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"Now it has happened and I still can’t believe it has happened to me. I’m 35 years old and in some ways I was thinking this was probably it, but I hope this makes things start all over for me."

Photo: Sirotti

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
27.08.2016 @ 22:09 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

At 35 years of age, Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) took the biggest win of his career when he emerged as the strongest of an 11-rider breakaway on the brutally steep La Camperona climb on stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana. Further down the mountain, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) countered a big attack from Chris Froome (Sky) and soloed to the line to move into the race lead. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) bounced back from yesterday’s crash by being the second best of the favourites while Froome faded in the finale and ultimately lost 33 seconds to his Colombian rival.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Sergey Lagutin: I hope things will start all over for me

For a third day in a row Team KATUSHA riders were eager to animate the race by going in strategic breaks and working toward the goal of a stage win. Today’s efforts paid off in spades with Sergey Lagutin able to out-sprint his two breakaway companions to win atop the super steep Alto de La Camperona.

 

”Finally the dream came true. I was dreaming about this since I was little, about winning a stage in a grand tour like the Vuelta. Now it has happened and I still can’t believe it has happened to me. I’m 35 years old and in some ways I was thinking this was probably it, but I hope this makes things start all over for me. Without a big leader here we start with new goals and we’re all free to try something for ourselves when we see the opportunity. We are still competitive and looking forward in this Vuelta. I will be happy and proud of this stage win for the rest of my life. This win gives me more confidence and for sure I will look for other stages. We’ve just started – we have another two weeks ahead of us,” said stage winner Sergey Lagutin.

 

Part of an original 11-man break that went clear after only 10km of racing on Saturday’s 181.5km stage 8 starting in Villapando, initially teammate Jhonatan Restrepo took a chance to steal a stage win, but was brought back early on the narrow finishing climb. An attentive Lagutin seized the moment to surge ahead, joined by two others, and the trio managed to fight for the finish among themselves. Lagutin showed his patience and experience by waiting for the closing 100m to sprint around Axel Domont (AG2R La Mondiale) to easily distance the others and win the stage in the 71st Vuelta a España by 10-seconds. It was a first grand tour stage win for Lagutin and the blue polka dot jersey of the best climber is now his.

 

”I honestly didn’t expect this. The finish didn’t really fit me. I just caught the right breakaway with some strong climbers and I was able to win the stage. This is the most important victory of my entire career. I’m happy it finally happened to me. We kind of planned our move on the climb. I could see that Restrepo was excited when he attacked and he showed he had good legs. I was able to sit in the wheel of the breakaway, not work and save my energy. All the little things came together for us. All thanks to our sports directors who were talking to us on the radios and telling us what to do. I will try to keep this climbing jersey for the next few days,” said Lagutin. Last week in stage two Lagutin was in a crash that required two left fingers to be taped together for racing. He also suffers from rib pain but has battled on day-after-day and was rewarded for his perseverance with today’s stage win.  

 

"It's a dream come true. I never thought about this. To win a stage like this in a Grand Tour, at 35-years-old, I still can't believe it. I guess it proves it's not all over for me. It was a perfect break, we worked really well together and it was good to have two of us in the break. I could rest in the finale because Jhonathan was in the front. Restrepo did a great job, he deserved the most aggressive rider jersey and he was as happy as I was at the finish.

 

" I felt good and to get into the breakaway was quite easy.  We worked well all together, the sports directors on the radio gave me confidence and told me to wait until the final 500 metres. Everything just went perfectly.

 

"Jonny did an incredible job for me, he was fundamental. He attacked on the climb and I was able to sit in the wheel not working so I could save my legs for the final. I would say that more than 50 percent of this victory is thanks to Jonathan Restrepo.

 

"Honestly, with two kilometres to go when the French riders began attacking and I was able to follow them without giving everything, I had the confidence. Thanks to the sports directors Xavier Florencio he was telling me not to panic and save my legs. That’s what I did and we deserved that victory."

 

For his efforts and time in the lead today, teammate Jhonatan Restrepo, 21, earned the daily honor of most aggressive rider and took ninth of the stage at 1:30.

