the main bunch.

 

With the main field unable to react due to the tricky parcours and splits in the peloton, Quintana’s group managed to build an advantage of more than two minutes over the group that contained Sánchez, Ben Hermans, Dylan Teuns and Danilo Wyss.

 

The gap started stabilized as the stage progressed but it all came down to the summit finish to Aramon Formigal for the riders who hoped to claw back some of the lost time.

 

Sánchez did just that and managed to cross the line in 13th place, 2’10” behind stage winner Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), with Hermans crossing the line less than a minute behind Sánchez and move into 15th overall. BMC Racing Team continue to lead the team classification.

 

Samuel Sánchez said:

 

“There’s nothing more to say other than today it was a survivor’s day. It was a crazy start and then I just had to concentrate on staying on the wheel of the favorites when the Quintana group was up ahead. On the final climb I went full gas to try and gain some time back and stay in a good position on the GC, and I’ve moved up one place to sixth overall.”

 

Sports director Valerio Piva added:

 

“It was a really fast start. The first 10km was really up and down with a really step part, with a steep descent and a little bit narrow. There was a big attack from Tinkoff and Movistar with Contador and Quintana. We had Danilo Wyss and Ben Hermans in the main group, and later Samuel Sánchez and Dylan Teuns, and Froome was also in there which was a chaotic moment as nothing was clear. In the end 14 riders went in this descent and there was a gap of 15-20 seconds but Team Sky didn’t have the power as Froome only had two guys with him. A lot of Orica-BikeExchange riders were also there, but in front it was full gas and behind the big group was losing time fast. All of the leaders except Konig were in the second group and it was a clear that it was a race to the end. We had four riders and for us it was important to stay calm, to focus on our objectives of team GC and keeping Sánchez in a good position. The guys, especially Teuns who was our third guy, did an amazing job. He was up there with the group until 4-5km to go and then he was not far behind, so we will keep our lead in the team GC and Samuel has jumped up one place in the GC, so it’s very good.”

 

Omar Fraile gets closer to second mountains jersey

Stage 15 of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana started off with some bad news for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka as Jacques Janse van Rensburg was forced to withdraw from the race. Last year’s South African road race champion suffered a broken collarbone as a result of his crash on yesterday’s stage. But it didn’t take long until some better news broke: Omar Fraile yet again managed to get into the break of the day.

 

Fraile was alert and quick enough to jump onto Quintana’s wheel, when the Colombian accelerated and thus was able to form part of the break. Sitting second in the KOM classification he was eager to score points for the blue Polka Dot jersey. However, classification leader Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) also rode attentively and got into the break.

 

Fraile got the maximum points on the first 2 climbs before the race headed into the final 14 kilometer long drag to the finish. With 7 kilometers to go the break’s gap over the Froome group was still at 2 minutes and it was then that Quintana decided to increase the pace. Fraile had to let go, while Elissonde managed to hang on. Crossing the line in 4th, the Frenchman scored points on the line as well. Fraile’s fighting spirit over the first part of the stage though meant that he was able to get closer to Elissonde. The gap between the 2 riders is now down to 8 points.

 

Omar Fraile said:

 

“The start was very fast. I wanted to be part of the break and try to get points for the KOM classification. Kenny Elissonde had the same in mind, and with Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador it was a good break to be involved in. We went really fast in the beginning and I was able to cross the first two climbs in first position. On the last climb of the day I tried to hang on as long as possible, but when Nairo increased the pace I couldn’t follow anymore. I think it was a good day though. Now I’m trying to recover as good as possible. Tomorrow is another day.”

 

Chris Froome: We weren’t as prepared as other teams

Chris Froome retained second place overall but dropped time to rival Nairo Quintana on a tough 15th stage at the Vuelta a Espana.

 

A short 118.5-kilometre test created fireworks when both Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador attacked in the early going on the road out of Sabinanigo.

 

The pair quickly opened out a significant gap, with Froome eventually isolated in the chasing pack and taking to the front of the final climb to Aramon Formigal.

 

Quintana (Movistar) eventually crossed the line second on the stage behind Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quick-Step), two minutes and 37 seconds ahead of Froome on the most significant day of the race thus far.

 

David Lopez emptied the tank as he chased in support of team-mate Froome, with Salvatore Puccio dislodged by further attacks from Movistar, and the rest of the team distanced after a frantic start.

 

The end result saw Froome retain his podium place after a gutsy ride, 3:37 back on the Colombian, with a late attack from Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExhange) elevating him to just 20 seconds back on Team Sky's leader.

 

Froome told ITV Sport: "It's definitely made it a lot more hard now. A minute was manageable; three minutes is going to be extremely tough. But stranger things have happened and we're going to keep fighting all the way.

 

"It was a tough stage for us, obviously. The guys did a lot of work yesterday, so we weren't as prepared as some of the other teams this morning.

 

"Obviously, getting caught out there with Contador and Quintana in that early break, that put us on the back foot and we just never recovered.

 

"Credit to them. They rode a really smart race and they have gained a lot of time today on us."

 

Team Principal Dave Brailsford told ITV: "Sometimes you have got to take your hat off to people and say, 'Well done'. It was a brave move and it paid off for Nairo and Alberto.

 

"We have just got to sit there and say, 'OK, let's have a look at it and keep on going'.

