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With a dominant solo ride, Quintana rode to victory on the Covadonga stage at the Vuelta a Espana and reclaimed the red jersey; Froome time trialed his way to the top to limit his losses and Contador cracked in the end

Photo: Sirotti

CHRIS FROOME

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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ROBERT GESINK

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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29.08.2016 @ 18:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) confirmed that he is the strongest rider in the Vuelta a Espana when he rode to victory on a very spectacular and dramatic stage 10 of the Spanish race. When Chris Froome (Sky) was about to regain contact after time trialing his way back to the front after getting dropped early, the Colombian made a big attack and then soloed to victory and back into the race lead. With a huge comeback, Froome crossed the line in third, 25 seconds behind the Colombian and one second behind early escapee Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) paid for his attempt to follow Quintana and lost more than a minute.

 

When he left the Tour de France and returned to Colombia after the Tour de France, Nairo Quintana was a man on a mission. His yellow dream had been crushed and he was determined to prove his critics wrong at the Vuelta a Espana and reaffirm his status as a grand tour contender. He even made the decision to skip the Olympics, one of his biggest goals of the year, to be fully ready to take on Chris Froome and Alberto Contador in the Spanish grand tour.

 

Not much emerged from the Movistar camp in the build-up to the race but rumours suggested that Quintana was feeling good. After a quiet start to the race, he showed his class two days ago on La Camperona but it was today’s ride on the mythical climb to Lagos De Covadonga that fully confirmed that he is back to his best.

 

Quintana may have lost the red jersey yesterday but today he had a plan to take it back and gain time on all his rivals. He used his Movistar team to control a very strong breakaway and then made his move in a very spectacular finale.

 

The drama was intense as Chris Froome followed his usual Vuelta tactic of time trialing his way up the climb. At one point, the Brit was almost a minute behind Quintana and Alberto Contador who were working together in an attempt to ride the Tour champion of contention. However, Froome made a fantastic comeback and suddenly he was less than 20 seconds behind his two biggest rivals.

 

That’s where Quintana decided that it was time to show his superiority. With a big attack, he dropped his Spanish rival and quickly increased his advantage over Froome to more than 30 seconds. In a huge battle between the pair, he lost a bit of ground in the finale but he had enough to win the stage with a 25-second advantage over the Brit who finished third behind lone escapee Robert Gesink who delivered a heroic ide in an attempt to win the stage. Contador paid for his attempt to follow Quintana and finished 8th, 1.05 behind the new race leader.

 

The drama unfolded on the final 12.2km. The front group of Ben Hermans (BMC), Victor Campenaerts and Robert Gesink (Lotto NL Jumbo), Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant - Alpecin), Fabio Felline (Trek - Segafredo), Jan Bakelants (AG2R - La Mondiale), Egor Silin (Katusha), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), Joe Dombrowski, and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale - Drapac), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Vegard Staeke Laengen (IAM Cycling), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and José Gonçalves (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) hit the climb with an advantage of 2.45 and Gesink went straight to the front to make a selection. His teammate Campenaerts who had been doing a lot of work on the first climb and in the valley, was dropped and then the group again started to trade pulls.

 

While Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) led the peloton onto the climb, Vervaeke launched the first attack. No one reacted and so he got an immediate advantage. However, Ludvigsson, Felline and Fraile were dropped from the chase group.

 

As Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) set the early pace in the peloton, Rolland attacked and quickly rejoined Vervaeke. Silin, Goncalves, Mate and Laengen also made it back while Gesink and Dombrowski joined forces further back.

 

Castroviejo split the peloton to pieces and surprisingly Froome was one of the first to get dropped. The Brit found himself in a big group far behind his main rivals, sitting on the wheels of teammates Peter Kennaugh and David Lopez.

 

However, the Sky leader knew what he was doing and they slowly dropped riders while passing good climbers like Louis Meintjes, Darwin Atapuma and Pierre Latour. Further up the road, the elimination continued as Jose Herrada and Ruben Fernandez had whittled the group further down and now only Fenrnadez, Contador, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Quintana, Michele Scarponi (Astana) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) were left. Samuel Sanchez, Adam Yates and Leopold König wee the nearest chasers.

 

Vervaeke was the next rider to get dropped from the front group before Gesink and Dombrowski rejoined the leaders and after the latter had made a faield attack, it was Rolland who managed to escape. Silin gave chase while Gesink, Domrbowski, Goncalves, Laengen and Mate were gathered further back.

