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"I didn’t waste any time from there, and I tried to put all my power into my pedals. And then to beat guys like Valverde and Gilbert in a finish like this makes it all the more beautiful."

Photo: IAM Cycling

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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26.08.2016 @ 22:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jonas Van Genechten made it a full plate of grand tour stage wins for the IAM team when he powered to victory in a tough uphill sprint on stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana. After a crash had left only around 10 riders to contest the win, the Belgian blasted past late attackers Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Simon Clarke (Cannondale) and easily held off Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to take the biggest victory of his career. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was the first rider to go down, crossing the line with a bloodied shoulder, and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) retained the lead.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Jonas Van Genechten: It’s beautiful to beat Valverde and Gilbert

IAM Cycling’s 16th win of the 2016 season became a reality thanks to Jonas Van Genechten, who mastered the final three hundred meters of false flat that preceded the finish line of the 7th stage of La Vuelta.

 

“It's more than great because I was not expecting I could win here,” he said.

 

“I was struggling on the first few hundred meters of the final categorized climb. After that, the climb was always rolling.  In the last two kilometers, we had really to jostle and fight for position.  At the exit of the chicane leading to the small final slope, I positioned myself perfectly. I didn’t waste any time from there, and I tried to put all my power into my pedals. And then to beat guys like Valverde and Gilbert in a finish like this makes it all the more beautiful.

 

”It's the greatest line on my record. I hope to go on like this. It's my first Grand Tour. In this Vuelta, there are a few possibilities left but there are scarce. There's the stage to Peniscola (stage 16) and then Madrid (stage 21). It's my second year with IAM Cycling and this year we won a stage on every Grand Tour, it's exceptional for my team. Spain is my second country, I ride here a lot. It was important for me to win here.

 

”There were two riders in the front (Luis Leon Sanchez and Simon Clarke), there was nothing I could do against that. Tinkoff was leading the pack and I was focusing on my position. I was in 4th of 5th position with 500 metres to go. They were caught when we launched the sprint but I didn't want to have any regrets, to be blocked along the barriers and that's why I went to the left. I did something great.

 

”I didn't see the crash, which means I was well placed. It was behind me. I was in 5th position since the red flame. I believe the crash did not change anything for the sprint. I saw that Alejandro Valverde and Philippe Gilbert were there. Gianni Meersman was not far, and Tosh Van deer Sande. I knew it would be between us.

 

”Confidence is the great problem with sprinters. You can spend a whole season looking for it. You must find your marks and not be afraid. Confidence is one of my flaws. I try not to think too much and count on my luck. I'm not of the same calibre as Greipel or Kittel, I'm far less powerful. I feel better in slightly uphill finishes.

 

”My future contract is almost done. But nothing's official yet. There are quite a few teams that I like but I chose a team with a tradition for classics and sprints. It's on its way.”

 

Teammate Clément Chevrier added:

 

“Ever since the beginning of this Vuelta, we have been using all our strengths and listening to our directeurs who have been asking that we always remain on the offensive. Today, we have been well rewarded for all our efforts. After Vegard Stake Laengen went in the break, I put my nose out into the wind on the last climb. And then finally, it was Jonas Van Genechten who was able to put the icing on the cake.”

 

Eddy Seigneur, directeur sportif for IAM Cycling accompanied by Marcello Albasini and Mario Chiesa at La Vuelta, said:

 

“We have wanted to win a stage since the start of the Vuelta. The team work has been perfect every day. And today we have succeeded in achieving our main goal for this grand tour. Success will only motivate the guys because we are very far from giving up and going home.  We didn’t succeed in getting the mountains jersey for Simon Pellaud, but we have been rewarded with this fantastic win from Jonas Van Genechten.”


 

IAM Cycling, a team that is racing its last season among the World Tour squads, has now managed to win a stage in all three grand tours in 2016. Kluge was first in the Giro Then came Pantano’s win at the Tour de France. And now Jonas Van Genechten has secured a victory in the Vuelta. Add to that the national champion for Switzerland is also an IAM Cycling rider, Jonathan Fumeaux, and it is easy to understand that Michel Thétaz, founder of IAM Cycling, has had many sources of satisfaction since May.

