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"I will focus on GCs again in the future. Maybe I'll look at doing Grand Tours again in the same way, looking for stage wins. It's a very good feeling."

Photo: Unipublic / Graham Watson

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
03.09.2016 @ 22:27 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) continued his fantastic comeback from a bad crash at the Tour de Suisse by taking one of the biggest wins of his career at the Vuelta a Espana queen stage on the top of Col d’Aubisque. Having joined a big breakaway in the early part of the big stage in the Alps, the Dutchman finally beat Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Egor Silin (Katusha) in an uphill sprint. Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) made a bold long-distance attack that saw him move into fourth overall while Nairo Quintana’s (Movistar) many attacks were unrewarded as the race leader was unable to distance Chris Froome (Sky) who remains 54 seconds behind in the overall standings.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Robert Gesink: I’ll still go for GCs in the future

Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider Robert Gesink won the 13th stage – the queen stage to the Col d'Aubisque – in the Vuelta a España today. The Dutchman held off Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Egor Silin (Katusha) in the final metres. George Bennett also made the front group and finished fourth.

 

“I'm very happy, I was so close on Covadonga, but Quintana beat me,” Gesink said after the 195.6-kilometre stage. “I definitely wanted to take another chance, and that was today. It’s really beautiful that I could finish it off.”

 

Gesink again grabbed his chance to go in the early break with his team-mates Victor Campenaerts and George Bennett.

"We went with a large group of strong riders. I was not sure I could beat all these riders."

 

On the final climb, the group fell apart and there were small groups. Bennett rode out front, but Gesink fought for victory in the end.

 

"I kept fighting and I gave everything. My legs were so cramped that I could not sit anymore, but I had enough. I'm happy,” added Gesink. “This is my first stage win in a grand tour after years of racing. It’s perfect timing too because I wasn’t really having a good season. Now I feel that I'm truly recovered from my crash in Switzerland.

 

”This is really special. I’ve had a hard year so far, I crashed in the Tour of Switzerland and I had a concussion, I could not train for a long time, so it meant no GC in the Vuelta. But I wanted to ride a grand tour for stages and now it’s worked out, I’m really happy

 

”With this group I was not sure I was the best, I did not have good sensations. I panicked in the descent but the team told me to stay calm and try in the last 8-9 kilometres.

 

”For a long time nothing really worked, I was so tired all the time. I crashed on my head (in Switzerland) I forgot the whole thing. For weeks I wanted to sleep and not train at all. I went to America for some altitude training but I could not train how I wanted. I wanted to be away from the Tour. When I came back to Girona I felt better and I took it day by day.

 

”I’ve had a lot of ups and down in my career so far, I can’t really choose. Winning a stage is really special. At this moment I feel healthy, I feel good and I want to thank the team and the people who trusted me and made me continue.

 

"There have been a lot of ups and downs in my career, but I never thought it would be such a special feeling to win a Grand Tour stage. At this moment, I want to thank the team staff and all the people who always had trust in me.

 

“In this team I have always the role to ride for GC, which is something I like, I think I’m a real GC rider because generally I never have really good days, or really bad days, but. I wanted to ride a grand tour for stages for a long time and I’ve had this possibility also because my team mate Steven Kruijswijk crashed. I will focus on GCs again in the future. Maybe I'll look at doing Grand Tours again in the same way, looking for stage wins. It's a very good feeling."

 

Victor Campenaerts threw his weight in to the group for his leaders.

 

"Campenaerts made sure that the pace was high and the lead grew, he also made sure that Bennett and Gesink had plenty of food and drinks,” Sports Director Addy Engels said.

 

"It was an exciting finale. We had the race radio, but it spoke mainly of the classification stars, and when you finally hear Gesink won  – that's a relief. Yates rode a fast climb and we getting closer, so we had Gesink’s gap and we helped him along.

 

"He limited down his escape rivals, but a couple remained to test him. We knew that Gesink, given what he showed Monday, could do it. We kept telling him to go early.