 

”This day was very, very hard. Spending the day in the breakaway with Sergey was crazy. The feeling in my legs was good, but the last climb was so hard. I felt good when I attacked, and in the end my work was good for Sergey. I am very happy for this win for Team KATUSHA and for winning the most aggressive rider today,” said Jhonatan Restrepo.

 

Axel Domont: I didn’t have a chance against Lagutin

Axel Domont (Ag2r) was second. He said:

 

"We had to be in a breakaway at least ten riders and we did it even if he had to fight because it was a bit of a lottery. The stage victory was decided in the final, oon a climb. We knew it would be decided in the last kilometers and that's what happened. Lagutin did well and was strong in the final.

 

”It's a mixed feeling. To finish second in a stage in a Grand Tour is beautiful but at the same time, I'm a competitor. I'm here to win and I am the first loser.

 

”To console myself, I tell myself that for the second time in two days I am the best rider from Drome. I'm getting better and I'm very happy with my form as I expected.

 

“With Jean-Christophe Péraud and Pierre Latour, we have two motivating leaders and you can expect to hear about team AG2R La Mondiale in the Vuelta.

 

"I didn't have the legs to follow Lagutin. I have no regrets. All day, I played it safe, I was never in the red. It was almost a win but Lagutin still had a team-mate and he didn't do any work in the climb. On paper he's a little bit stronger than me and if you add it up, I didn't have a chance. He struck with 200 metres to go and it was decisive. I finished second, it's my best result of the season, my best result as a pro. It's better to win but I'm not going to complain about a second place."

 

Periig Quemeneur: At my age, only victory counts

Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) finished 3rd. He said:

 

"The first days, I was hampered by stomach pains and I had to wait for them to go. I was letting myself being dropped every day towards the end of the stage to go for stages like today's. Today I had good legs but I wasn't strong enough. I did it on guts. There was no super climber in the break.

 

”I love breakaways and in the Vuelta, if there's a chance, I'm glad to be part of it. Third isn't bad, but I believe I can do better. At my age, only victory counts. I'm going to try every day until the Breton that I am has nothing left in the tank."

 

Remarkable comeback from Mattia Cattaneo at the Vuelta a Espana

Mattia Cattaneo has suffered from injuries and crashes which limited his pure talent heavily. Today the Italian rider exploited the opportunity to demonstrate his skills and his good condition by joining the main breakaway of the race. Cattaneo chose to ride at a regular pace in the first part of the climb and he was dropped from the breakaway. However, he increased the speed in the final and most demanding sector of the climb and he was very close to bridging the gap to the leading trio (Lagutin, Domont, Quemeneur).


He was very close to accomplishing a great feat but he crossed the finish line in 4th.

"I'm happy that I again lived those feelings you live when riding in the front of the race and fighting for achieving a top result,” Cattaneo explained. “I feel my condition is good and it helped me to join the breakaway: this was my task for the stage and I was in the winning attack. 
 

”I set a slow pace in the first part of the climb and I accelerated in the last kilometer, it was a good choice but Lagutin was stronger.

 

"I saw that this climb was very hard and in the last few kilometers I decided to miss my turns to start the climb. In the last kilometer, I didn't have very good legs. It was very, very close but I did the best I could."


Meintjes relied on his grit and on the support of his team mates, especially Grmay and Mario Costa, in order to limit the loss to the top climbers: the South African rider, who's suffering for the abrasions and contusions after the crash in stage 6, lost 1'32" to Quintana.

 

In-form Pieter Serry achieves best grand tour result on La Camperona

For the second time this week, Pieter Serry was part of the breakaway, one which didn't pose any threat to the general classification contenders, thus going more than 10 minutes clear before the day's only climb. Riding his seventh Grand Tour, Serry was keen on getting a good result, after being caught by the peloton on stage three not long before the finish on Mirador de Ezaro. This time, the big advantage the breakaway enjoyed meant the escape will make it and as soon as they became aware of that, the riders in the lead began playing cat and mouse.

 

First to attack was Jhonathan Restrepo (Katusha), but the Colombian was caught on the steep section of La Camperona by a three-man group which included Serry, who rode his own pace, without going in the red. They were soon joined by Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) and Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), with the victory being played in the final 300 meters, on a 14% gradient, where Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) took off and rolled over the line victorious. Serry, although suffering on the punishing roads, didn't wave the flag and continued pushing, finishing the day in 5th position, his best ever result in a Grand Tour stage.

