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Finding himself in a strong quartet with 1km to the top of the final climb, Rolland soloed clear to win the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon queen stage and take the overall victory, with Intxausti and Anton completing the podium

Photo: Sirotti

BEÑAT INTXAUSTI

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DIRECT ENERGIE

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PIERRE ROLLAND

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VUELTA A CASTILLA Y LEON

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19.04.2015 @ 18:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After a number of near-misses, Pierre Rolland (Europcar) finally took his first victory of the 2015 season when he emerged as the strongest in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon queen stage. On the final climb of the Alto de Lubian, he found himself with Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) and the Movistar pair of Benat Inxausti and Igor Anton in a strong quartet and with 1km to go, he accelerated clear to win both the stage and the overall in the three-day race.

 

Pierre Rolland is usually a slow starter but by the time we get to the month of April, his legs have often started to come around. The 2015 season seems to be no exception and today he confirmed his steady progression by finally taking his first win of the year in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon queen stage.

 

Rolland has gradually edged closer to the victory and has already had a number of near-misses. He was second in the first stage of the Volta a Catalunya where he even seemed to be in contention for the overall win before starting to fade, and he was runner-up in the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe queen stage.

 

The latter performance proved that he was in great condition for the three-day Spanish race and he confirmed his intentions in the first two stages. Both days were marked by strong crosswinds and Rolland I famously known for missing out in such conditions but this time he made no mistakes, making it into the first group on both stages.

 

Hence, he was in a great position as he went into today’s final stage which was clearly the hardest leg of the three-day race. With a summit finish on the Alto de Lubian, it was one for the climbers and Rolland found himself in a great position as he hit the lower slopes of the climb.

 

Rodolfo Torres lost an immediate attack and seemed to be riding away with the win before a mechanical saw him drop back. Meanwhile, the main group was whittled down to just 7 riders after Europcar had tested their rivals by sending Romain Sicard off in an attack.

 

Rolland still had Maxime Mederel at his side and when more riders rejoined from behind, Fabrice Jeandesboz also got back in contention, making Europcar the strongest team. However, none of Rolland’s teammates were able to join their leader when Movistar started to play with the muscles and it was a quartet that merged to decide the win.

 

Rolland found himself up against the Movistar pair of Igor Anton and Intxausti and Torres who had come back from his mechanical. With 1km to go, he made a perfectly timed move to get clear and crossed the line to win the stage with a 12-second advantage over Intxausti while Anton followed 6 seconds further adrift.

 

With the stage win, Rolland also took the overall victory with a 16-second advantage over Intxausti while Anton completed the podium. Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) won the points competition while Garikoitz Bravo (Murias Taldea) was the best climber. Rolland also won the combination competition while Intxausti was the best Spaniard and Francisco Mancebo (Skydive) the best local rider. Movistar was the best team.

 

Racing in Spain now takes a small break before it moves to Asturias. The next major race in the country in the Vuelta a Asturias which is held over two days from May 2 to May 3.

 

The queen stage

After two days for the sprinters, the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon ended with its queen stage which brought the riders over 179.2km from Zamora to a mountaintop finish on the Alto de Lubian. The first 160km were almost completely flat but the final was a tough one. First the riders went up the category 2 Alto del Padonelo whose summit was located 19.6km from the finish before they descended to the bottom of the final 7.4km climb where the race was expected to be decided among the best climbers.

 

After yesterday’s snowy stage, the riders had nice weather conditions when they gathered in Zamora for the start of the stage and as it had been the case in the first stages, they got it off to a very fast start with lots of attacks. The first promising move was launched by Ibai Salas (Burgos), Imanol Estevez (Murias Taldea), Ike Groen (De Rijke), Nuno Matos (Radio Popular) and Fabio Tuzi (MG.Kvis) but they were quickly brought back.

 

The break gets clear

The attacking continued while the riders hit a dangerous crosswind section after 10km of racing and this made it even harder for anyone to get clear. At the 20km mark, no one had escaped but moments later it seemed like the elastic had snapped when Pablo Torres (Burgos), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural), Maxime Mederel (Europcar), Edwin Avila (Colombia), Dmitry Sokolov (Lokosphinx), Domingos Goncalves (Efapel) and Sebastian Mora (Spain) got clear. At the 28km mark, they were 50 seconds ahead but the peloton managed to bring the group back.

 

After 35km of very fast racing, Torres, Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar), Avila and Sokolov attacked and the peloton was content with the composition of that group. They had to fight hard to get a bigger advantage but at the 44.5km mark, they had more than a minute.

 

Jurado makes the junction

Marcos Jurado (Spain) tried to bridge the gap and he found himself in no man’s land one minute behind the quartet for a long time while the peloton continued to lose group. At the 49km mark, the gap was 4.40 and it reached more than 5 minutes 10km later.

 

Impressively, Jurado made the junction after 53km of racing, making it a 5-rider breakaway, while Caja Rural started to chase in the peloton. At the 66km mark, they had brought the gap down to 4.45 and they kept it around 4.30 for a long time.

 

Caja Rural accelerate

The peloton suddenly made a big acceleration and under the impetus of Caja Rural, they brought the gap down to 1.52 after 102km of racing. 10km later, Sokolov was distanced from the break while the four remaining escapees managed to extend their advantage to 2.20.

 

With 52km to go, the escapees even had a gap of 3.03 but now it was time for the peloton to accelerate. 6km later it was only 2.12 and when they hit the Alto del Padornelo, it was 1.50.

 

The break is caught

The attacking now started from the peloton while Jurado got distanced from the break. No one managed to get clear though and as Torres got dropped from the front group, Quemeneur and Avila could enter the final 20km with an advantage of 30 seconds.

 

 1km from the top of the climb, the break was caught and it was Garikoitz Bravo (Murias Taldea) who led Avila, Marc Soler (Movistar) and Quemeneur over the top. On the descent, Movistar took control and they made sure that the peloton was completely strung out when they hit the bottom of the final climb.

 

Torres takes off

Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) attacked on the lower slopes and he had a 14-second advantage with 5.5km to go. That’s when Europcar played their first card but Romain Sicard (Europcar) never managed to get much of an advantage.

 

The main group was now down to David Belda (Burgos), Intxausti, Anton, Rolland, Evgeny Shalunov (Lokoshinx), Delio Fernandez (W52) and Maxime Mederel (Europcar) and they passed Torres who had to stop for a mechanical. The Colombian joined forces with Federico Figueredo (Radio Popular and Javier Moreno (Movistar) and they managed to get back to the leaders.

 

Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural), Daniel Silva (Radio Popular) and Fabrice Jeandesboz (Europcar) were the next riders to join the leaders but they didn’t stay in contact for long time. Movistar were now riding aggressively and Intxausti, Anton, Torres and Rolland distanced the rest. As they passed the flamme rouge, Rolland made his move and managed to solo clear to a huge stage win.

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