 

"It was also a bit of luck as Bennett was in the group initially ahead of Gesink by 30 seconds. Both men could save energy. In Gesink’s group, the two riders from team Cannondale had to close the gap.

 

“George Bennett did well finishing fourth. He also moved up the rankings."

 

He now sits 12th, 6’37” behind leader Nairo Quintana.

 

"Tomorrow will be tough again with an uphill finish, but this time, it is a short stage. I assume that we won’t see the same men up the road again tomorrow given the energy they used today. This victory motivates us."

 

Kenny Elissonde: Robert Gesink was more powerful

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) was second in the stage and the new polka-dot jersey holder. He said:

 

“I have no regrets, he was more powerful, he was strong. It’s a good race I did well considering what I have. I anticipated by getting into the breakaway. I fought for the polka dot jersey but the Vuelta is long. I had already taken KOM points when protecting Alexandre Geniez the other day. I let Fraile go for it today but then he dropped out and I told myself it was possible. At the end of the day, the climbers jersey is a great reward. This morning the legs were stiff but they got better during the day. I want to continue to enjoy myself and please the team.”

 

Egor Silin after third place: Gesink was the best

The Col d’Aubisque set the stage for plenty of attacking on Saturday’s stage 14 (on French soil) and Team KATUSHA’s Egor Silin was in the heart of the action, taking third place on a very difficult day in the 71st Vuelta a España.

 

”It was not so bad getting third place on the queen stage today. I could have been second, but I was stupid to let Elissonde pass me in the last 30 meters. But Gesink was the best, there is no doubt about that. If he had not come back to us I think I could have won the stage,” said Egor Silin.

 

”When we broke away on the Marie Blanque with six riders, we worked very well together to prevent Moreno or Fernandez from coming back. It was a good plan and it succeeded. Only Gesink came back.  That wasn’t part of the plan but he was so strong today”  explained Silin.

 

“All of KATUSHA were active today, trying to go in the breaks especially in the beginning. In the end Losada and Silin were in the right group and we saw smart racing from them, especially with Silin able to reach the podium. I was very happy with the way the team raced today,” said team director José Azevedo.

 

Sion Yates: We executed our plan to perfection

An outstanding display of tactical racing by ORICA-BikeExchange on today’s stage 14 of the Vuelta a Espana saw stage six winner Simon Yates move up to fourth overall and teammate Esteban Chaves up to third.

 

Stage 12 winner Jens Keukeleire set the day up by infiltrating the breakaway alongside Simon Gerrans and Magnus Cort with the trio setting the tempo all the way to the penultimate climb.

 

Australian Jack Haig was next to play his part with an attack out of the peloton that was followed by Yates. Haig gave his all and launched Yates up the road where Gerrans, Cort and Keukeleire were waiting.

 

The plan was executed beautifully with Yates riding exceptionally to finish fifth behind stage winner Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) as Chaves unleashed an explosive attack of his own out of the favourites group.

 

Chaves dropped both Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) and race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crossing the line some 30seconds ahead in ninth place and moving up to third overall with Yates now in fourth.

 

“We had a plan at the start and we executed it to perfection,” said Yates. “The whole team performed really well and it's good to see it pay off today.

" I was pretty tired so I dont even know how I've done, but whatever I went full gas and it is what it is. There were a lot of guys still up the road who had been in the breakaway and everyone’s tired at this point, but I'd been in the bunch so I was that bit fresher on the Aubsique.”

 

Fittingly, 2016 Tour Down Under winner Gerrans was awarded the prize for the day’s most combative rider and made a deserved appearance on the podium.

 

Sport director Neil Stephens praised the marvelous performance of the team.

 

“There are some very strong teams competing in the race,” said Stephens. “We knew we were going to have to go head to head and we had some thoughts, almost a dream really, about how we were going to go about it.