 

"I was here before, two years ago, and it was just as I remembered it to be: excruciating, leg-sapping and really brutal. On the 25% segment it was like you were riding in slow motion, so tough it was. There wasn't any moment of respite on the second part of the climb, just a fight with your body to keep pushing and make it to the line", said Pieter Serry after Vuelta a España's first summit finish. "La Camperona is one of the steepest climbs I've ever done. I did my best, as I was thinking of winning for my grandfather, who celebrated his birthday today, but I came short in the end. Once distanced I tried to return to the front, especially as I had to fight with cramps. Knowing I gave it my all I don't have any regrets."

 

Gianni Meersman: It will be difficult to defend the green jersey

Etixx – Quick-Step's Gianluca Brambilla rests in 9th place, after a day in which he climbed with the best until the final part of the ascent and limited the losses. Another rider of the team, David De La Cruz, sits in 15th position, while Gianni Meersman continues to top the green jersey standings, following a stage in which he worked hard at the head of the peloton in the run-in to La Camperona.

 

Meersman said:

 

"Today, that was the only thing I could do for the team: go fetch bottles and pull in the finale to lead out Gianluca Brambilla at the bottom of the climb. Afterwards, I rode at my own pace but it was really hard. I'm going to try and defend the green jersey but its not going to be easy tomorrow and Monday because Valverde is very strong and a much better climber than me. But I will try."

 

Jacques van Rensburg misses big opportunity in Vuelta mountains

Jacques Janse van Rensburg was motivated to make the break of the day and the South African did just that. The attacks started from the break with 9km to go and as Katusha had two riders in the break, they had the upper hand when Jhonatan Restrepo got a gap on the rest of the break. Lagutin was able to sit in and save his legs while Janse van Rensburg had to take responsibility to ensure the attackers were brought back before the climb.

 

Restrepo reached the climb first but the fresher legs behind soon caught and passed him. Janse van Rensburg was digging as deep as he could but the climb was savage and unrelenting. Janse van Rensburg came home in an impressive 6th place after a very difficult climb.

The rest of the African Team riders all made it home safely and the good news is that Igor Anton is starting to feel a fair bit better after three days of suffering with stomach pain.

 

Jacques Janse van Rensburg said:
 

“I was focused on getting into the break today as we knew there was going to be two races on today. The race for the stage and the race for the GC guys. It was already a good job getting into the move. I felt good all day and was really focusing on doing everything right to give myself and the team the best chance at a stage win. In the end I missed a lot of power and ended 6th after giving my best. I am happy with the end result and am happy knowing that I can be even better.”

 

Scott Thwaites tries in unfavourable terrain, Jose Mendes set back by injury

BORA – ARGON 18 rider Scott Thwaites was in the break. On the climb Thwaites dug deep in the chasing group and then tried to find his own rythm. He was able to master also the steepest parts very well and finished in 7th place, just 1:11 down on the stage winner.

 

In the main bunch Movistar took over control before the final climb, but also BORA - ARGON 18 were able to bring José Mendes in a perfect position to the foot of the climb. He suffers from minor knee problems which affects his riding mainly in the flat. Therefore he was already on his limit entering the last uphill section. He decided to ease off a little in the beginning of the climb and then go hard on the steepest parts. With this tactics he limited his losses but was not able to go with the best to the finish. 

 

”The team did really a perferct job for me today. They brought me in 3rd position to the final climb. But I suffered already from this high pace in the flat. Stages like today where everyone gets pretty fresh to the last climb, don't suit me well. I decided to ease off a little to not explode in the hard parts. When I found my rhythm I was able to overtake some riders again so I think it was a good decision. The next stages are totally different, up and down the whole day. Then I will try to show my best again,” said José Mendes.

 

“I am not a real climber like you need to be for a stage like this. Our plan was to get into the break with Bartosz [Huzarski] or Silvio [Herklotz], but when I was up there and it seemed to be the right group, we decided to give it a go. Steffen, our DS, told me to try something before the final climb, but I was not sure and if you go too long in the red zone already in the flat you can really blow in the steep parts. I decided to go at my own pace and I think that worked out pretty good. I am happy to have a top ten result in such a hard stage like today,” said Scott Thwaites.

