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”The team wanted me to ride for GC so that I could accumulate experience but in the stage to Formigal last Sunday I was in the wrong group, I was a bit stiff at the start of this stage."

Photo: ASO/B.Bade


10.09.2016 @ 22:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Pierre Latour (Ag2r) confirmed that he is the next big French climber when he claimed his first grand tour stage win in his debut three-week race on the famous Alto de Aitana on the penultimate of the Vuelta a Espana. Having joined the early break, he made a fantastic comeback in the final kilometre and then beat Darwin Atapuma (BMC) in the two-rider sprint. Chris Froome (Sky) attacked Nairo Quintana (Movistar) repeatedly but failed to get rid of the Colombian who now just needs to finish safely to win the race. Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) made a long-distance attack that saw him move onto the overall podium as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) slips to fourth.


We have gathered several reactions.


Latour: I made up for my bad day in Formigal

"I did not really realize what happened,” Pierre Latour said. “On the last climb, I began to believe in it but I was not sure of myself. Gesink was riding very hard and I hung on. I was really motivated because I had not won yet this year and I did not want to miss this opportunity, especially after Axel Domont and Jan Bakelants had been in so many breaks during the week without being rewarded. The final was a great fight.


”I am very happy. It is to eenjoy such moments that I ride my bike. I'm pleased with my first grand Tour. There was a great atmosphere in the team and I learned a lot.


”The team wanted me to ride for GC so that I could accumulate experience but in the stage to Formigal last Sunday I was in the wrong group, I was a bit stiff at the start of this stage. I still can’t manage to be consistent. So then I tried to get into the breakaways. It’s complicated but today all went well.


”At the foot of the final climb I was already tired, but everyone was after a hard start to the stage, the break only went after 80km. At the base of the Alto de Aitana there were several attacks. With 15 or 13 km left, Bart De Clecrq caught me and then we were joined by Gesink, Frank and Atapuma. I was in the wheels and when I was with Atapuma, I saw that he was gradually running out of gas so I started to believe in it more and more.


”It was a hectic race there was no easy stage. There was always something happening and it was tough for me because I have trouble staying focused all the time so it was tough psychologically and physically. I have tried to learn with JC Peraud. I had trouble getting in the break, too, and I got advice on that from Axel Domont and Jan Bakelants.


“Obviously it’s [Alexis Gougeard’s win last year] somewhere in the back of your mind, especially since he won with such panache, attacking far out from the line. Today was my last opportunity !


I did not talk too much with Atapuma, we were essentially looking behind because Felline was coming back. I gave everything I had and I was a bit upset I had not won yet this season.



”I will ride the Italian races and then ride a few cyclocross during the winter, like every year. The Tour de France is very hard when you’re a French rider in a French team, it adds to the pressure of the event and like I said I already have trouble staying focused all the time.


"We had a great day, full of stress,” sports director Julien Jurdie said. “Jicé [Peraud] had a hard day , we have a little doubt but he fought to stay in the top 15. And Pierre delivered a superb performance. We understood that this would be the group that would decide to win and for several days he had very good feelings. There were big climbers but we felt he would win with his jump. Tactically, we operated well.


”Last year we won the nineteenth stage with Gougeard, this year it is the twentieth. It’s great.”


Peraud on the verge of retirement: I am really happy it was the last one

Thirteenth overall, Jean-Christophe Péraud will do the final race of his career tomorrow


”I left a lot of strength in the beginning of the stage and I did not have enough left for the finale. I suffered a lot and I’m really happy it was the last one. I’m worn out. It was my last big battle. I have fought nicer battles but this one was worth points. I’m happy to end up with good sensations.”


Atapuma: I have a bad taste in my mouth

Darwin Atapuma narrowly missed out on his first Grand Tour stage win when he was just beaten to the line by Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) on the Alto de Aitana summit finish on Vuelta a Espana stage 20.


Atapuma overtook Latour in the head-to-head showdown with 600m to go and looked set to take the win before Latour crawled back and crossed the line two seconds in front of Atapuma.


The final mountain stage, before the peloton arrives in Madrid for stage 21, didn’t disappoint with attack after attack playing out across the 193.2km stage.


Atapuma formed part of a 15-rider chase group behind two leading riders and maintained a two-minute gap for much of the stage, while the GC group sat up and waited for the battle for the overall standings on the final two climbs of the day.