“The way we read the race was one of our particular strengths today alongside commitment, camaraderie and the faith these guys have in each other. This made it possible for us to pull it off today. Without those things we would not have achieved half as much as we did

 

“We got the first part of the job done by getting three guys in the break, which was great. Next was putting Jack (Haig) out the front of the peloton who was followed by Simon (Yates).

 

“This caused some confusion and the other teams had to look at each other for a reaction, by the time they did Simon was in the valley with his other three teammates. These guys went on to hold off the chasers brilliantly, which allowed Simon to go again which really split the favourites group.

 

“When Esteban attacked it was just the leaders, no workers and it was down to the other favourites to respond and in that moment no one wanted to commit and that made the difference.

 

"I was hopeful we could move up the classification today and that’s what we did. Third and fourth place means we can be self assured about our position with lots of racing to come.”

 

Haimar Zubeldia back in the mix in Vuelta queen satge

Haimar Zubeldia and Julien Bernard were part of a large 41-man breakaway that formed in stage 14, and after a feisty Bernard had helped soften the group, Zubeldia climbed to a respectable 6th place on arguably the hardest stage of this year's Vuelta.

 

With four mountain passes in the final 130 kilometers – 4800 meters (15,750 feet) of climbing –the 196-kilometer stage had been red-circled by all. Unlike yesterday, no one was getting through this day easily.

 

When a large escape group moved ahead in the early part of the race, Zubeldia and Bernard were part of the mix, riding as conservatively as possible while still contributing to establishing a gap.

 

"At the start, I was a little bit afraid of this hard stage," said Bernard. "But I know my feeling has been good the last days, so why not try today? I tried only once and made the big group of 40 riders with Haimar. Then we tried to save energy, and always think economy, economy.

 

"The organization was not great in the break, so we had to pull a little bit to keep a good gap. We didn't know until the second to last climb who was feeling better between me and Haimar, so we decided either could try. I was feeling good, so I tried to move a little bit to make a selection. On the downhill we were six, I knew it was hard as there were very good riders with me, so I tried to do the minimum. Then on the last climb, I had no more legs."

 

”I don’t know who between me and Haimar was the strongest today but I’m satisfied with my stage. But the climb to the Col d’Aubisque was really really hard.”

 

Bernard made the first serious move from the breakaway on the penultimate climb, Col de Marie-Blanque, paring the group to around 15 riders, then helped push the pace on the descent to create a selection of three that swelled to six in the valley ahead of the final mountain climb. 

 

The six leaders maintained a 25-30-second lead over the chasers as Haimar Zubeldia waited in the wings on the punishing 16-kilometer Col d'Aubisque summit finish. When the first significant acceleration occurred 10 kilometers from the finish, a fatigued Bernard fell off the pace.

 

Meanwhile, Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) attacked out of the chasing group and quickly bridged to the leaders as Zubeldia climbed at a steady, strong pace not far behind. Gesink went on to claim the stage win while 49 seconds later Zubeldia came across the finish in sixth place.

 

"In the breakaway, we tried to keep our energy as much as possible for the final climb," echoed Zubeldia. "Julien made a good move at the top of Marie Blanque, and I stayed in the wheels of the others to play my cards in the last climb. But I wasn't strong enough in the last climb. I did my best, and when you do your best there is nothing more possible you can do, so I am happy with my performance."

 

Bernard, racing in his first Grand Tour and first big breakaway, crossed the line six and a half minutes behind, completely depleted, but proud to show the team's stripes in the queen stage of the Vuelta.

 

"It was good for me to represent the team in the breakaway for this particular stage," added Bernard. "I am happy, I feel good, and I have progressed, I think. Yeah, It's very good."

 

Cannondale: Our riders are looking good for the third wek

Cannondale-Drapac approached the queen stage of the Vuelta a España with clear intent: chase a stage win from the breakaway and support Andrew Talansky on Col d’Aubisque.

 

A 40-rider breakaway formed before the first of the three category one climbs that preceded the stage 14 summit finish. Green Argyle put three riders in the move: Moreno Moser, Pierre Rolland and Davide Villella.