 

Big Gatis Smukulis on the attack on brutal wall

"I have spent a lot to close the gap before the final climb,” said Astana’s Gatis Smukulis who was eighth at the finish line. “But I'm happy with the result after I was all day on the attack.

 

"It 's been exciting climbing La Camperona - a terrible climb with different road sections with slopes steeper than 20% - between two wings of crowd. I'll try again .”

 

"We made a good race and Michele Scarponi remained with the best and deserves to enter the Top Ten,” commented sport director Dmitri Sedoun.

 

Scarponi is in 14th place at 2.36.

 

Zico Waeytens tries to surprise the climbers on Vuelta wall

Team Giant-Alpecin had Zico Waeytens on the break and he finished the day in 11th place, 2’38” back on the stage winner after going on the attack again before the climb. It was a good performance on a day that is hardly suited to the Belgian’s strengths.

 

Coach Luke Roberts:

 

“We aimed to put a guy in the breakaway today knowing that it would have a good chance to come to the finish, and we succeeded with having Zico a part of that 11 rider group. With such a steep climb in the final Zico knew his chances were slim for the victory, so he tried to break the group up before the climb.

 

”However they were working well together and Zico couldn’t get much of a lead into the climb, but it was a good attempt and in the end he was 11th on the stage. The other guys came through the stage easy and will be looking for the breaks in the days to come.”

 

Nairo Quintana: I knew I was stronger than before

The Movistar Team is starting to feel like this year’s Vuelta a España could be a good one for them. They had brought serious power to the last Grand Tour of the year, with strong helpers and two courageous, talented leaders. And on Saturday, atop the grueling Alto de La Camperona, Nairo Quintana took the leader’s jersey by leaving all rivals behind in the last three kilometers of incredible slopes in the Sabero valley, following 181km from Villalpando where the Arrieta/Chente-led squad always behaved well.

 

José Herrada, Rory Sutherland and Imanol Erviti led their team-mates out into the run-in towards the climb, while an excellent Jonathan Castroviejo, Rubén Fernández and José Joaquín Rojas kept the group strung out through the 5km section between the foot of the ascent and the start of the steepest part of the climb, after the village of Sotillos. As Froome (SKY) went on his own from behind and race leader Atapuma (BMC) was soon dropped back, Alejandro Valverde made sure that a steady pace was kept in the GC peloton to make things harder for the Briton. Froome would bridge back and eventually created the big selection: the Sky leader, Contador and Quintana, with Valverde struggling some meters behind.

 

Quintana didn’t hesitate: he countered Froome’s move and soon opened a considerable gap, which grew towards 25” over Contador on the line, 33” to Froome, Pardilla (CJR) and a brilliant Valverde. The latter used all his experienced and tenacity to keep his 2nd spot overall, now 19” behind his team-mate - Froome sits at 27”, Chaves 57” in arrears. With Dani Moreno in 8th place (+1’44”) and more than able to help the team, EU'sebio Unzué’s group seems to show the strength that it’s needed to start their defense from tomorrow’s traditional Naranco climb in Asturias (164.5km).

 

Nairo Quintana said: 

 

“The smile I carried through the finish line was just a grimace of pure suffering. But happily, we achieved our goal of the day. This was my main expectation for the day: to try to gain some time on our rivals. We started, however, those steep slopes of La Camperona with much caution; we were waiting for Froome’s attack, which obviously came, and we had energy enough to respond to it. I was always keen to do something here, and I knew I was a bit stronger than before. I was coming to this Vuelta with lots of ambition, like in every single GT I start, but it always boosts your confidence to see you’re a little bit ahead of your rivals for one day.

 

“It’s never soon to get a leader’s jersey: it’s better to be ahead with a few seconds than trying desperately to make them up from behind. The GC is looking quite sorted out, which is reasonable, taking into account that we’ve raced really fast over the week, with demanding stages which take its toll in finishes like today’s. From now onwards, with such a strong team that we have, I’m sure I’ll defend myself well, starting off with tomorrow, when we will wait and see how things go.

 

”I always come to this race with a good level and fit to race well. I was in a position to take the jersey and I did. I hope I will be able to keep it until the last day.