 

No broken bones for furious Alberto Contador

At the end of another, long hot and hard day at the Vuelta a España, Tinkoff finished the stage with mixed emotions as on the one hand, Daniele Bennati took the team’s first podium finish with a second place, while GC leader Alberto Contador crashed in the final kilometre. Contador finished the stage, but the cuts to his jersey and shorts were a sign of a heavy fall.
 
With two riders making a strong bid for victory ahead of the peloton in the final kilometres, the pace at the front of the peloton was fast, and coming into the final it was TInkoff who led the pursuit, with Michael Gogl leading Bennati and Contador in the wheels, out of trouble. However, after being swamped ahead of a late left hand bend, inside 500m to go, a clash of riders saw Contador slide out into the barrier.
 
After some initial checks from the doctors, Contador gave some more insight into the crash:

 

“With 800m to go I was very well positioned so I told Benna to go for the sprint. With 400m to go on a left corner I was hit by someone that likes braking a lot and crashed on my left side. I took a big hit on my calf and my quad, and in general I have extensive superficial wounds on the entire left side of my body. It hurts a lot but it seems that there’s nothing broken. We have a long transfer to the hotel of 120km now – I will rest for the night and tomorrow morning we will assess my situation.”
 
“As far as we know it’s just cuts and bruises, but he came down pretty hard and we’ll know more after he gets further checks,” explained Sport Director Sean Yates after the finish. “It looked like he got squeezed on the corner – he’s been caught out this season by being too far back, and today he was right up the front and still was involved, so it’s real bad luck.
 
“Most of the stage was quite straight forward, with a break of six away. Then suddenly with 40km to go Astana started to tear it up and reduced the peloton before putting two guys up the road. Behind, the sprinters teams were chasing hard. We knew the final was tricky so the plan was to have [Michael] Gogl and Benna leading Alberto at the end, which they did, and then Benna finished with a strong sprint to take second.
 
“The guys were where they needed to be when it mattered today and stuck to the plan at the end. For Alberto, we will know more later – it’s not ideal timing with three tough stages coming up, so we keep our fingers crossed.”
 

Daniele Bennati: I tried to take away the bonus seconds

Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) said:

 

"At three kilometers I tried to go for the sprint and maybe win the stage for the bonifcation. I almost won but the guy from IAM Cycling blocked me a bit but that's normal. I could not try to come back. We lost the stage but we managed to keep Alberto in a good position, that's the main thing."

 

Alejandro Valverde: I wasn’t expecting to contest the stage

Can this Vuelta a España get any harder?! After 17,000m of combined elevation gain in barely seven days, Friday’s finish in Puebla de Sanabria again offered chances to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) as the whole peloton struggled on its 158km journey between Maceda and the lakeside roads in Zamora. A strong pull by Astana in the long approach to the Padornelo (Cat-3) anticipated an attack by Dario Cataldo and the subsequent move, between the pursuit group behind the Italian, from Luis León Sánchez. The Spaniard, joined by Simon Clarke (CDT) in a two-man move, was caught with only less than 200 meters to go.

 

The Movistar Team, who sought for the final splits with José Joaquín Rojas and Rubén Fernández before starting to push at the front to end the duo’s adventure with Imanol Erviti, set Rojas to lead Valverde out in an uphill sprint where he the expert Murcian was only beaten by Vangenechten (IAM, 1st) and future team-mate Daniele Bennati (TNK, 2nd). Behind, a crash in a turn next to a bridge in the final kilometer involved Contador (TNK) and nearly caught Nairo Quintana, who incredibly came through unscathed to retain his 4th spot overall (+38”). Valverde stays in 2nd place, 24" behind Darwin Atapuma (BMC) after his four-second bonus over the line.

 

The Vuelta will finally enter the real mountains on Saturday, as stage eight finishes atop La Camperona (Cat-2) and its slopes ramping up to 25%... after more than 170km completely flat from the start in Villalpando. Tomorrow’s finish at the Sabero valley will precede two trascendental, traditional mountain-top arrivals in Asturias: Naranco (Sunday) and Lagos de Covadonga (Monday).