 

Gesink had gone into time trial mode and was splitting the group to pieces before he made it back to Silin. The pair made it back to Rolland, with Laengen and Mate following close behind.

 

Meanwhile, Froome had dropped most and was now sitting on Kennaugh’s wheel almost one minute behind the main group. However, he soon started to make up ground and constantly passed dropped riders.

 

While Gesink dropped everybody but Rolland and finally also distanced the Frenchman, Contador made his big attack. Only Quintana could follow and then countered the move. However, Contador managed to respond as the pair sprinted past most of the early breakaway.

 

Contador and Quintana briefly slowed down before they apparently agreed to cooperate. Scarponi was not far behind, with Brambilla next and then the Movistar pair of Fernandez and Valverde.

 

Contador’s future teammate Felline took a huge turn for Contador before he dropped off. Further back, Froome had dropped Kennuagh and was now on his own, slowly getting closer to his big rivals who were 45 seconds behind Gesink.

 

Froome caught a big group with the likes of Yates, Chaves, Sanchez and Andrew Talansky but went straight to the front to split the group. Only Yates and Chaves could follow but first the Brit had to surrender and later the Colombian also fell off.

 

Contador and Quintana picked up Fraile who managed to hang on before they passed Silin and Rolland. However, they were still 35 seconds behind Gesink. Froome had reduced his deficit to 35 seconds.

 

Scarponi made it back to Contador, Quintana, Fraile and Silin who failed to get any closer to Gesink and instead Froome was getting closer. With 4km to go, the Brit caught Valverde who managed to follow as the gap came down to 20 seconds.

 

That was the signal for Quintana to make his move. The Colombian made a big attack. Fraile ad Contador tried to hang on but both had to give up.

 

Quintana immediately got a big gap while Froome and Valverde caught Scarponi and Contador who had been dropped by Fraile. Meanwhile, Quintana passed the fading Gesink just 2.5km from the top.

 

Quintana managed to increase his advantage over Froome, Scarponi, Contador and Valverde to almost 40 seconds before Froome made his attack. Contador was the first to get dropped and then he sprinted past Fraile who fell behind, just like Scarponi and Valverde.

 

At the flamme rouge, Froome was just 25 seconds behind Quintana and it was a huge battle between the pair. Impressively, Fraile rejoined the Brit and the pair picked up Gesink.

 

However, they couldn’t stop Quintana who sprinted to the line to take his first Vuelta stage win. Gesink managed to beat Froome in the uphill sprint, crossing the line 24 seconds behind the Colombian, with the Brit being one second further behind. Fraile was caught by Valverde and Gesink and the trio crossed the line just 3 seconds behind Froome. Chaves lost 1.02 in seventh and Contador had to settle for 8th.

 

As David De La Cruz lost more than 3 minutes, Quintana is back in the red jersey with a 57-second advantage over teammate Valverde, with Froome sitting one second further back in third. He now heads into a well-deserved rest day but there will be no chance to ease into the race again on Wednesday when the riders face the fourth consecutive summit finish. Stage 11 is a completely flat run along the coast until the riders hit the famous climb of Pena Cabarga in the finale. The ascent averages 9.8% over 5.6km but it has a very steep finale with gradients of almost 20%.

 

A mythical climb

After two consecutive summit finishes, the riders faced another very tough day in the saddle on stage 10 which brought them over 188.7km from Lugones to the top of the famous Lagos De Covadonga climb. The first part consisted of rolling coastal roads but in the finale there were two tough climbs. First the riders tackled the steep Alto del Mirador del Fito before a short valley section led to the bottom of the final ascent. It averaged 7.2% over 12.2km but the first 10km were significantly steeper and so a big battle between the GC riders was expected

 

The 182 riders who reached the finish on Alto del Naranco yesterday, were all there when the start was taken on a sunny sky. As expected it was a blistering start with several attacks, and in the midst of the chaos Darwin Atapuma (BMC) was involved caught in a crash. However, he managed to come back after an intense chase. The attacks continued but after another crash at the 15km mark, the peloton slowed down to allow the involved riders to get come back. Unfortunately, Kevin Reza (FDJ), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18) and Markel Irizar (Trek) all had to abandon.