 

“It was good to have the boys in front,” said sport director Bingen Fernandez. “It was part of the plan. They did a great job to get in the move. They were strong in the move, but Gesink was stronger, so it was hard for us to try to win the stage. In the end, we focused on supporting Andrew.”

 

Talansky has repeatedly said that his strength Is  the second half of a Grand Tour. He came good on his assertion today, reaching the top of Col d’Aubsique in eighth place ahead of the likes of Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange), Chris Froome (Team Sky) and race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

 

Talansky’s ride translated into a three spot gain on the general classification from 11th place to 8th place. Davide Formolo currently occupies Talansky’s former position, moving up from 13th place to 11th place.

 

“You can see that people are already started to creep,” said Fernandez. “We are getting better. We have guys that come good in the third week. Today was really good for us, and there’s lots of racing left.”

 

Sky: Valverde is out of the game – that’s good news

Team Sky emerged from the queen stage at the Vuelta a Espana in a strong position, with Chris Froome holding steady in second overall and Leopold Konig moving up to fifth.

 

Froome battled it out with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the final climb up the hors categorie Col d'Aubisque, while Konig slipped away from the GC group inside the last 10km of stage 14 to finish 10th, gaining time on key rivals and moving ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) into the top five.

 

Race leader Quintana was unable to shake Froome off, despite numerous attacks, and the gap between the pair remains at 54 seconds, with Konig a further one minute and 44 seconds back.

 

After the stage TeamSky.com caught up with a happy Dario Cioni, as the Sport Director reflected on a good day for the team.

 

He said: "It was a hard day, for sure. When the big break went we had David Lopez there, but compared to other teams we weren't happy. So, we tried to close it, but when it became clear we couldn't close it down immediately we raced as we would if we had the leader's jersey. We wanted to keep the gap to something manageable and the guys did a great job.

 

"Then other teams jumped in as expected and kept the break under control, especially when Simon Yates jumped away. Valverde is out of the game - that's good news. Obviously Chaves and Yates gained some time to move them up on GC, but Chris has more than a minute on them, so that's comfortable for the moment, and it's another team that will help look after the GC classification if need be."

 

David Lopez had infiltrated the day's large 41-man break and was able to help Chris Froome up the final climb as he fell back in the closing stages, before Froome forged on in pursuit of the attacking Quintana.

 

Movistar had slipped three men into the break, forcing Team Sky to work in the peloton, but Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio and Michal Golas were more than equal to the task, putting in superb work for the majority of the 195km stage.

 

Ian Boswell then took up the slack on the penultimate climb, before Konig and Pete Kennaugh then took over on the Aubisque's early slopes.

 

Froome did the rest, equalling every move race leader Quintana made, with the opportunistic Konig seizing the moment to move up on GC.


Nairo Quintana: I tried everything

The Queen stage of the 2016 Vuelta a España was a carousel of different emotions for the Movistar Team. The 196km trek between Urdax and the HC-rated Col d’Aubisque, with three other Cat-1 ascents -Inharpu, Soudet and Marie-Blanque- across the way, offered an intriguing breakaway, a furious final pursuit, sadness as Alejandro Valverde cracked following a long season and some big emotions with Nairo Quintana’s moves, which this time couldn’t distance Chris Froome (SKY).

 

No less than 41 riders were part of the early, winning break, with Robert Gesink (TLJ) surging at the end from a decisive selection where three men from the telephone squad initially tried to be: Rubén Fernández, José Joaquín Rojas and Dani Moreno. The former two dropped back on the Marie-Blanque, waiting for orders from behind as an attack by Simon Yates (OBE) turned the approach to Laruns into a gallop. The Briton ammassed two minutes and thirty seconds of advantage of the GC contenders, a gap which nonetheless was reduced at the finish to 1’08”. Herrada, Castroviejo, Rojas and Fernandez did the pursuit all the way to the steepest parts of the ascent, where Nairo Quintana made his moves from 8km from the summit.