Atapuma attacked from the chase group halfway up the Alto de Aitana and made his way to then solo leader Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana Pro Team), before going clear himself with 3km remaining.


Latour and Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) later re-joined Atapuma to set the stage for the battle in the final kilometer.


With the final stage to Madrid remaining, BMC Racing Team maintain the lead in the team classification, 4’43” in front of Movistar Team.


Darwin Atapuma said:


"For me this Vuelta a Espana has been incredible. To have four days in the red jersey was a dream come true. It was something extraordinary to wear this jersey for me and for BMC Racing Team. Now we head to Madrid and of course I would have liked a stage win but to have worn the red jersey for four days and come second on two stages is really special. We have also won the team GC which is a really nice way to end the race.


“I can’t say I had bad luck. We did a pretty good day but I have a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted a stage win, but God gave me the chance to be the leader of the race for four days, and I also have two second places. We fought and I leave the race happy with the work we did as a team”.


Felline: I had the smell of victory

Fabio Felline closed in on the two leaders with just over one kilometer remaining of the summit finish in stage 20, fighting back, once again, after being distanced from his breakaway companions on the 21-kilometer uphill, the last climb of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana.


Although Felline didn't quite manage to get to the wheels of Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) and Darwin Atapuma (BMC) before they began the skirmish for the stage win, his tenacity earned him his fifth top-three finish of the three-week race and the green points jersey.


"I don’t have words," said Felline, exhausted but happy. "I think I need to reflect more on what I have done today. There was a moment today in the breakaway that I felt so, so tired, but then I thought back to the first part of the race when everyone was à bloc. So I told myself that because of that everyone is tired now. So I needed to be smart.


"I saw my best friend with seven kilometers to go and he told me, 'Allez Fabio you have the possibility to come back!', and that gave me more energy and motivation. When I saw [Atapuma and Latour] I felt the smell of victory, but I think when they saw me coming back, they made an effort, and then it was impossible for me to catch them. But I am very happy to get the green jersey.


”Today was a crazy day. I started with a crash in the neutral zone and when it happened I thought well this day is starting off well! Then I really wanted to be in the break because it was the only way for me to take points and to get a result at the finish. Eventually I’m here with the green jersey, it’s a nice reward after finishing third four times. I wanted this green jersey since day one and I get it on the penultimate day but I know it will be in the bag tomorrow night only.”


It was a huge fight to get in the breakaway for the final mountain stage as numerous groups formed only to be reabsorbed until two riders finally escaped.


Felline fought his way into a 15-man chase group on the third climb of the day that set off in pursuit of the two leaders, but at the bottom of the last climb they were still over 90 seconds in arrears. However, with 21 kilometers to climb and the two leaders obviously fatigued from being out front all day, the stage win turned out to be a fight from the chasing group.


Felline again played his effort perfectly, ignoring the attacks and settling into his pace up the long and arduous climb. As the two leaders succumbed to their breakaway effort, Atapuma and Letour emerged as the best of the chasers vying for the win, that is, until Felline unexpectedly came onto the scene in the final 1300 meters.


Felline's third place gives him 100 points to Nairo Quintana's (Movistar) 97, dropping previous leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to third with 93. With one stage to go, a flat romp into Madrid, Felline, also a good sprinter, is poised to take home the green jersey.


"I am honest; I am super happy and relieved to have the points jersey after today," said Felline. "In the start I crashed, it was a silly crash, and I was so mad at myself. Then I needed to change the way the day was going because it had started really bad. 


"The victory is another thing, but for me to have the green jersey tomorrow in Madrid, I think it's a good reward for all the things that I did in this Vuelta. Sometimes it is difficult to win because it was a super strong Vuelta, and always I found myself in a breakaway with climbers stronger than me."


Frank: I paid for my effort in the early part of the stage

Once again at the front of the race, and on the quest for another stage victory, Mathias Frank only just missed out on finishing on the podium for the penultimate stage of the Vuelta.


“I felt good, but I was probably missing a little bit of freshness to finish it off in style,” the Swiss rider explained.


“All day I was following lots of attacks,” Mathias Frank continued.  “I did not want to be caught out.  But all these accumulated efforts cost me a lot of energy. This is probably what prevented me from having the kick I needed for the final couple of kilometers. I am a little disappointed. I was fighting again for the win, and I was pretty close to having another big success.