 

”It was a really quick stage, very hard with a lot of wind. The final climb was very demanding, really steep. But we managed to defend ourselves and respond to the attacks.

 

”There are a lot of mountain stages left. It will be difficult, with a lot of tension. But I believe that with the team, we will be able to defend the jersey. We Colombians always train very hard for this race and thanks to the support we receive from the whole country, we are strong.

 

”Today you could see I was able to respond to all Froome’s attacks. I'm confident I'm capable of keeping responding to his attacks. I'm in a good shape.

 

”There are a lot of mountain  stages ahead and also a time trial which is going to be crucial for the GC. Each day is really nervous and we won't know who has won the Vuelta until the last day.

 

“Valverde and I already worked very well together. I came here as a leader and I know that Alejandro will help me. It's a personal challenge for him to finish this Vuelta and I'm sure he'll do great.

 

"The race has really started now, even though we've used up a lot of energy in this difficult first week in Galicia. For the moment, we're going to defend the lead."

 

Alejandro Valverde: I am ready to work for Quintana but there will still be opportunities for me

Alejandro Valverde said: 

 

“What else can I ask for in this race? I’ve spent many days in the fight, I’m still in 2nd overall after a demanding finish, I’ve contested the stage wins many times… and now we’ve got Nairo in the lead, and should he need any help, he’ll find it from myself. I’m super happy with the result up to this point. It was actually a bit of my task in the steepest part of the climb, pulling so the pace didn’t stop into the first kilometer. We really hit the front hard in the beginning of the ascent, as we tried to avoid any crashes and troubles.

 

“Froome upped the pace at a certain point - he’s one who really develops a plan, riding by his own pace and knowing where he can go full-gas - and Nairo reacted really well, countered and grabbed some nice seconds. He rode really well.

 

”Some interesting days are ahead for us. I’ll try to profit from any chances I find, while I help Nairo chase his goal. I’m satisfied with the fact that I’m here, in this Vuelta, after two GTs, in such a good position. And while it lasts, I won’t stop going.

 

“Everybody finished the same way after such an intense week of racing. But we are OK, on the right path. Nairo has the red jersey and I’m second with the white jersey. So far, so good. I’m satisfied by today, with Nairo at the front, Alberto [Contador] behind and then me and Froome. We cannot ask for more.

 

”It’s my third Grand Tour this year and I’m fighting every day. 3rd yesterday, every day with the best… we are super happy. Now the situation has changed, but not so much. We are leaders, and if I have to work, i will. Today I made the tempo. Then, Froome attacked, but Nairo was just stronger.

 

"Froome did well, he did what he had to do, but Nairo did better. As for Alberto, he never gives up, and I never thought the Vuelta was finished for him. And I'm still there, I'm keen not to lose my top spot overall, but if I've got to work for Nairo, then I will do that."

 

”For now, I keep feeling good, fighting for stages, and while there’s strength left, I will keep trying. Before we had the jersey, I had freedom and I still have some. If I keep feeling well, even working for Nairo, I can be at the front. Whichever way the Vuelta ends, I will be really happy with the things I’ve done.

 

Cautious Alberto Contador: I thought my Vuelta was over

Alberto Contador put in a solid display of climbing on the first mountain finish of the Vuelta a España, just one day after a heavy fall put his whole race in jeopardy. True to his motto 'querer es poder', where there is a will, there is a way, El Pistolero showed his fighting spirit.

 

At the end of the 14km final climb to the line, after a largely flat stage, Contador was only bested by Nairo Quintana of Movistar to the line. Ahead, the day's early break took the stage, but Alberto moved himself up to seventh overall with his performance, finishing 13th on the day, second from the GC favourites.

 

Sport Director Steven de Jongh said after the stage:

 

"I'm proud of what the team and Alberto, in particular, achieved today. He had a very hard crash and we were all worried but he fought hard all day, he rode well on the climb and had a very strong finish, which was really important. This result is good for team morale and promising for the upcoming stages. He showed his fighting spirit and that it is important to keep riding and never give up.

 

"It was a very straightforward day and everything played out the way we had planned. The squad worked hard to place Alberto in a good position and he took over from there. In such a hot day, hydration was important and the riders were coming back for water bottles. Everybody did their job perfectly today."