 

His six accelerations caused havoc in the GC group, and helped the Colombian reach to where Dani Moreno was, so the Madrilian could lead him out in parts of the ascent. The Cómbita-raised cyclist couldn’t, though, improve his 54-second margin overall over Froome. Chaves (OBE) now sits in third spot GC, 2’01” down, after attacking in the finale - gaining 35 seconds over Quintana - while Alejandro Valverde, fulfilling his 56th Grand Tour stage this season, couldn’t follow the pace of the big guns and ended up nine minutes behind Quintana.

 

The Vuelta will take on a completely different route scheme on Sunday. Only 118.5km are scheduled for stage fifteen, from Sabiñánigo to Formigal (Cat-1), a long climb yet without those steep parts from its French counterparts. The final action will be heated up by the previous ascents to Petralba (Cat-3) and Cotefablo (2ª), in what will certainly be another cracking day.

 

Nairo Quintana said: 

 

“We tried everything to drop Froome, but in all of my final accelerations, he sooner or later bridged back to my back wheel - it just wasn’t possible this time. It was an intense day, a tough race where I think the team fared well. The squad always kept elements at the front, making sure we could react if something happened, and Dani Moreno's job in the finale was great. Even though I couldn't let Froome behind, we're satisfied about the level of fitness we showed today - we really try to improve our situation.

 

“The idea of the team was to put riders in front to force other teams to work and chase. I wanted to gain time on Chris that’s why I kept attacking and even though it was not as efficient as we wanted I’m satisfied. We also had to be weary of possible counter attacks from Chris. We managed not to lose time either so it’s okay, the legs are good.

 

"It's not maddening that we can't leave him behind, but you do think about what this means, and how he is holding on so well when I attack. I have to be pleased with not losing time on him and I have got good legs. There are hard days to come, too."

 

"Yates and Chaves are two young riders they are important riders, but we gave them a certain degree of freedom of manouvre because we knew that they weren't so significant on GC. From now on, though, we won't be letting them go so easily.

 

"My calendar and Froome's has been pretty similar, in terms of wear and tear, this season, and also my legs feel tired at this point of the year… but I hope to keep it going into this final week, hopefully better than Chris, to conserve this leader’s jersey.

 

“Formigal will be surely a very, very intense day. We will have to wait until the break forms in the beginning - it’s gonna be a more explosive effort than today’s - and then build our strategy for the finale, especially that last climb.

 

"Alejandro? What happened to him today was normal: he's got almost three entire Grand Tours under his belt right now, and we always knew that this could make him pay at some point in the Vuelta. I know he'll recover and be helping us, as he always did, wherever he can."

 

Alejandro Valverde: I knew that this could happen

Alejandro Valverde said: 

 

“What happened today wasn’t a surprise for me, especially if you keep in mind the difficulty of the challenge I had to face in this Vuelta. It was a very tough day, one where you could win some or lose it all. This was on my cards. On the final climb, I wasn’t feeling well, I couldn’t keep the pace and I decided to ride on my own until the finish. It wasn’t to be today. The important thing now is supporting Nairo so he can remain in the lead until Madrid, working hard as we did already since the beginning of the race.

 

“I didn’t feel comfortable for the whole day. In the last climb, when my team mates started to pull, I realized I couldn’t follow their rhythm. I could have been in the group for some more time, but it would have been for nothing. I would have been dropped anyway.

 

"It was not a good day, I couldn't hold on when the group went strongly. Really I've run out of strength, it wasn't just a bad day. From now on I'll have to continue working for Nairo as a leader, and that's going to be it from hereon in the Vuelta.

 

”Now, we have to give everything for Nairo. We are still leaders and we have to make this gap bigger. It will be difficult as Froome is really strong. Tomorrow will be a though day, there’s only 120 kilometres which is ideal if some team want to blow up the race.

 

 

"It was a very tough stage, sometimes you go well, sometimes you don't, and it's no real surprise," Valverde reflected.

As for Quintana's options overall, Valverde said, "The important thing is the overall lead, but of course we need more time, and [Chris] Froome (Sky) is strong. We have to accept that."