”I did a bit too much work at the begining of the stage, I was in all the breakaways. I did not want to risk it going without me. At the end, I made a small gap but I ran out of gas. It was a good Vuelta, I’m very happy. I enjoyed racing aggressively, I won a stage and you have to be super strong to win in this race.”


While he was in the breakaway group with Mathias Frank, Clément Chevrier was taken down by a spectator who got in the way. 


“I was at the front of the group, and a kid crossed the road,” Chevrier explained.  “He took me out in his wake. Though I didn’t really have ambitions to go for the victory in this stage, I am still disappointed. I’d be happy to be able to go home without these abrasions all over.”


Sports director Mario Chiesa added:


“Mathias did a great race. Unfortunately we were hampered by Clément Chevrier’s crash. If that hadn’t happened, we could have adopted a different tactic. But overall, I am satisfied with our guys here. To have two of our riders in the main break on the day before the final promenade into Madrid says a lot about their physical form and about their mental strength.”


Gesink spends ’whole day pulling’, Bennett on the verge of top 10 finish at Vuelta

LottoNL-Jumbo rider Robert Gesink finished fifth in a tough penultimate stage of the Vuelta. The stage was won by Pierre Latour (AG2R). Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was never in danger and retained his red leader's jersey.


The 193-kilometre stage to the top of the Alto Aitana began with a long battle to breakaway. Gesink was present from the start and went with a large group behind the two leaders Rudy Molard (Cofidis) and Louis Leon Sanchez (Astana). The peloton was distanced already. Molard was caught and when Atapuma (BMC) and LeTour attacked, Gesink could not follow, and eventually, Sanchez was caught too.

"We made good business today with Robert Gesink and George Bennett," said Sports Director Jan Boven. "It was a 70-kilometre long battle to get away. Robert was in all escapes. Because of the hard start, it was a fight of man against man in the end. When Atapuma and Latour attacked, Robert could not respond. He came in totally wasted because he gave it all today."


The stage had a lot of vertical metres and was held in hot conditions. George Bennett always rode in the group of favorites with Froome, Quintana and Contador, and saw a competitor to be eliminated.


"George fought his way in the top ten today," continued Boven. "Scarponi was dropped in the beginning but came back. In the final, he dropped off again and George climbed into the top ten of the rankings and that's great.”


Robert Gesink had victory in his pocket and rode today with nefarious plans. In the past, Gesink was already third on the hard Alto Aitana and that gave him inspiration.


"I knew the climb from a few years ago," Gesink said. "I spent the whole day pulling in the attack and helped to make a difference because at one point, the peloton was close behind us. In the final, I had to pass when Atapuma and Latour attacked. I fought until the last metres and I’m happy with my fifth place today."


Sunday following a train journey from Alicante to Madrid, the riders start for the closing evening stage.


Monfort: I wanted to show more

For Lotto Soudal, Bart De Clercq was sixth. Maxime Monfort moves up to the sixteenth place in the general classification.


"I have given much in the beginning to be in the breakaway,” Monfort said. “I was there on the first climb but we were caught at the bottom of the second climb. I have not had success once in my entire Vuelta. Later in the race, there was a sudden acceleration from Orica. I was not too far back and I attacked the last climb in a small group a minute behind. I did ​​this last climb with courage because I was really tired. In the end, I'm still sixteenth overall. I would have wanted to show more in this Vuelta but to finish sixteenth with the level here satisfies me.”


Chaves: I have always dreamt of riding such an epic stage

ORICA-BikeExchange produced another fine display of teamwork and tactical knowhow on stage 20 of La Vuelta a Espana today as Esteban Chaves capped off an incredible three weeks of racing by securing third on the general classification and his second GrandTour podium.


Damien Howson made it into the day’s breakaway that formed after a fast and hectic start, immediately giving the Australian outfit the option of advanced support later in the stage.


The support plan was utilised and executed to perfection as OBE unleashed a series of strong accelerations at the front of the peloton that heavily reduced the bunch before Chaves attacked on the penultimate climb.


With Howson positioned up the road Chaves continued to accelerate until making contact, from that point forward Howson buried himself and catapulted Chaves up the climb before pulling off with 15kilometres left to race.


Despite the intensity of the occasion Chaves maintained tempo up the climb and finished well ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) to take third place overall.


“We said in the beginning that the goal for the team was the general classification and we kept fighting for it right until the end,” said Chaves. “Today was a beautiful stage and all of my life I dreamt of riding an epic stage like today and to do it with this team is unbelievable.