 

Gianluca Brambilla on the defensive

The peloton continued to ride slowly until 22km had been covered, and then the race started again. Johan Le Bon (FDJ) and Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) got a small gap but after a fierce battle, they were brought back at the 29km mark. The next to get a significant gap were Davide Malacarne (Astana), Axel Domont (Ag2r), Pierre Rolland (Cannondale), Yukiya Arashiro (Lampre-Merida) and Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis), who got clear after 36km of racing. Two kilometers later, they had 18 seconds, but after 41km it was all back tigether. At the same time there was another crash, this time involving Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep), and 30 riders, including Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) had to chase hard to get back.

 

After an hour, the riders covered 44.3 kilometers despite the small mid-race break and it was still full gas. The Brambilla group was 30 seconds behind and lost ground. Thus, the gap went out to 51 seconds at the 50km mark, and five kilometers later, they were still 23 seconds behind.

 

A strong break gets clear

The peloton certainly didn’t wait, and when three riders escaped, the big group again lost terrain. The gap grew went out to 40 seconds after 63km of fast racing but finally the peloton calmed down. The Brambilla group made it back, and at the same time the day’s 16-rider break was established.

 

While the field took a breather, Ben Hermans (BMC), Victor Campenaerts and Robert Gesink (Lotto NL Jumbo), Dmitryi Gruzdev (Astana), Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant - Alpecin), Fabio Felline (Trek - Segafredo), Jan Bakelants ( AG2R - La Mondiale), Egor Silin (Katusha), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), Joe Dombrowski, Moreno Moser and Pierre Rolland (Cannondale - Drapac), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Vegard Staeke Laengen (IAM Cycling), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and José Gonçalves (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) built up a lead that reached 3.07 after 75km of racing. Very quickly Etixx-QuickStep took control, and so the gap was reduced to 2.04 in the feed zone after 86.5 kilometers. At the same time, Silin had to spend valuable energy to get back to the break after a mechanical.

 

Etixx-QuickStep in control

The gap grew again and reached 3 minutes after 91km of racing. Yves Lampaert and Martin Velits did the early work for Etixx-QuickStep but 75 km from the finish they had let the gap grow to 3.45.

 

As the peloton hit a small climb on the rolling coastal road, race leader David De La Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) stopped for a natural break and so Lampaert and Velits slowed down. Hence, the gap grew rapidly and it had gone out to 5.30 as they hit the final 65km. However, as the terrain got flatter, the Belgian team again increased the pace and so they quickly took back one minute.

 

Movistar hit the front

With 55km to go, Movistar decided that it was time to kick into action and as Imanol Erviti and Rory Sutherland hit the front, the gap melted away. Together with Velits and Lampaert, they had reduced the gap to just 3.15 as they hit the final 50km.

 

The front group managed to stabilize the gap and hit the first climb with an advantage of 3.10. Campenaerts sacrificed himself completely for Gesink and managed to keep the situation stable on the lower slopes where Bakelants briefly suffered. Meanwhile, Lampaert and Velits swung off and left it to Erviti and Sutherland to set the pace in the peloton.

 

KOM points for Fraile

Campenaerts did an impressive job and managed to increase the gap to 4.05. At the same time, the elimination stated as Moser and Gruzdev were dropped.

 

Campenaerts maintained his fast pace until Fraile launched a long sprint more than 500m from the top. Mate responded and briefly managed to come around but when the Basque went again, the Cofidis rider had to response. Fraile picked up maximum points ahead of Mate, Silin, Laengen and Goncalves.

 

The attacking starts

Fraile briefly continued alone before he waited for Mate and then the pair cooperated to maintain a 20-second advantage on the descent. Meanwhile, Erviti and Sutherland led the peloton to the top 5.15 later.

 

As they finished the descent, Fraile and Mate waited for their chasers and again it was Campenaerts who went full gas on the front. However, the attacking soon started when Ludvigsson, Hermans, Silin, Dombrowski and Laengen took off. However, Campenaerts brought it back together and then started to ride on the front again.

 

The gap comes down

The gap was coming down quickly as Erviti, Sutherland and Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep) used every ounce of energy in the chase. When Silin won the intermediate sprint with 20km to go ahead of Felline and Goncalves, the gap was down to 3.45.

 

Movistar added more firepower to the chase when Jonathan Castroviejo also started to take turns. Etixx-QuickStep also added Niki Terpstra and so the gap was down to just 2.45 as they hit the climb where the final drama unfolded.

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