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"At one point, I simply could no longer keep up.  I was almost cramping at the end.  I clung to the group of favorites until the finish.  I am still not 100%, but I am feeling my best sensations coming back gradually."

Photo: IAM Cycling

IAM CYCLING

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JEROME COPPEL

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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03.09.2015 @ 00:59 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Dantesque.  In a nutshell, that is about the best way to describe this surreal stage.  Six passes in just under 140 kilometers, with 5000 meters of elevation gain will undoubtedly put the eleventh stage of this year’s Vuelta far up the chart of most difficult grand tour stages in recent memory. 

 

Though it took place immediately after the first deserved, and much needed, rest day, Mikel Landa (Astana) found the legs and inspiration to strike out on his own after being a member of the day’s large breakaway to tame the summit of Cortals d’Encamp.  Much stronger than his fellow breakaway companions, the Spanish Landa seemed to glide up the last slopes to cross the line 1’22” ahead of his teammate and leader Fabio Aru.  This coup for Astana was enhanced by the fact that Aru also succeeded in taking the red leader’s jersey. 

 

In spite of the severity of the stage, IAM Cycling also managed to show its colors in force on the hilly roads of Andorra.  Though the team did not have the victory, it did have a strong rider at the front for much of the day.  In spite of the fact that the team has not been very showy since the start of the race, the riders have tried to demonstrate how aggressive they can be, as is expected of the team.  Jérôme Coppel fulfilled this task by finding the right break to join, helping IAM Cycling find their aggressive mojo in this Vuelta.

 

Coppel’s efforts also seemed to have offered him a sense of relief.  This was not Jérôme Coppel’s first attempt this Vuelta.  Though not successful, he has been sniping at breaks throughout.  With the passing of days and kilometers, the French rider is regaining his confidence. 

 

“We were told in the briefing this morning that we had to join any break that had a good number of riders,” Coppel explained.  “When several riders took off, I knew I was in the right move, and I went with them.  Immediately I saw that Landa was very strong, so we knew that it was going to be very complicated. 

 

"At one point, I simply could no longer keep up.  I was almost cramping at the end.  I clung to the group of favorites until the finish.  I am still not 100%, but I am feeling my best sensations coming back gradually.  So I have high hopes for the stages still to come.  But on a day like this, it is always better to be at the front, not only for morale, but also for the team.  Success has been a stranger in our camp since the start of the Vuelta, so we are trying hard to change that. 

 

"In the pack, it was a brawl from the first kilometers, and it never stopped.  I have never raced a stage this hard in my life.  Luckily, we were pretty fortunate with the weather.  It was hard, but it is also certainly something we will remember for a long time.”

 

Eddy Seigneur, directeur sportif along with Mario Chiesa, confirmed this statement.  His teams rediscovered its tenacity on the Spanish roads, which the French DS believes is a positive for this difficult day in Andorra: 

 

“From the start, we have tried to get into the right breakaways, but we have not always been that successful.  On Wednesday, we tried again, as is our wont.  This time Jérôme Coppel was able to get the right opening and stay at the front of the race for a long time.  He is fit and the upcoming stages look very interesting from his perspective.  So long as we are without a stage win, that will be our main focus.  And there is a new stage every day.  But for this particular day, I want to take my hat off to all our riders who fought to the end.”

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