 

The GC battle kicked off proper, with the attacks coming as the road kicked up. Tinkoff put Alberto in position at the base of the climb and despite initially losing ground to some of the GC favourites, he fought back to set his own pace and limit his loses, passing others on the way to the finish.


Looking back at the race, Contador said:

 

"There is no doubt today's result is important for my morale. It is also important for the morale of the staff and my teammates that work their fingers to the bone for me. After yesterday's crash thousands of thoughts were in my head but I didn't want to think I would again go back home, even if it was a possibility.

 

"We managed to save the day today and my only thought was to make it alive to the finish. We lost time to Nairo Quintana and this is a problem because he's one of my direct adversaries. But looking at the positive, we gained a few seconds on other riders. Now the most important is to recover as much as possible, thinking about tomorrow's stage, which could even be harder for me than today. Quite often, the second day after a crash is the worst one.

 

"It hurt during the stage today but it hurts even more when I get off the bike. When you ride there isn't as much tension on the calf as when you walk. The sensations I have aren't the best but I remain optimistic. Riding the final kilometers of the race, cheered by the spectators who were urging me not to give up was extraordinary. My motto is 'querer es poder', where there is a will there is a way. We will take the rest of the Vuelta day-by-day and see what we can achieve.

 

”I can’t say I had a time gap or an objective for today. For now, I’m alive. I just wanted not to lose time to Froome if it was possible. When I saw I had the legs to pass him, I told myself: You have to take advantage of this opportunity. Tomorrow will be another day, with more mountain passes than today. Sometimes, you feel the pain of a crash more two days after, so I will keep going to the hotel by car instead of the bus to have more time to work with the physiotherapist.

 

”When I arrived at the hotel, I saw it was really bad. I couldn’t walk properly because of the pain in the calf muscle. I really thought my Vuelta was over. But then, with all the people keeping sending messages to me, shouting for me for kilometers… I can’t go home after all this.

 

"So I'm satisfied, it was ok. A good result would have been to drop everybody. And when Nairo opened up a gap, I couldn't follow him."

 

”For now, I have to take it like I did today. I have not gained so much time, but everything counts. Races are won and lost by seconds nowadays. The start of the Vuelta was really bad for us, with the loss at the TTT and my bad day at Ézaro. From now one, I will go day by day and see how it goes. Tomorrow I expect I'll be following wheels.

 

”I try not to believe i bad luck but at the Tour I crashed riding a black bike. Yesterday, I rode a black bike and I crashed again. So, I’m sorry but I won’t race in a black bike again.”

 

Tomorrow's ninth stage is another tough test with five classified climbs along the 164.5km route, the last of which is the second category Alto del Naranco, which takes the riders to the finish line.

 

"We have two difficult stages ahead," commented de Jongh. "Tomorrow we have another uphill finish but not as steep as today. However, rain is expected and as a result we will have to be careful. The day after tomorrow will also be hard with a finish to the famous Lagos de Covadonga. It will not be easy but Alberto doesn't give up easily!"

 

Impressive Sergio Pardilla: I can’t ask for more

Caja Rural - Seguros RGA’s Sergio Pardilla put in an impressive performance on stage 8 of Vuelta a España as he followed the top favorites on the steep finish to La Camperona.
 
Amongst the favorites for the overall victory, only Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) finished in front of Pardilla who’s now 17th in the general classification. The 32-year-old Spanish climber is 3:17 minutes behind Quintana, who’s the new leader of the race.
 
Sergio Pardilla said: 

 

“The plan was to be in a good position as we started on the climb. Contador, Quintana and Froome were very strong but I managed to stay with them. There was a short moment of hesitation and since I had good legs, I decided to give it a go. I’m very happy with this performance. I can’t ask for more than this”.

 

Chris Froome: You can’t read too much into this

Chris Froome retained his third place overall at the Vuelta a Espana as the race hit the high mountains for the first time on stage eight.

 

The Brit rode his own pace on the early slopes of the painfully steep Alto de la Camperona, dragging himself back to the select group of GC favourites before upping the pace.

 

Froome's acceleration split the group further, with only Nairo Quintana (Movistar) able to follow initially. Using the move as a platform the Colombian attacked shortly before the flamme rouge, opening out a gap of 33 seconds at the finish.

