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After Sagan had been run down by a motorcycle, Stuyven emerged as the fastest in the reduced bunch sprint at the end of stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana; Chaves went down in a crash but defended the lead

Photo: Trek Factory Racing








29.08.2015 @ 18:08 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Jasper Stuyven took his first professional victory on the biggest scene when he came out on top in a very aggressive and dramatic stage 8 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Belgian had made it into a small group that ended up sprinting for the win and after big favourite Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) had been taken out by a motorcycle, he beat Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) and Kevin Reza (FDJ) in the final dash to the line. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) was involved in a crash that ended the race Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) but made it back to the peloton to defend his lead.


Last year Jasper Stuyven turned professional with the Trek team and he immediately impressed in the classics where he rode strongly in support of Fabian Cancellara. Later he made his grand tour debut in the Vuelta where he proved his potential in the bunch sprints.


This year he has been unable to continue his progress but in the last few weeks it has been apparent that he was riding extremely well. Hence, his Trek team was confident that he would be able to play a role in today’s eighth stage of the race which was expected to end in a reduced bunch sprint after the riders had tackled the steep Alto de la Cresta del Gallo twice in the finale.


That prediction turned out to be correct as the Belgian took his first professional win on the biggest scene by coming out on top when around 45 riders arrived together to decide a very dramatic stage. After his team had worked had to control the aggressive finale, the Belgian timed his sprint perfectly to beat Pello Bilbao and Kevin Reza in a close sprint.


The first passage of the climb had not done too much damage and so it was a rather big peloton that sped towards the bottom of the ascent for the second time with 25km to go. The early break had already been caught and it was a huge fight for position that saw Tinkoff-Saxo, Astana, Sky and Movistar line out their troops on the front.


The British team won the battle as Geraint Thomas took complete control before Vasil Kiryienka took over and led the group onto the climb. Salvatore Puccio took over but unsurprisingly the attacking started right from the start.


Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) was the rider to initiate the action and the GC riders came out swinging as he was joined by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Chris Froome (Sky) and his teammate Gianluca Brambilla. The latter quickly realized that he would get nowhere with all those big riders and so he immediately took off while Koen De Kort brought the rest of the group back for Giant-Alpecin.


Timo Roosen (LottoNL-Jumbo) joined Brambilla while De Kort and later Puccio rode on the front. However, the aggression continued as Davide Villella (Cannondale) and Terpstra were the next to try and later Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Jose Goncalves (Caja Rural) and Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) also took off.


Brambilla dropped Roosen as he hit the steepest part and was joined by Durasek and Goncalves. While Villella and Roosen were both caught, Alberto Losada (Katusha), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) and Sergio Henao (Sky) took off and they passed Terpstra who was desperately trying to get back to the front.


In the peloton, it was Tom Dumoulin riding strongly to set John Degenkolb up for the sprint and he kept the gap at around 15 seconds. Moments later, Henao, Losada and Rojas made it across to the leaders and later Elissonde would also make the junction.


Rojas led Losada and Durasek over the top of the climb while Terpstra was still in lone pursuit at that point. However, Dumoulin had whittled the group down significantly and followed just 10 seconds behind the leader. The final rider to make it over the top with the best was Stuyven and that proved to be crucial in the end.


Rojas hit the deck on the descent where Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) made an immediate attack. The Spaniard passed Terpstra who also went down, and quickly managed to join the leaders.


The descent was extremely difficult and so Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Chaves went on the attack, quickly making it across to the leaders. Samuel Sanchez (BMC), Mikel Nieve (Sky), Nicolas Roche (Sky), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana), Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo), Froome, Diego Rosa (Astana) and Dumoulin were the next to make it.


There was no cooperation in the group and so Elissonde and Losada went on the attack. While Goncalves joined them, a bigger group with Peter Sagan made it back but Degenkolb was nowhere to be seen.


There was no cooperation in the group as Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Quintana, Aru, Moreno, Froome and Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) all went on the attack. Omar Fraile (Caja Rural), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) and Amael Moinard (BMC) also gave it a try before Movistar started to chase with Andrey Amador.


Rojas had made it back to the peloton and he went on the attack. However, Sagan was quick to react and shut it down before he went on the attack with Adam Hansen (Lotto Soudal) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha).


With Stuyven in the group, Trek started to chase with Riccardo Zoidl and Haimar Zubeldia and that ended the Sagan move. The gap had gone out to 25 seconds and it looked promising for the front trio.


With 8km to go, disaster struck for Sagan as he was run down by a motorbike. The furious Slovakian was unhurt but would never make it back to the front.