 

Samuel Sanchez: I thought ’Why not try?’

The queen stage of the Vuelta a Espana provided a thrilling showdown of the GC contenders, with Samuel Sánchez crossing the line in 15th place and moving up to 7th on the General Classification.

 

Tejay van Garderen was part of a 41-man breakaway that went clear as the race approached the 20km-mark, and eventually gained more than six minutes on the peloton.

 

The large group slowly reduced over the first two climbs and it was on the last category 1 climb, the Col de Marie-Blanque, when the attacks started from both the breakaway and General Classification group.

 

Van Garderen was in the chase group behind six leading riders, and behind him Simon Yates (Orica BikeExchange) attacked from the reduced bunch to shake things up, which created a race situation with several groups split over the climb.

 

Ben Hermans made a move on the Col d’Aubisque to set Sánchez up in a good position, which played out perfectly when Sánchez attacked from the group to join him. Behind Sánchez the battle between Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) heated up, and although the duo caught Sánchez, he was able to stay with them and cross the line three seconds behind.

 

Robert Gesink (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) survived the breakaway to take the win, and a strong ride from Hermans saw him finish in 20th place, with van Garderen not far behind in 26th. BMC Racing Team remain as leaders of the team classification.

 

Samuel Sanchez said:

 

“Today was the king stage of the Vuelta a Espana and the start was too fast with 40 or 42 riders in front with Tejay in the breakaway. In the final Ben attacked and then I moved after and he pulled me for 1km and Tejay was also up there, so the tactics for us were so good. I attacked before the movement of the big guys and I looked to Quintana and Froome in the small peloton when it had slowed down, and I thought “why not, why not try?”. It was a good move 7km from the finish and Contador dropped, De La Cruz, and Scarponi and in the final I lost three seconds to Quintana and Froome. All the rest is good, good movements, and a good image for the team with good work. We passed three riders in the GC and now I’m in 7th. There are still 7 more days of the Vuelta a Espana and for now it’s good for us. We are first in the GC classification for the teams.

 

“To be a bit down in the GC gives you some freedom to move. I think we have done a good stage. Today’s stage really hurt, even more being placed so close to the last week of this Vuelta. I feel the efforts are taking their toll, the legs hurt more everyday and today was another hard day. We have seen some riders cracking and I think it was a beautiful one.”

 

Sports director Valerio Piva added:

 

“I’m very happy. At the beginning 45 riders went and we only had Tejay van Garderen which was really a little bit stressful as there were a lot of teams [represented]. Then I saw that Team Sky immediately controlled and all of our guys were good. So we waited until the final to put Silvan Dillier at the front to close the gap because of the team GC. Ben Hermans was really strong and Samuel Sanchez, so Samuel asked Ben to attack and then Samuel went behind and together they made a gap. From there Samuel was able to stay with the stronger guys and Ben in the wheel of Contador, so we finished very good. Tejay was in front and he had a gap in the descent, and he was out third rider at the end [for the team classification] so at the end we had a good day. We saved our team GC classification, and we put Samuel in a better position, so I’m confident and happy with the performance today.”

 

Philippe Gilbert abandons the Vuelta due to back pain

Philippe Gilbert was forced to stop racing due to lingering back pain from his crash in the opening week of racing.

 

Dr. Daniele Zaccaria said:

 

“Philippe has been suffering from upper back pain as a result of his crash in the opening week. We have been managing his pain and treating accordingly so he was able to continue racing. Now with the hard climbs starting, his bike position is not good for his back and today he experienced a lot of pain on the tough stage. It was in his best interests to stop racing and rest to prevent further injury.”

 

Alberto Contador: The way we did the climb didn’t suit me

Riding confidently on the final climb and responding well to changes in pace, Alberto Contador finished shortly after the GC top two in 19th position.

 

The Tinkoff leader summed up the final climb from the finish.