 

The Team Sky leader maintained his effort to the line at Valle de Sabero, finishing fourth of the general classification contenders after being narrowly overhauled by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).

 

When the dust had settled Froome held station overall, 27 seconds back on new race leader Quintana. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) remains second, eight up on Froome, after catching him on the line.

 

Leopold Konig continued his strong return to form at the Vuelta to climb the GC to fifth overall. The Czech star sits 1:16 off the lead, while Pete Kennaugh, who rode impressively in the lead group in the final kilometres, sits 13th (+2:29).

 

Team Sky battled with Movistar to control the first-category summit. Michal Golas paced the early slopes, with Salvatore Puccio and David Lopez taking it up before the group split apart.

 

Chris Froome said:

 

"It was a tough climb. Nairo showed he was in good condition, chapeau to him. Alberto did great, especially after yesterday's crash. He showed he's a fighter. Myself? I'm surviving.”

 

“Well, I did lose a little bit of time today, but I’m still in there,” he told CyclingWeekly. “Quintana showed he’s in great shape. I think Movistar is going to be the team to go up against and this race.

 

“I wouldn’t really write off Chaves from today because it was a special sort of finish with less than 10 minutes for that final steep part. So you can’t read too much into it. But at the same time, it does show a little bit about where everyone is at and certainly the GC is taking shape now.

 

“It’s still early days in the race and there’s still a lot to fight for. All in all, I’m still pretty happy with where I’m at. There’s still a lot of racing to come like the time trial on stage 18 which should suit me very well. Apart from that, it’s for Movistar to control the race now.”

 

Smart Andrew Talansky moves up in Vuelta GC

t was mission mostly accomplished for Cannondale-Drapac on stage eight of the Vuelta a España. The American team hoped to put a rider in the early breakaway and protect team leader Andrew Talansky’s overall ambitions. Green Argyle missed out on the early move – although not for lack of trying – but succeeded in setting up Talansky for the best possible climb to the finish line.

 

“We thought the break had a chance to go to the finish line, so we wanted to have someone in it,” said sport director Juanma Garate. “We had Moser and Ben King in one breakaway early. They were caught, and the next break, where we had nobody, was the one that made it. After we missed the move, we stayed together all day long protecting Andrew in case of echelons. There was a high risk of crosswind before the climb.”

 

The summit finish up La Camperona made for a brutal conclusion to a blazing hot day in the saddle. The average gradient of the 8.5 kilometer climb is a misleading 7.4 percent. Irregular, making it difficult to settle in a rhythm, La Camperona includes a three kilometer section with an average grade of more than 20 percent.

 

“It’s really, really, really steep,” said Garate. “It’s one of the climbs where if you pass into the red zone, if you go full for a few seconds too long, you will pay in the last part of the climb. We spoke about that in our team meeting today, so Andrew knew this. He had to the climb in the smartest way – to go easy on the steepest parts and try to come back on the easier parts.”

 

Talansky looked to his teammates to keep him well-positioned on the lower slopes of the climb and followed Davide Formolo and Joe Dombrowski as the road began to rise. When he was isolated, he climbed within himself to finish in 18th place, 16 seconds off of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Chris Froome (Sky). The effort afforded Talansky a jump up on the general classification where he now sits in 12th place.

 

“Andrew was smart,” said Garate. “He rode it the way he needed to. It was super.”

 

Would Garate be happy if the new two mountain days unfolded in a similar fashion?

 

“It was a good day for the general classification, but we want to race on the offensive,” said Garate. “We have strong climbers here. We have guys that can win stages. Tomorrow is another day where there is the chance for the break to stay away. We want to have two guys in it.”

 

Difficult day for Esteban Chaves in the Vuelta

Colombian Esteban Chaves had to dig deep on the viciously steep climb to the finish on stage eight of the Vuelta a Espana today after the race for the general classification truly sprang to life.

 

ORICA-BikeExchange teammate and stage six winner Simon Yates crossed the line side by side with Chaves after an extremely difficult end to the stage that was won by Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) from a winning move out of the breakaway.

 

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) moves into the race lead ahead of stage nine, benefitting from a series of attacks that shook the favourites group in the closing kilometres.