Lotto Soudal had joined forces with Trek as they had van der Sande in the group and so Jurgen Van den Broeck took some huge turns on the front. He responded quickly when Brambilla, Rosa, Durasek and Fraile attacked and also managed to neutralize a move from Hansen and Fraile.


Zoidl, Zubeldia, Van den Broeck and Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) who didn’t know about Sagan’s crash chased hard and had brought the gap down to 10 seconds with 4km to go. One kilometre later it was over for the escapees as Zoidl took a massive turn on the front.


When the Austrian swung off, Adam Hansen went again and he got an immediate gap while Jesper Hansen led the chase. The Dane left it to Amador to continue the work but just after the flamme rouge, he stopped and it looked like Hansen had a chance to stay away.


That’s when Goncalves kicked into action to set Bilbao up for the sprint and his big turn brought Hansen back. He continued to ride on the front until Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) launched a long sprint. However, it was Stuyven timing things right, powering down the left-hand side of the rode to take the win, followed by Bilbao and Reza.


Chaves had been involved in an earlier crash that ended the race for Tejay van Garderen, Kris Boeckmans, Dan Martin and Nacer Bouhanni but he finished safely in the bunch to retain his 10-second advantage over Dumoulin. He faces a much bigger test in tomorrow’s stage which is mostly flat but ends at the top of a 4km wall that includes a long section of 19%.


A tricky stage

After the first big mountain stage, it was back into flatter terrain for stage 8 which brought the riders over 182.5km from Puebla de Don Fabrique to Murcia. The first 110km were almost all slightly downhill and then flat roads led to Murcia which the riders reached for the first time with 46.5km to go. The they headed south to do two laps of a circuit with the short, steep Alto de la Cresta del Gallo, with the final passage coming just 17.3km from the finish. Then it was a tricky descent and a flat run to the line.


It was maybe even hotter than it has been in recent days when the riders gathered for the start. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they headed out for the neutral ride.


A fast start

Everybody knew that this could be a stage for a breakaway so after a Europcar rider had launched the first attack, it was non-stop attacking for a long time. Relatively early, it seemed like five riders would ride away but Katusha brought that group back.


8 riders formed the next move but they had no luck either and things were still together at the 20km mark when Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) asked for mechanical service. The elastic finally snapped after almost 45 minutes of racing when Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jasper de Buyst (Lotto Soudal) and Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) got clear.


Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Alpecin take control

The peloton slowed down and so the gap quickly went out to more than 4 minutes. It was 4.47 at the 50km mark where Tinkoff-Saxo and Giant-Alpecin hit the front.


Those two teams worked well together and while Davide Villella (Cannondale-Garmin) asked for medical assistance, they kept the gap between the 4- and 5-minute marks. Slowly, they started to get closer and as they entered the final 80km, they had reduced it to 3.15.


A big crash

The steady comeback continued as Maciej Bodnar, Pavel Brutt, Tom Stamsnijder and Thierry Hupond were working well together on the front and with 50km to go, they had already reduced the gap to 1.40. At this point, a big crash split the field and it was immediately apparent that Boeckmans, Martin and van Garderen were out of the race while Bouhanni would also later abandon the race.


The peloton was not slowing down and many riders were forced into chase mode. Chaves had been down and was in a group that also included Dumoulin and they worked hard for five kilometres to bridge a 30-second gap and make it back to the bunch. Meanwhile, Keisse beat Van Asbroeck in the intermediate sprint while Howes rolled across in third.


The front group splits up

The riders were already approaching the climb and so there was a huge fight for position. Ag2r and Sky were lined out on the front as they hit the rising roads with a deficit of 45 seconds.


De Buyst did some immediate damage in the front group. Engoulvent was the first to get dropped, then Keisse also got distanced and finally Van Asbroeck had to surrender. However, the Belgian had done too much and so he had no response when Howes and Madrazo upped the pace.


Howes takes off

In the peloton, Sergio Paulinho set a relatively steady pace for Tinkoff-Saxo but several riders were still dropped. He slowly brought Engoulvent, Keisse, Van Asbroeck and De Buyst back.


Howes accelerated and managed to drop Madrazo while also increasing his advantage from 25 to 45 seconds. He still had 30 seconds in hand when he crested the summit while Paulinho was first from the peloton.


Howes goes down

Unfortunately, Howes crashed in the first turn and as he had damaged his bike, he was passed by Madrazo who had a 15-second advantage over the peloton which was still led by Paulinho. However, the Spaniard was brought back 33km to go.


Paulinho continued to set a steady pace as they hit the flat road at the bottom but it was calm before the start. Moments later, the fight for position started and from there it was a true war all the way to the finish.



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