 

“I tried to sit with Froome and Quintana, but the changes in rhythm and pace made it hard to follow them. On the other hand, it wasn’t that difficult to follow the other riders. Maybe people will find this surprising, but I’m feeling well. I focussed on Froome and Quintana and for a long time I was riding easily with them, but there were a lot of attacks from dangerous riders that I also had to control – because only for me they were dangerous and not for them.”

While the Spanish rider dropped a place in the GC, it had been a hard day for the entire team, and there were still several days to race. Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, summed up the day.

 

“It was a really hard day today. It was good to see Benna in the strong breakaway and he fought really hard all day – as did the rest of the team. All of the boys put in a lot of work to support Alberto and he toughed it out well on the Aubisque. It was a shame he was chased down in the final – he tried hard and was looking strong up until then.”

 

With riders going slow on the Aubisque, Contador found it hard to find a good rhythm.

 

 “When Chaves attacked, we were going really slow. The way we rode up the climb didn’t really suit me – we had many slow moments and when Chaves attacked, we were really, really, really slow, so it was hard for me to accelerate. The truth is that I felt well and I attacked, but that was only to change the rhythm and to switch to a constant climbing pace. I tried to have a stable power output so that the riders that were ahead of me couldn’t go, but at the end I wasn’t able to get to the finish with Nairo and Froome.”

 

Tomorrow stage 15, at 118.5km, is one of the shortest, but this doesn’t mean the race is letting up – quite the opposite. The whole day is undulating, and riders will be taking on three categorised climbs, increasing in difficulty as the day goes on. The final climb – the Sallent de Gállego Aramón Formigal – won’t allow riders to get into a rhythm, shifting from false flats to inclines as steep as 10% in a matter of a few hundred metres. De Jongh saw that, as has been the theme for this race, it was going to be another difficult day in the saddle.

 

“Tomorrow will be another short, but hard day. The climbs get progressively harder, so we’ll see how things unfold on the day.”

 

Sergio Pardilla misses big opportunity: I was empty

The Caja Rural - Seguros RGA riders put up a courageous and impressive fight on Saturday’s queen stage of Vuelta as España. Sergio Pardilla and Pello Bilbao were both part of the winning breakaway, which saw Pardilla move up to 13th place in the general classification.
 
Being less than six minutes behind the overall leader of the race, Pardilla and the front group was never allowed too much of a gap by the peloton. However, the break still managed to start on Col d’Aubisque with a good advantage. During the stage, Bilbao sacrificed himself for his teammate, constantly making sure that Pardilla had everything he needed in the break. On the final ascent, as the top climber started attacking, Bilbao eased up and let Pardilla fight with the rest.

The 32-year-old Spaniard put in a strong performance to stay in contention but on the final kilometers, the GC favorites caught up with Pardilla who had to settle for 22ndplace on the stage. Robert Gesink (Lotto NL-Jumbo) took the win after a well-timed attack in the break, while Nairo Quintana (Movistar) kept the red leader’s jersey.
 
Sergio Pardilla said: 

 

“I wasn’t at my best today but we had to be in the break no matter the cost. We managed to do that with me and Pello [Bilbao] but after being in the front group all day, I just felt empty on the final climb. We really tried today but we couldn’t finish it off. It’s a shame because this was a very good opportunity for the team”.

 

Andrey Zeits: My job now is to work for Scarponi

“I have been with my captain,” said Andrey Zeits. “This has been my task today and will be for all the next stages". I tried to close the gap the attackers to allow Michele Scarponi to climb regularly."

 

" Michele's 9th place in GC is the best we could do today. We even tried to go on the attack with Dario Cataldo and I also want to emphasize the excellent performance of Zeits,” commented sport director Dmitri Sedoun.

 

David De La Cruz still in GC contention in the Vuelta

The peloton got split to pieces on the steep gradients of Aubisque, as David De La Cruz managed to stay with the best until the final five kilometers, when race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar) put in an acceleration to which only Chris Froome (Team Sky) could respond. David De La Cruz, the only Spanish stage winner at the 2016 Vuelta a España, paced himself on the Hors Catégorie ascent, fighting bravely and showing grit and huge determination in order to limit the damages and keep a place in the upper part of the general classification.