 

Alejandro Valverde said: 

 

“We got safely through another difficult day. Sad about not winning? Not really much. I wasn’t expecting to contest the stage, but when you’re racing for GC, you’ve got to keep a good position to avoid crashes, all the nerves at the front… and being there, I couldn’t help but try it. I asked Rojas to lead me out, he set me up perfectly and I could take third in a finish with stronger guys than me, those more suited to slightly uphill finish after top speeds.

 

“It might have seemed like a calm stage before the finale, but we all struggled a lot, especially when Astana started picking up the pace before the climb. We didn’t know what their plan would be, yet Cataldo and Luisle did a fantastic job, especially Sánchez. I’ve got to congratulate my fellow countryman because he was so close to winning.

 

“Everybody arrived at the finish with no strength left. We didn’t know if the break would make it, we could see Luis León and Clarke but we had to catch them. We finally did it 100 metres from the finish.

 

”Those curves in the final kilometer made for a dangerous finish, but I didn’t realize they had crashed behind. Actually, Contador was riding by my side with 700m to go, as he told Bennati: ‘Go for the volata.’ I don’t know how he got to crash. The crash took place because there’s a lot of tension and everybody wants to go in the first positions.

 

”Our strategy for the weekend? Just one: going day by day, one pedal stroke at a time. We will see how it goes tomorrow, from now on, we will go day by day. I have great feelings even if the race has been hard.

 

Darwin Atapuma: I never expected to lead the Vuelta for four days

Philippe Gilbert sprinted to fourth place on a crash-marred uphill finale on stage 7 of the Vuelta a Espana, which saw Darwin Atapuma retain his overall lead.

 

The peloton let a six-rider breakaway go away and establish a maximum gap of 3'22", but they were kept on a tight leash with BMC Racing Team sharing the work at the front of the peloton to control the situation.

 

Astana Pro Team put the pressure on the peloton to create a split with 50km to go, which saw Samuel Sanchez caught behind, until some solid work from his teammates brought him back to the group.

 

Multiple late attacks played out in the final 20km of racing, but it ultimately came down to a sprint finish with Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling) taking the win.

 

Sanchez was caught up in the crash in the final kilometer of racing but escaped relatively unscathed and was awarded the same time as the General Classification group to remain in sixth place overall.

 

Stage 8 sees Atapuma enjoy his fourth day in the red jersey, with his lead dropping slightly to 24 seconds over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team).

  

Darwin Atapuma said:

 

"Today it was a fairly quiet stage for me because the team worked well and controlled the stage and let me conserve my energy. Like yesterday the breakaway wasn't a threat to the GC so we were happy to let them get away as long as they were kept at a realistic distance ahead. We reacted quickly when Astana Pro Team put the pressure on and we stayed calm to bring Samuel Sanchez back to the group. The only tricky and dangerous part was the finish and I needed to brake to avoid the crash, but I stayed alert and got to the finish line without any problems.

 

"I never thought that I would have the red jersey for 4 days as I have been taking things day by day. I'm very lucky to keep it for a fourth day but the most important thing for me is that I have good condition. The GC contenders are so strong here that I expected the overall leader to change but I am enjoying every moment in red for as long as I can keep it.

 

‘'Alejandro Valverde took four seconds of bonus off me but we know he's a very fast sprinter and a an all-rounder. I was held up by the crash but I didn't crash, I only had to brake. It's a little bit of time. I hope tomorrow the legs will be good."

 

Philippe Gilbert: It was not really a good result

Philippe Gilbert said:

 

"There's not much to say really. I was fourth on today's stage so it was not really a good result. The main thing is that I have nothing wrong with me from the crash yesterday. I definitely missed this opportunity today to win the stage but but we will see for later. I'm not sure exactly which stage will be suited to be as we are now heading for the mountains and then the rest day, but a stage similar to today's is another good opportunity." 

 

Alexandre Geniez: Tomorrow I will lose my jersey

Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) retained the mountains jersey. He said:

 

"In the Vuelta, these are false transition stages but for me it went better. I had recovered a bit. The finale was dangerous, we saw it with Contador's crash. Tomorrow, I know I'm going to lose the polka-dot jersey. I spent a good time in it but I don't focus on it. If I have to take it back, it will have to be through a breakaway. I first must be in it."