“Thank you very much to all of the guys, especially Damien Howson for what they gave today. I’m really happy and proud to be part of this team and the future looks really bright for ORICA-BikeExchange.”


The stage was won by Pierre-Roger Latour (AG2R-La-Mondiale) from the breakaway with Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crossing the line close together as Quintana sealed the overall victory.


Stage six winner Simon Yates ensured the team finish with two riders inside the final top ten with a measured ride to seal sixth overall.


“Big big day, we lost a lot of time yesterday but it was not a course that suited the little guys,” he said. “We really put it on the line today and it paid off. It started with a bit of on-the-road discussion, we made a hard race before the climb then Esteban went away. Everybody was pinned. We had a guy up on the road ready to drop back in case anything happened. He went and that was it. Contador was alone which was perfect for us.”


Sport director Neil Stephens emphasised the importance of commitment and self-belief.


“Its about commitment and belief,” said Stephens. “After losing some time on yesterdays time trial we reflected on what we’d achieved in the race up to that point, three stage wins fourth and sixth overall.


“But we were so close to third and a podium spot that he boys themselves decided that we would give it one last hurrah today and hats off, that’s what we did.


“What’s most important is the spirit and belief and we had that in abundance today, everyone, the whole team. We needed someone up the road for the move to work and Damien (Howson) did a fantastic job up there in support of Esteban.


“I have to say that Simon (Yates) produced a really excellent, selfless ride on the last climb. We told him to keep digging and trying to break the rhythm of Contador and he did that brilliantly without one thought about his own chances. Fantastic, I’m very proud of the team.”


Quintana: Froome’s attacks never put me under pressure

Nairo Quintana and the Movistar Team can now smile and enjoy together. The Colombian and the whole squad directed by José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta defended themselves flawlessly in the last great battle of the Vuelta a España - 193km between Benidorm and the HC climb of Aitana, with three other rated ascents and plenty of non-categorized climbs along the route - to travel tomorrow to Madrid for their march of glory. After an agonic race with many challenging attacks, the telephone squad revealed as the strongest over the course - even if they had to do so without one of their most coveted domestiques: José Joaquín Rojas.


With Rojas still in the race, the Blues had successfully defended themselves from a very difficult start, the opening 70km not bringing a stable break - Rojas was part of the decisive move, which Pierre Latour (ALM) took advantage from to win the stage - and including even an attack by Froome on the descent of the Rates (Cat-2), searching for a gap over Quintana. The Movistar Team quickly responded with the Colombian, as well as four team-mates, to nullify his attempt. Later on, Erviti and Sutherland, controlling the pace, and Herrada, Castroviejo and Fernández, in the approach towards Aitana, completed an excellent labour crowned by Alejandro Valverde himself, who led Quintana out on the steepest part of the ascent. There, with 5km to go, Froome jumped off the front.


The Briton’s accelerations always found proper response from Quintana, all the way to the finish line. Ahead of the two, Esteban Chaves (OBE), author of a brilliant move into the climb of Tudons (Cat-2), secured his third place in the Madrid podium alongside the protagonists of the biggest duel in this Vuelta. In turn, Dani Moreno confirmed a fine eighth spot overall, with Valverde coming just 1’50” short to a top-ten finish in yet another remarkable Vuelta for him.


Nairo Quintana said: 


“Obviously, I was going quite strong into that final climb, but it wasn’t easy for me only because it looked so on TV when I was alongside Froome. It was easy because my team made things easy for me all day. They brought me into Aitana fully safe and confident, defended me from all attacks from all teams, especiall Sky in the beginning of the stage - they were all phenomenal, from first to last, a marvellous Vuelta from the whole group which I can’t thank them enough for. This is a tribute to them, and also to José Joaquín Rojas. We want him to recover to 100% and get on his bike again as quickly as possible.


“Froome started attacking from very early into the stage, as he already did on the downhill of the Coll de Rates. However, we always kept full focus, and on that final climb I did not find any troubles to defend myself against all his moves. He’s a strong contender, rode an impressive TT yesterday, made me struggle - he’s my biggest rival, and I thank him for making my victory more valuable.


”When I won the Giro I had a bad time because I had the flu and did not feel good. I was healthier and luckier in this Vuelta and had a brilliant team around me. I want to thank my team. Big hug to Jose Joaquin Rojas, too, it’s a shame he’s not in the race anymore


”I had trained really hard for the Tour de France but allergies did not allow me to be at 100 per cent. But I still had great condition for the Vuelta. I did not ride the Olympics, I preferred to leave my spot to a rider who would have a better chance than me. I wanted to take the monkey off my back after the Tour.