 

Chaves moves up to fourth on the general classification with Yates still in tenth as the race heads into its second week.

 

Sport director Neil Stephens was pleased with how the team performed and yet again met the objectives for the stage.

 

“It sounds a bit repetitive,” said Stephens. “But we went into today with the sole objective being to maintain our position on the overall and at the close of the stage we have done that and even gone one better and moved up a spot.

 

“Both Esteban (Chaves) and Simon (Yates) did well on the last climb after some really good work from the team kept them at the front as the race hit the ascent.

 

“Once the climb started to hit 20% and 25% then it was every man for himself and we saw some aggressive riding today. It was a strange day in the sense that we had 170kilometres of completely flat roads and the one demanding climb at the end.”

 

“We knew that there would be two races going on today,” concluded Stephens. “One for the stage and the other for general classification so it wasn’t surprising how the race played out.”

 

George Benett keen to grab unexpected opportunity after Kruijswijk’s withdrawal

George Bennett finished 26th in the eighth stage of the Vuelta a Espana. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s New Zealander ended as 14th of the peloton on the steep final climb to La Camperona. Sergey Lagutin (Team Katusha) won the stage, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) took the overall lead. Bennett is now placed 20th at 3’37”.

 

“I expected the teams of the overall contenders to be interested in the stage victory today,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “They weren’t, unfortunately, so the winner came out of the break. In a stage like this, we only have George Bennett and Robert Gesink who are able to win on such a final climb. Robert doesn’t have the form to do that yet and George’s overall position is too good to get the space.”

 

“The performance George delivered today is strong if you ask me,” Engels continued. “He ended up 14th out of the peloton. The differences between the overall contenders weren’t too big, as well, only Quintana took a lot of time.”

 

Bennett wasn’t completely satisfied with his performance.

 

“I made some mistakes before the final climb, so I didn’t start it in optimal form,” he added. “I pushed as hard as I could, afterwards. I exploded in the end, so I lost some places in the final kilometres.

 

"I was really disappointed after Steven Kruijswijk had to leave the Vuelta, but I’m making some new plans and I’m eager to make the most of it.”

 

Darwin Atapuma: I had expected to to better

A short and steep summit finish on stage 8 saw Darwin Atapuma’s red jersey reign come to an end after four days as leader of the Vuelta a Espana.

 

Eleven riders broke away in the first 10km of racing, all of whom posed no threat to Atapuma’s red jersey, and managed to build a lead of more than ten minutes.

 

BMC Racing Team controlled the situation throughout the 181.5km stage which was completely flat in the lead up to the final 3km climb.

 

With gradients of more than 20 percent, the final climb completely broke up the General Classification contenders’ group who battled it out behind the surviving breakaway.

 

Sergey Lagutin (Team Katusha) took the win from the breakaway, and behind him Nairo Quintana attacked to take the overall lead. Darwin Atapuma lost time on the climb but holds on to sixth place overall, with Samuel Sanchez in tenth.

 

Darwin Atapuma said:

 

“I thought that I would be better today on the last climb. I didn’t know if I could keep the jersey but I wanted to do everything possible to keep it. I did my best in the last climb even though I was really suffering. The team did a great job of working for me and protecting the jersey in the last four days. It was a difficult day for me today but there are still a lot of stages here at the Vuelta a Espana. From tomorrow the climbs are less explosive and less steep than today so they’re much more suitable to my riding characteristics.

 

“To wear the red jersey was a dream and something that I’ll always remember. But the Vuelta a Espana is far from over and I think we as a team can get more good results in the next two weeks.”

 

Sports director Valerio Piva added:

 

“It was a nice surprise to have the red jersey for BMC Racing Team, and for Darwin Atapuma. We helped him to stay in this position for as long as possible. Today we knew that it would be difficult but we took the responsibility of the red jersey and did a lot of the work at the front of the peloton. We made sure Darwin and Samuel Sanchez were well-positioned as the base of the final climb and finally they are both still in the top ten.”

 

Injured Bart De Clercq survives another day in the Vuelta

Maxime Monfort was the first rider of Lotto Soudal to cross the finish line. He was 42nd. After the crash in the sixth stage, Bart De Clercq pushed through once again and finished 130th. He crossed the finish line accompanied by several teammates.

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