 

Gianni Meersman: It’s a pity, the legs were there

Midway up the final ascent, Dario Cataldo (Astana) attacked, sparking a response from four other men, including Etixx – Quick-Step's Gianluca Brambilla. Ninth in the general classification, the Italian sensed there could be an opportunity for the move to make it, so he spent a considerable amount of time and energy at the forefront, helping the group build a 40-second advantage over the top of Padornelo. However, on the long and fast descent, the riders stopped collaborating and the bunch gained ground and eventually caught three of the attackers, including Brambilla.

 

Gianni Meersman was in the sprint, flying the flag for Etixx – Quick-Step and finishing seventh, a remarkable result considering he was slowed down by the crash and had to empty the tank in order to rejoin the front group on the sharp incline before launching the sprint.

 

"What a tough and fast finale this was! Because of that incident, I was forced to hit the brakes and lost some speed, so I didn't have the possibility to sprint. It's a real pity, as the legs were there and I was very confident of getting another strong result. Would have been nice to land a third win, but things are as they are. Now the race will tackle the mountains and I'll try to help my teammates as much as I can. It remains to be seen what we can on that terrain", said Gianni Meersman, the first Belgian rider in eight years to lead the points standings at the Spanish Grand Tour for at least four days.

 

Dimension Data: We had expected more from this stage

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka started today's stage with plans to have Kristian Sbaragli and Nathan Haas in contention during the stage finale. When Astan put the peloton under pressure, an ill Igor Anton was dropped from the main pack. A number of riders were distanced though as the race sped into to Puebla de Sanabria. After the selection had been made, the African Team still had Kristian Sbaragli, Nathan Haas, Jaco Venter and Merhawi Kudus in the mix.

 

Haas would contribute to the chase of the late breakaway attempt as Sbaragli was the go to man for the finish now. Sbaragli once again put himself in a good position as the race went into a sharp left hand bend at 600m to go. There was another crash, like yesterday, but this time Sbaragli was ahead of the misfortune.

 

Sbaragli was right on the wheels of the front runners but had to settle for 8th at the line. Despite his illness, Anton completed today's stage to ensure the African Team still have all 9 riders in the race. 

 

Sports director JP Heynderickx said:
 

“It was another missed chance today. It was a tricky finish and getting into a good position before the last 500m, which was all uphill, was really important. We got a top 10 but we wanted more from today.”

 

Consistent Romain Hardy again in the top 10 in the Vuelta a Espana

Romain Hardy (Cofidis) was 9th. He said:

 

"I don't know how far I finished, in the top eight? (9th). I was a little surprised by the Astana move. There was no sidewind, more of a headwind. But they really hurt in the end. I was not concerned by the crash yet I was in the wheel of Bagdonas, who sent Contador to the ground. It was a hectic sprint in the last three kilometers. In the sprint, I didn't feel so good today. Now I'm going to try to go in a break and see how it goes."

 

Luis Angel Maté: Brambilla destroyed our chances

Luis Ángel Maté (Cofidis) was in both the early and the late break. He said:

 

“There was not enough collaboration in the break. They weren’t the best break mates, they lacked a bit of energy. It allowed me to stay stronger in the end but, ideally, there should have been more guys in the break.

 

”In the end, everybody was strong but there was no collaboration. We had Brambilla, who said he couldn’t pull because he had Meersman behind, and I think it was a mistake. If the five of us had pulled, I am sure we would have made it. To win is another story, but at least we would have gone to the line.

 

”We have raced just six days but it’s true that there have been good opportunities. You have to chose the good days and today I thought it was one. This Vuelta has an attractive course, with a lot of interesting days and I will try to be strong on those.”

 

Injuries take Bart De Clercq out of Vuelta GC contention

Lotto Soudal had Sander Armee in the beak and Jelle Wallays and Adam Hansen chased hard in the finale to set up Tosh van der Sande for 10th place.