”Froome attacked me many times in descent, uphill, and I wanted to be first because he said on multiple occasions that even a second is important. If I offended him I apologise, I want to congratulate him for his victory in the time trial. He is my direct rival, today the strongest I have. This year we’re even. I don’t want him to be mad at me. What I did, I did it in the spur of the moment.


”It’s an honour for me to win against my biggest rival. His attacks were incredible today. I could not give him an inch. I don’t think we have a problem.


”We can see that all Colombian riders have a great level. What Chaves and his team did s incredible. It’s a shame that Alberto (Contador) lost third place but congratulations to Chaves for being here. Colombian cycling has a great generation.


”Chris is the strongest today. Bit next year there will also be Chaves, Nibali, Aru. And Alberto is the kind of rider who always makes his presence felt. He will be in a new, strong team. On our side we continue to train and develop young, talented riders.


“After Formigal I felt I was going to win but I knew there were still very difficult stage and a time trial. Today’s stage was terrible, all my team mates were lying on the ground in the end. I knew the TT was dangerous with dangerous turns where you have to decide whether you want to take risks or lose 3, 5 seconds in a curve to stay safe.


”I had the confidence I needed at the beginning but when won at the Lagos de Covadonga I believe I found the motivation for the rest of the Vuelta.


“It’s difficult to win the Tour, Froome’s team is a fortress but we also have a very good team. Winning the Vuelta gives us the confidence to beat them.


”I still have to see what I’m going to do because I also have a schedule at home so I will spend a few days with family and rest.


It’s possible to win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year. Froome or I could do it but all the stars must be aligned. If you are strong, and we are, it’s possible. Look at this season, Froome won the Tour and came second in the Vuelta while I was third on the Tour and won the Vuelta.”


Broken tibia and fibula for Rojas after bad Vuelta crash

The Spanish road race champion crashed about 95km in, on the descent of the Alto de Tollos. Rubbing the guardrail and falling to the kerb, the man from Murcia seriously injured his left leg. Rojas was moved – always conscious, stable and calm, yet in huge pain - to the Hospital Virgen de los Lirios in Alcoy. Later this evening, Rojas had his wounds surgically cured and underwent checkups that confirmed an open tibia and fibula fracture, which will keep him admitted to the medical center tonight. More details on his transfer to Murcia and further surgery will be evaluated accordingly.


Froome: I gave it my all

Chris Froome and Team Sky rode a combative 20th stage at the Vuelta a Espana to all but wrap up second place overall.


The Brit accelerated continuously on the final Alto Aitana summit finish but was unable to dislodged the red jersey of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) from his wheel.


With the Colombian chipping clear in the final metres, Froome crossed the line applauding his great rival, who secured a winning margin of one minute and 23 seconds ahead of Sunday's Madrid finale.


Team Sky looked to take the fight to Quintana and Movistar on the final day of GC racing, covering all the early moves and placing riders up the road, upping the pace at times across the 193.2km test.


David Lopez made his way into the day's main breakaway before dropping back to pace Froome in the closing kilometres. Leopold Konig also pushed onwards on the final beyond-category summit, before Froome and Quintana went mano a mano to the line.


An intriguing situation developed as the race headed out of Benidorm, with Sky and Movistar seemingly going toe to toe in a tactical battle.


Sky were highly attentive, with Christian Knees, Pete Kennaugh and Salvatore Puccio patrolling the front early. The first big move came with the help of Michal Golas, who buried himself on the descent off the Coll de Rates - causing a split with Froome and Quintana covering each other.


With the race back together and a break finally established up the road there was a calming of the pace, allowing the breakaway to build up an unassailable lead.


With support from Konig in the GC group, Froome did everything he could late on, showing huge determination, and now looks set to take a third runner-up finish at La Vuelta. 

“Chapeau @NairoQuinCo & @Movistar_Team I gave it my all Thank you @teamsky & @lavuelta #LV2016,” Froome tweeted after the stage


"It was the last day possible to do something, and we approached it as a one-day race,” sports director Dario Cioni told Cyclingnews. "The task was pretty ambitious, to take back 1 minute and 20 seconds on Quintana, but we agreed in the morning that everyone would do everything we could to do this.