 

"Sometimes in sport you take a punch in the face. You turn around and say, 'Right, OK, six days left of racing, we're still in the same position as we were this morning', and we will keep on going."

 

Leopold Konig saaded:

 

“They made a better decision and we only had two guys with Chris, the other guys were in the third group and there was no possibility to go because only Sky wanted to go and after that our Vuelta was in a bad situation for Chris.”

 

After the race Sport Director Dario Cioni talked TeamSky.comthrough the stage, and expanded on a crash that saw the peloton split early on.

 

He said: "It wasn't the best day for us. Chris lost time to Quintana, Contador and Chaves but gained time on Simon Yates. For sure it was a day where Movistar and Tinkoff raced really aggressive and they did a really good job putting their leaders on the front. We were caught on the back foot and it was too bad that Chris was separated by an early crash from Quintana and Contador. If he'd have been with them and not in the chasing group then it would have probably made things different. 

 

"The guys did their best and Chris tried to limit the losses. He is still second overall and in a position he can fight. The riders are obviously tired. It's the end of the second week and yesterday's stage featured 5000 metres of climbing. The race started full gas and there was a big gruppetto today at the end - so it shows there are a lot of tired riders in the race.

 

"Tomorrow is a new day and for sure the team will bounce back. We're still second on GC having won two stages. We're still in the fight the for Vuelta podium."

 

Giant-Alpecin optimistic for in-form Tobias Ludvigsson

For Giant-ALpecin Tobias Ludvigsson rode his own pace up to 24th place.

 

Coach Luke Roberts said: “As we expected today, it was a really fast and aggressive race today. There were attacks from the start, and the bunch split completely in three group directly inside the opening 10km. It was a move initiated by Tinkoff and the leader’s jersey was part of that front group.  In the chasing group,  we had Tobias and Chad [Haga] who both did quite a good stage. Tobias fought until the finish and showed some good legs on the final climb. We are now looking forward to the upcoming stages with more opportunities to come as Tobias is showing some good form at the moment.”

 

Maxime Monfort: There was no other tactic than to follow

Maxime Monfort was the first rider of Lotto Soudal at the top and was 25th.

 

"After my disappointment at not being in the right breakaway yesterday I was really focused on not missing the right move today. But it started at a torrid pace with attacks from Contador and Quintana after three kilometers. I was present in a group behind where Froome was trapped. From there, there was no other tactic than to follow. It was fast. In the end, I did what I could. This Vuelta surprisesme. I do not remember having done such a hard grand tour.”

 

George Bennett stays in top 10 contention on dramatic day in the Pyreness

LottoNL-Jumbo’s George Bennett finished 27th in the short, but tough 15th stage of the Vuelta a España today to Aramón Formigal and remained 12th overall going into the final week. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quickstep) won the thrilling stage battle ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who gained time for his overall lead.

 

The stage began quickly with Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador launching surprise attacks. The two GC riders caught team Sky with Chris Froome, second overall, off guard. The 14-man group put over two minutes on Froome’s group, which included Bennett.

 

"The stage began with an escape of star riders," said Sports Director Addy Engels. "They sliced the peloton into three groups. We had George in the second group, but all the other men missed out and finished the stage in the gruppetto of 90 riders."

 

The riders covered a whopping 45.7 kilometres in the first hour. The fight for the red jersey was in full swing and no one wanted to give up. Bennett held strongly with Froome and lost just over three minutes to winner Brambilla.

 

"König (Team Sky) fell out of the top of the standings and De La Cruz (Etixx – Quickstep) moved up, so George remains 12th, which was great after yesterday's stage. Remember, he made the breakaway yesterday with Gesink and burned a lot of energy.”

 

Tomorrow, the Vuelta will continue with a 156-kilometre stage that includes a flat finish to Peñíscola.

 

Sergio Pardilla: This was complete torture

Caja Rural - Seguros RGA and the rest of the peloton were in for a very fast day on Sunday’s stage 15 of Vuelta a España.  Sergio Pardilla finished in 30th place on the uphill finish on Aramón Formigal. The 32-year-old Spanish climber is still 13th overall, 10:09 minutes behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who leads the race.
 
Sergio Pardilla said: 

 

"Today, we went at full speed the whole stage, both the front group and the group behind. This was a complete torture and without a doubt the hardest stage of the Vuelta so far. The last climb was not that difficult, the problem was the high pace we have been going at the whole day. It left us without much energy at the bottom of the ascent”.

 

Grand tour debutant shows good form at the Vuelta

Bora-Argon 18 rider Christoph Pfingsten was in the group with Froome. On the last climb he was finally dropped and rode his own pace to the finish. His legs were not bad, but he had to pay for the attack and efforts in yesterday’s stage where he was in a break. This was the third time in a break at this year’ s Vuelta, a strong performance for a Grand Tour newcomer.

 

”It was an unbelievable stage today. Everyone knew that it would be a short stage and these can be very tricky. Directly after the start there were attacks all over the place from Tinkoff and Movistar. It was a ptty that I was alone in the group because we wnted to try something with José (Mendes) today for the GC. After 98km there was a small uphill part before the final climb. My legs weren’t so good after the 5000m altitude of climbing yesterday, so I was dropped and rode my own pace to the finish,” said Christoph Pfingsten.

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