 

Bart De Clercq finished eleven minutes behind, but he’s happy that he made it to the finish after yesterday’s crash. He said: 

 

“I succeeded to push through today. The breakaway managed to get away soon so then I thought it was possible for me to reach the finish. I was scared that some teams were going to try and form echelons, but they didn’t. Now I’ll try to get to the rest day.”

 

Dario Cataldo: We did a great race

"It went wrong but we did a great race,” said Dario Cataldo at the finish line. "We made a big forcing to make greater selection possible. I attacked along with Luis Leon Sanchez and we were really strong. ”

 

Sanchez was swept up 150 meters from the finish.

 

"We had studied the course very well and Cataldo and Sanchez really did a great action. It’s now the third day that Luis is close to victory, I'm sure that sooner or later it will come,” said sports director Alexander Shefer.

 

Austrian climber takes his chance in Vuelta sprint

After the tempo was raised in the last 50k, a lot of the sprinters lost contact with the main bunch. BORA-ARGON 18’s Michael Schwarzmann and Rudi Selig were among them. Because the last 450m were uphill, BORA – ARGON 18 supported Gregor Mühlberger in the sprint final. He was affected by a crash in the last kilometre, but he still managed to finish in 15th place – another strong ride from him after he was in the breakaway already yesterday.

 

“I tried to attack on the final climb with some guys, but that did not work out. We decided that I should take on the sprint. Sky pushed me once, and I am not a real sprinter who takes big risks, so I eased up a little. Then I also was affected bt the crash. But I feel better from day to day here,” said Gregor Mühlberger.

 

Chris Froome: I am where I need to be

Chris Froome avoided another late crash to retain third place overall as the opening week came to a close at the Vuelta a Espana.

 

The Brit was delayed by a pile-up coming out of the penultimate corner in Puebla de Sanabria, but with the three-kilometre rule again imposed, Froome was able to maintain his strong GC foothold heading into the weekend.

 

Leopold Konig was the first Team Sky rider home, just off the back of a select group who avoided the crash to contest the sprint.

 

The Czech rider retained his top-10 placing, as did Pete Kennaugh ahead of a pair of upcoming summit finishes. The team were forced to drop down to eight riders on the day, with Michal Kwiatkowski abandoning the race with lower back pain.

 

Jonas Vangenechten (IAM Cycling) edged out his rivals to seal a big stage victory in Spain, with Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) home second, while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) bagged four bonus seconds for third.

 

Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) kept hold of the red jersey but saw his lead trimmed slightly to 24 seconds by Valverde. Froome sits firmly in the mix 32 seconds behind the Colombian.

 

"There have been a lot of crashes these last couple of days," said Froome after the stage.

 

"For us unfortunately we lost (Michal) Kwiatkowski this morning which is a big blow. He's a big part of the team, he has a lot of horsepower and is in great shape - so it's a real shame to be losing him. (Dropping to eight riders) is definitely going to have an effect but hopefully we've got enough strength throughout the team to get the job done. We'll have to see how the next few days go.

 

"Tomorrow's climb we did back in 2014. It's a tough, tough finish. Again it's going to be about getting there, hopefully in a good position, and seeing how the legs feel. I think I'm where I need to be. I think I've had a pretty good start to the race and I'm actually looking forward to getting to the business end of it now. We've had a few transfer stages that have been a bit stressful and it will be good to get back into the racing side of it."

 

Despite being a relatively short stage the test still packed a punch, with 2500 metres of climbing packed into 158.5 kilometres.

 

The day's six-rider break was caught 43km out, leading to counter attacks. David Lopez monitored the moves up front, and when the time came Christian Knees led the line as the team moved up to the front.

 

Michal Kwiatkowski: It was impossible to continue

After the stage TeamSky.com caught up with Kwiatkowski who explained his injury and disappointment at being forced into an early exit.

 

"After yesterday's stage I had really bad pain in my lower back and I struggled to move around in the evening," he confirmed.
 
"I've had a saddle sore for the last two days - and trying to ride the last two stages in different positions on the bike has made things more difficult.
 
"The pain was still there this morning and so it was impossible to continue. That's a real shame because the team are in great form and Chris is on the right path to a strong result."