"So from the start we went flat out, just wanted to keep the race going and make it hard for Movistar to see if we could crack them, even if with the riders they've got, it's not easy.


“We kept trying at every opportunity. With David, we chose to pull him back, just to make sure we had everything for Chris, rather than potentially going for the stage."


Strong Talansky close to first ever top 5 finish in a grand tour

It was a show of strength by Cannondale-Drapac on the penultimate stage of the Vuelta a España. Inside the final 40 kilometers, the peloton had been reduced to 20 riders. Green Argyle had four in the elite selection: Andrew Talansky, Davide Formolo, Moreno Moser and Davide Villella. Ben King was up the road in the early breakaway. It was the final test over the final three-week tour of the season, and the team passed with flying colors.


Talansky climbed to 12th place on the stage to hang onto fifth place overall. It’s the best Grand Tour showing of his career. Davide Formolo jumped up one spot on the overall. He’ll end the Vuelta in ninth place – a stellar result for a young rider who has never ridden for the general classification at a Grand Tour.


With three riders in the top 25 on the stage, Cannondale-Drapac won the stage 20 team classification. It’s the team’s third team classification win in the last three weeks.


“The team was so, so strong today,” said Talansky. “We were one of the strongest teams out there. The guys were great. What Ben did for me today was like what Pierre [Rolland] did on Col d’Aubisque. It was truly a team effort today and during these last three weeks”


“We were strong but also we were smart,” said sport director Bingen Fernandez. “We saved our energy for the right moments. We were in the right position at the right time. Seeing the whole team work together the way they did today .. I’m really proud.”


Contador: I expected Movistar to pay back the favour

From the off the attacks were relentless, and Tinkoff was quick to cover the moves. After a hard fight, Alberto Contador crossed the line in 13th at the end of the 193km stage, slipping back to fourth overall by just a handful of seconds.


The stage was the last chance for the riders vying for the top spots in the GC to do battle, and this unfolded over the whole stage, with all eyes coming down to the final climb where it was every rider for himself. After 19 tough stages in the legs, the team once again rode a strong collective race and can know that they gave their all.


“It was a crazy race today – the guys gave it everything and we tried but unfortunately we lost the podium spot,” explained Sport Director, Steven de Jongh. “From early on we wanted to have as many guys as possible up the road as we expected the attacks to come. They would then be able to drop back and help when it kicked off.


“All the guys got involved and then we had Yuri Trofimov up there in the move that stuck. When the attack came we told him to wait and he pulled as hard as he could but Chaves didn’t crack. Alberto took some time back on the final climb but not enough so of course we’re a bit disappointed, but the guys gave it their all.”

 Attack followed attack early on and it took a long time for the day’s breakaway to form. When it did, the peloton eased off completely, licking its wounds after a tough fight that included many of the GC favourites. Up front, Tinkoff had Trofimov in the move, who would play a big role further in the stage.


As the kilometres ticked by, the peloton remained controlled until a big attack from Chaves, setting up for a long attack which eventually saw Contador leap-frogged in the GC. When the move came, Trofimov sat up in front to await Contadr’s group of GC favourites and set about pulling hard to control the gap until the final climb.


On the last ascent to the line – a long 21km climb at 5.9% average, with its steepest gradients late on – the battle unfolded as riders attacked one another in both the break and the GC group. Contador set about pacing himself up the climb to try and limit his losses to those ahead but over the line he fell 13 seconds short of holding onto his podium place.


After the stage, Contador said:


"I would be happier if I were on the podium, even more if I had won the Vuelta. We missed the podium by very little - it's a pity because being on the podium is important for the sponsors. However, our objective was another one. Our goal when we started the Vuelta was to win, but I'm satisfied because it was a race that I enjoyed. The team gave its best to help me but on the final climbs I was alone so maybe I would have needed stronger teammates there. It was not a strong team for the mountains. In the end, things come like this, and I have to congratulate Quintana, Froome, Chaves and mainly the Orica team, who played it brilliantly.


"I thought that Movistar would give us a hand today to return the favour we did them on Formigal, but at the end the team has its own tactics and you cannot depend on other teams. When we started the Vuelta we knew what was ahead, unfortunately we weren't able to win it but it might sound strange but I don't give too much importance to the fact that I'm off the podium. When you lose you learn more and in this Vuelta I learned a lot. When you win you barely learn anything, when you lose you learn more.