 

Maxime Monfort: I was in survival mode

Maxime Monfort finished 33rd.

 

"Today, I was not the best,” he said. I missed the breakaway of 40 riders because I was in a bad position and later I was in survival mode all day. It was not good to ride in these conditions. Hopfylly,e it will be better tomorrow. "

 

Bora-Argon 18 German on the attack in Vuelta queen stage

BORA  –ARGON 18 rider Christoph Pfingsten was in the break. He was dropped on the second climb. He rode his own rhythm until he was caught by the first group of the peloton.

 

In the finale BORA – ARGON 18 was in a good position in the peloton with Gregor Mühlberger and José Mendes. The latter finished 49th as best placed BORA - ARGON 18 rider. 

 

"It was such a day in hell today. I never did a stage like this before. I think it was good that I was in the breakaway. But it was hard to get in it. I was in good shape but after the second KOM I got some problems. I rode my own pace. But on the third KOM I was also dropped from the bunch. I looked for another group to finish in time. If you are in a breakaway you have to push harder than in the peloton therefore you lose some strength during the day. In the end you just hope to finish,” said Christoph Pfingsten

 

Giant-Alpecin save energy for Monday’s sprint stage

Tobias Ludvigsson was the first home for Giant-Alpecin in 53rd place, followed by Chad Haga in 65th place.

 

Coach Luke Roberts said after the stage: “Today was a very difficult high mountain stage and our goal was just to get I guys through the stage. We aimed to use as little energy as possible with our eye on the sprint stage in two days time.”

 

Mattia Cattaneo on the attack for Lampre-Merida

After the success of Conti in the 13th stage at the end of a long breakway, LAMPRE-MERIDA tried once again to be represented by one of its riders in the main attack of the race and this happened for the fourth time in a row. In the breakaway which went clear from the peloton after 20 km in the race, Mattia Cattaneo, who obtained the 4th place in the 8th stage of the Vuelta, represented the team. He was dropped in the approach of the summit of the Col de Marie-Blanque, at 40 km to the arrival, and he was overtaken by the group of the general classification contenders. However, he was the first blue-fuchsia-green rider in 69th.

 

Omar Fraile scores KOM points, broken collarbone for van Rensburg

For Dimension Data, Omar Fraile was the first rider to attack. As defending champion in the KOM classification he was keen on flying the flag for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka out front today. His move dragged 40 other riders along, including team mate Jacques Janse van Rensburg and eventual stage winner Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo).

 

Fraile took maximum points atop the Col Inharpu, but it was there that bad luck struck our team once again at this year’s edition of the Vuelta. On the narrow and technical descent Janse van Rensburg crashed onto his shoulder. The 2015 South African road race champion could continue the stage but had to drop back to the peloton. He was later diagnosed with a broken collarbone

 

Fraile was henceforth the team’s only rider in the break. He managed to take maximum points on the Col de Soudet as well. Later on he couldn’t find the legs though to stay with the break when a small group of riders increased the pace on the Col du Marie Blanque. Fraile now sits second in this classification, but still has plenty of chances to overtake Elissonde

 

Sports director Alex Sans Vega said:
 

“It was a super hard day today. The 2016 Vuelta has already been a really hard race so far and today was not just another tough day. It was the queen stage with 3 cat.1 climbs and an HC summit finish atop the Aubisque. We wanted to be in the break and Omar and Jacques managed to form part of the 41 rider group that went up the road. That was really good. We didn’t expect that the break will stay away, but the GC contenders let the group go. Unfortunately, Jacques crashed on the descent of the first climb and Omar didn’t have his best legs. He managed to get valuable points for the KOM classification and sits second there now. To be able to go onto the podium today would have been nice though. We still have options with Omar during the next few days. Let’s also hope Jacques recovers quickly.”

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