 

With Team Sky now down to eight riders, Doctor Inigo Sarregui added: "On arrival at the team hotel last night Michal experienced an episode of acute back pain and spasm.

"This may have been triggered by a saddle sore which has caused him to sit slightly twisted for the previous stages.

"He was treated overnight and attempted to start the stage. However, the pain was too severe for him to continue. 

"He has gone for an MRI so we can make a proper assessment and exclude any other cause for his pain. The priority then is to help him recover so that he can get back on the bike and target some new goals for the remainder of this season."

 

Fabio Felline taken out by crash, tired Niccolo Bonifazio abandons

A crash in a left hand turn 500 meters from the finish blocked most of the peloton leaving a small group to contest the stage seven sprint and resulting in a broken rear wheel for Fabio Felline.

 

Fabio Felline was three or four riders behind the incident and was able to avoid hitting the ground, but his rear wheel did not escape the melee, eliminating him from the finish action.

 

"I felt my legs from yesterday; I was tired today," said Felline. "But the team still did a lot of work for me and so I wanted to make a good sprint for them. I was two or three positions behind the crash and I had to brake hard. Then I noticed I had a problem with the back wheel, but at least I did not crash. It's not possible to have every day everything go perfectly, and today was like this. What is the most important is to give a big thanks to my teammates because everyday we are a team and we support each other together for motivation. This means so much to me and I want to say thanks."

 

The 158.5-kilometer stage seven again had a punishing ending packed with climbs and a late escape nearly thwarted the reduced bunch sprint. Two riders almost pulled off an upset, only caught back in the final 100 meters as Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling), who was ahead of the late crash that shattered the peloton, snatched the win. The three-kilometer ruling kept the overall classification intact.

"Markel (Irizar) did a fantastic job and helped other teams in the chase of the six-rider breakaway," explained director Dirk Demol about the team's tactics in the race. "We knew that if it came to a sprint today, we had a chance. First, we were thinking it would be a good finish for Niccolo (Bonifazio), but he has felt very tired the last few days and was unable to continue today and stopped.

 

"Of course, with Fabio and his second and third places in the past two days, we believed in him, but he said already in the stage that he did not have the same legs. Anyway, he still wanted to try, and that is why we kept working. But then with the crash he had a problem with his back wheel and that was that. We didn't have the luck today, but the team again was riding for the win and did what they could. In the end, no result, but we still have more chances coming up."

 

Rein Taaramae abandons the Vuelta a Espana after being hit by Cofidis car

It was an active day on stage 7 for KATUSHA in several ways, with team riders working hard to get in breakaways and follow moves to try for stage wins. In addition, Rein Taaramäe was involved in a race-ending accident with a team director’s car but thankfully didn’t end up causing real harm to the Estonian rider.

 

“I can’t be sure exactly what happened. I was suffering today. I was dropped in the group and was riding alone. In one moment I found myself on the side of the road and I understood that a car hit me from the back. I think I’m lucky that nothing is broken. My bike was broken in probably six pieces. When I saw that, I realized I was really lucky. Later that director spoke to me and said it was his fault but was unsure what had happened too. He was very sorry,” said Rein Taaramäe.

 

”Rein was dropped on the hill and the cars were passing him – he was in the middle of the cars. I think he didn’t see the Cofidis car. Sometimes this happens where you look to one side and can’t see anything, but I think the car came and he could not avoid it so he was hit from behind. He flew off the bike to the right side of the road and this was a lucky thing because he was safe, but the car hit his bike and destroyed it completely. It was in a lot of pieces. Of course it was not on purpose, it was just something that happens in a race. He only has small injuries, but it was impossible for him to continue. I think he was initially in shock and these last days he’s been having some stomach problems. He was suffering to finish today and then this crash, so it needed to be over for him,” explained sports director José Azevedo.

 

”We were active from the beginning of the stage with guys trying to go in the breaks. We want to win a stage so we were fighting for that. When I saw Astana riding, I told the guys to pay attention because for sure they were going to attack and that’s what they did. So we had guys trying to go in the groups, following the attacks. We were really trying today – that’s what we need to keep doing in these next stages,” said Azevedo.