“I came on this Vuelta with a good condition, and with all the bad luck I had I couldn’t win. It can be shocking that I don’t care much about the podium, but my goal was the win, and that makes the rest a lot less important.


"There were a couple of stages where I learned a lot when I had to work on my own at certain moments. It's simpler if you have a strong block, like Sky had at the Tour de France, but when you don't have this, you have to work in a different way.


"I'd like to congratulate Nairo Quintana on his victory, Froome for his good race, and ORICA for their good tactics."


Impressive De La Cruz surprises with seventh place in the Vuelta

David De La Cruz, 9th in the overall standings at the start of the day, passed this important test, putting in a gargantuan effort and displaying incredible persistence, and got rewarded at the end of the stage with a significant leap in the GC.



David De La Cruz climbed with the elite group on Alto de Aitana, an impressive feat taking into account that it was the first time in his career that we went up the 21-km long ascent which many are comparing to France's Mont Ventoux. After the top men began attacking and counterattacking, De La Cruz didn't panic, as he knew that all he had to do in order to defend his place in the rankings was to ride a steady pace which would allow him to lose as less time as possible.


Not only that the 27-year-old managed that, but he also gained two places in the general classification, climbing to 7th, and is now very close of getting his best ever result in a Grand Tour. Seventh at his third participation in the Vuelta a España is a result De La Cruz will never forget, especially as it propels him into a new dimension and proves that he has what it takes to be a contender in the future stage races he'll do with the team.


"Such a hard day this was, a real day of suffering, but I knew I had to through this in order to achieve my goal. On the last ascent it was a question of not panicking and finding the rhythm that suited me the best. I didn't go over my limit, I stayed focused and now I can enjoy this fantastic result", said David De La Cruz, the third Etixx – Quick-Step rider to make his way into the top 10 of a Grand Tour this season, after Bob Jungels (6th in the Giro d'Italia) and Dan Martin (9th at the Tour de France).


An elated De La Cruz elaborated on the targets he had at the start of the race and what means to finish a Grand Tour in the top 10 and win a stage in the process, after three weeks in which he showed huge determination and a remarkable consistency:


"When I came to the Vuelta, I was thinking of getting a victory. To conclude the race in the top 10 was a dream for me, but after Alto del Naranco – which is a moment I'll always remember – I began thinking and believing in my GC prospects. I fought hard for this, was helped by a fantastic team, and to be in the top 10 riders here after winning a stage and wearing the red jersey gives me great joy and extra motivation for the future. I want to enjoy this moment and continue to work hard in order to make other important steps and become an even better rider."

Silin motivated for European Championships after top 15 in the Vuelta

Pavel Kochetkov and Egor Silin were in the middle of the action in the twentieth and one to the last stage of La Vuelta. The last and decisive mountain stage did not disappoint the cycling fans.


”It was a crazy start of the race. Just Benidorm left the attacks started and did not stop coming. Our KATUSHA guys were part of the action, like every day in this Vuelta. It was our last chance to win a second stage. Today it took 80 crazy and fast kilometers before a break managed to stay away. Pavel Kochetkov was part of it. He did very well but unfortunously he paid his effort in the end,” said team director Jose Azevedo.


Egor Silin rode very well in the group of the favorites and stayed with Froome, Contador and Quintana until the last four kilometers.


”I am very happy. The Vuelta is almost over but I still feel good. I even managed today to jump from 17tth to 15tth position in GC, despite a bike change in the last kilometer. This makes me very happy. Now I will head to the European Championships in France next week. I need to take advantage of my good shape. We heard that Russia could bring an extra rider to the race. I go with pleasure and even pay all travel expenses myself. I am motivated,” explained Egor Silin at the finish atop of the Alto de Aitana.


Conti: I tried to anticipate the better climbers

Valerio Conti tried to double the impressive victory he obtained in the 13th stage. LAMPRE-MERIDA's rider tried to realize his plan of the double on the final ascent, when he attacked from his group and was very close to bridging the gap to Leon Sanchez. Conti was caught and overtaken by Atapuma and Latour and finished 21st.

"The battle in the early part of the race was intense, however Meintjes, Durasek and I were great in joining the most important attempts,” Conti explained. “I managed to be in the main breakaway, it was not simple to be in that group, however I still had good legs.

”On the final climb, I tried to anticipate top climbers such as Atapuma, Latour and Gesink; unfortunately, I could not obtain a large advantage and they overtook me.”