 

A break of five was caught early, leaving plenty of time for many more breaks to form up and try their luck. Egor Silin, Sergey Lagutin and Matvey Mamykin (in his first grand tour) were all active in the last 25 km of racing, attacking from the peloton for solo moves and following strategic breaks that tried to make something happen.

 

Simon Clarke: Sanchez was so strong that I was only riding for second place

It was a strong start to stage seven of the Vuelta a España for Cannondale-Drapac with Davide Villella representing the team in the early break. The six-rider move was brought back well before the finish due to fast pace-setting by Astana.

 

Road captain Simon Clarke had circled stages five, six and sevens as days that suited his strengths. Active already on stages five and six, including a top ten finish on Thursday, Clarke knew Astana’s strategy planned into his hands.

 

The Australian marked the move he knew would come and got himself into a late race breakaway of three. Three became two as Clarke and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) buried themselves in attempt to hold off the peloton. Their maximum advantage was 30-seconds, and the gap began to tumble as the finish line loomed.

 

Under the flamme rouge, the duo had six seconds on a reduced bunch. One hundred and fifty meters from the finish, an elite group stormed past Clarke and Sanchez.

 

Clarke finished in 30th place, a result that belied his brave efforts, on the same time as stage winner Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling). Team leader Andrew Talansky finished one spot further back, on the same time, and jumps up to 14th overall. Villella’s time in the breakaway was awarded with a podium appearance for the Fair Play award.

 

Despite the heartbreaking finish, Clarke has a positive attitude about the remaining two weeks of racing: “I’m really happy with how the team is riding here. We are all working well together, hopefully with the motivation we have and how well we are working together we have to be close to a victory.”

 

"I had highlighted stages five, six and seven as really good opportunities for me. It targeted these three stage. You saw me making some kind of action in every one of them. At least I can finish this block of three days knowing I didn't go down without a fight.

 

)"In a way I am disappointed, but you must keep pulling way and time will come. You could see from earlier on that Astana were setting something up. I knew it was for Luis Leon. I watched for Talansky with always an eye on Luis Leon. I knew they were going to use Dario Cataldo as a launch pad. So when he went I thought I'll get in front of him and then Luis came across and we were just full gas to the line.

 

”Luis was so strong it was petty hard to match his pulls. It was not so much of a disappointment because I was racing for second place anyway. Luis showed what a classy bike rider he is and how strong he was today."

 

Nikias Arndt misses out again at the Vuelta a Espana

It was a sprint that eventually decided the winner though, with Team Giant-Alpecin’s best placed riders Koen de Kort and Nikias Arndt, who were boxed in during the finale and were unable to contest the final sprint.

 

Coach Luke Roberts said after the stage: “The team did a good job controlling the start to see that the day’s breakaway would be suitable and they would be able to set up a sprint. Sindre [Lunke] rode really strongly then to set the pace in the bunch. An attack from Astana made for a really fast final and the guys did a great job to pass the climbs and be there with 5 guys in the decimated bunch for the sprint, unfortunately all the good work was for nothing after the guys were boxed in at a crucial point with 2.5km to go and couldn’t make up the positions again.”

 

Injured Ilya Koshevoy fights on at the Vuelta

For Lampre-Merida, Louis Meintjes was 25th and he was properly supported by his team mates Grmay (35th), Durasek (89th) and Conti (90th). The South African climber (who’s 24th in the general classification) is going to face four summit finishes which could be suitable for him in trying to achieve the goal of a stage victory.

 

The best congrats of the day are for Olya Koshevoy who demonstrated his pure fighting spirit ny completing the stage despite the consequences of the crash he had been involved in during Thursday stage (five stitches on the right eyebrow and lots of abrasions).
 

Crash costs Jens Keukeleire rare chance to sprint at the Vuelta

Belgian Jens Keukeleire was caught up in the late crash that disrupted the finale on stage seven of the Vuelta a Espana today, losing the opportunity to contest the sprint for ORICA-BikeExchange.

 

Thankfully, Keukeleire sustained no injuries in the unavoidable incident with teammates Esteban Chaves and Simon Yates both crossing the line safely.

 

The crash occured on the final corner before Jonas Van Genechten (IAM-Cycling) went on to win the stage from a reduced bunch sprint after a late attack was caught only 400metres from the line.

 

Stage six winner Yates remains in tenth on the general classification with Chaves still in fifth ahead of tomorrow’s stage eight.

 

Sport director Neil Stephens was pleased that the team made it through the stage without issue ahead of a tough stage finish tomorrow.

 

“We approached the day as a transition stage,” said Stephens. “Our main objectives were to protect Esteban (Chaves) and Simon (Yates) and make sure we didn’t lose any time when it got hectic in the finale.

 

“It was a tough stage and we achieved our targets, and as per previous stages if the opportunity arised for us to contest the sprint and we have ticked our main boxes then we were going to give it a go.

 

“Today it was Jens (Keukeleire) who was up for the finale but he was unfortunate to get caught up in the crash before the line. He’s OK and his work ethic and attitude are always really positive so we look ahead to tomorrow now.”

 

ORICA-BikeExchange did make one trip to the podium at the end of stage seven to be presented with the best team award from yesterday's stage six that was won by 24-year-old Yates.

 

Team LottoNL-Jumbo: Our new strategy is to go for GC with George Bennett

Team LottoNL Jumbo rider Victor Campenaerts was in the escape of the day during the seventh stage of the Vuelta a España. The Belgian joined five other riders. In the last 50 kilometers, the peloton closed the gap and it became a sprint in Puebla de Sanabria. Belgian Jonas Vangenechten (IAM Cycling) won the stage and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) retained the lead.

 

"The plan was to have a rider in the breakaway and we succeeded," said Sports Director Addy Engels. "Koen Bouwman made the first escape, but that group was caught quickly. Then the break of the day left and we had Victor Campenaerts in it.

 

"It's a gamble on a good outcome if you go in these kind of stages in the breakaway. It's always wait and see what the sprinters' teams will do, but you have to make the break to have a chance. The sprinters' teams put men in the lead and the gap remained around three minutes. Then you try to ensure that the leading group maintains some reserves to accelerate in the final, but when Astana leads the peloton you know it's over."

 

"I felt good and was happy that I could go along with the escape," said Campenaerts. "Of course, you hope that the sprinters' teams are not interested in this stage. But if you see the gap remains the same, you know that the peloton is controling the break.

 

"With only 40 kilometers to go, suddenly there was the pack and I tried with Mate (Cofidis) to stay as long as possible in front, but that was just for fun. With Astana on the front and with 40 kilometres to go,  you know it does not make sense anymore."

 

"I have a good feeling and I hope that I can hold this the coming weeks, I look forward to the time trial in the last week. I wonder how my legs will feel in my first grand tour."

 

"Today, we managed to lose no time with George Bennett, tomorrow we have the same goal," Engels said. "Tomorrow is for the GC. We will ride tomorrow as a team for George Bennett with the hope that he stays in the GC. But if that does not happen, we'll come up with another plan."

 

Engels added that the plans had to be reviewed after the loss of Kruijswijk.

 

Strong Jose Goncalves crashes in hectic Vuelta sprint

Bad luck stroke Caja Rural - Seguros RGA on the last kilometer of stage 7 in Vuelta a España as José Gonçalves crashed just as the peloton approached the final sprint.
 
Gonçalves had studied the finish carefully this morning and knew he had to be well-positioned before taking on the final 400 meters uphill. Passing under the last-kilometer-banner, everything went according to plan but unfortunately, two riders crashed just in front of the 27-year-old Portuguese with 500 meters to go, which ruined his chances of success. Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling) won the stage, while Darwin Atapuma (BMC) kept the red leader’s jersey. Sergio Pardilla sits 27th in the general classification as Caja Rural - Seguros RGA’s best placed rider.
 
José Gonçalves said: 

 

“They crashed just in front of me as we were about to cross the bridge. There was nothing I could do to avoid it. It’s a shame I didn’t get a chance to go for the win because I felt really good today and I was well-positioned. At least I didn’t suffer any injuries”.

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