Disappointed Elissonde: One single point…

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) lost the mountains jerser:


“I lost this polka dot jersey for one point, one single point! On the first climb I thought if I take five points, it’s over and since I had good legs I went for it but Fraile came back and took the five points. Then I jumped away from the peloton, took one point at top of the penultimate climb but it was not enough. I am very disappointed.”


No disappointment for Luis Leon Sanchez, Scarponi crashes out of the top 10

"I did my best and I have nothing to reproach myself,” said Luis Leon Sanchez at the finish of the 20th stage. "I tried to anticipate the many climbers who were with me in the breakaway but in the final others were cooler than me.


"I'm not angry because I tried in every way but I failed. I struggled a little at first and didn’t want any GC riders in the break. We tried anyway., We're going home from this Vuelta winless, but with the comfort of having given everything "


Michele Scarponi, who crashed in the beginning of the stage, lost four positions in the GC and dropped to 11th.


Giant-Alpecin have eyes on Madrid sprint

The Team Giant-Alpecin riders were focused on making it safely through the stage and all came home within the time limit, saving what energy they could ahead of tomorrow’s final sprint opportunity to round out the last Grand Tour of the 2016 season.


“Today’s stage was a brutal one, lots of climbing, a fast start and a lot of riders seeing it as the last opportunity to show something,” explained coach Luke Roberts after the stage. “Our hopes were with Tobias [Ludvigsson] and Chad [Haga] but both were feeling quite flat after yesterday’s efforts in the TT. All our riders made it to the finish in time and we will look forward to the final showdown in Madrid tomorrow.”


Difficult day for Bora-Argon 18 in the Vuelta

Bora-Argon 18 had a hard day. Michael Schwarzmann and Rudi Selig had to fight in one of the groups behind the bunch already on the first climb. After 95k, all BORA - ARGON 18 riders were back together in the main group but after 3 weeks of hard racing, BORA - ARGON 18 was not in the shape to play a role in the hard final. 


BORA - ARGON 18 now concentrates on tomorrow's last sprint stage in Madrid, the team's last opportunity to take a win in the Vuelta. With Rudi Selig and Michael Schwarzmann their chances are quite good. 


Mechanical and crash cost Pardilla top result in the Vuelta

A mechanical problem, coupled with the pace set by an increasingly smaller peloton, forced Sergio Pardilla to lose contact. The work of riders like Hugh Carthy, Edu Prades and Pello Bilbao was instrumental but ultimately he lost a lot of time.


Sergio Pardilla said: 


"It was a very hard stage, with a very quick stage. Today I missed some strength. I also suffered a crash that left me injured. My goal was to finish as dignified as possible and reach the finish in one piece.”


Fraile surprised to win second consecutive mountains jersey

Omar Fraile rode back into the blue-dotted KOM jersey today by taking over the lead in the Mountains classification on stage 20 of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka played it smart and rode attentively right from the start. The penultimate day of this year’s Spanish Grand Tour offered 5 chances to gain points for the KOM classification and it was a nail biting fight all the way down to the finish line.


Fraile jumped into the days first break and countered an attack of Kenny Elissonde (FDJ), who lead the classification this morning. The Basque crossed the summit in first position and gained enough points to take the lead by two points. The Frenchman would only notch up 1 more point over the course of the day.


Fraile now leads the KOM classification by a margin of 1 point over Elissonde going into the final stage tomorrow. Without any points left on offer it means that Fraile only needs to finish the stage in Madrid to win the jersey for a second time in his career. It will be the first time Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will take home a leader’s jersey at a Grand Tour after 3 weeks of racing.


Omar Fraile said:


”Today was a hard day. I was able to get into the early break. Elissonde attacked 3km from the first KOM but I was able to counter his move and get the points there. I had an issue with my bike after the climb when the other break went and couldn’t get in there, so I was nervous until the end of the stage. Now I’m just really happy. To get this jersey was a big motivation for me.


 “I was feeling really good at the start and we could control the first climb. Then, in the second climb I broke my bike. It was crazy. Elissonde attacked at this moment. It was a moment of tension, so I can say I had good and bad luck. We didn’t know if we had to chase because we had no time gaps, my radio didn’t work. Finally, we hoped for the two guys in the front to stay together and we thought he wouldn’t be strong enough in the last climb. To win this jersey is even a bigger surprise than last year because this year I came here to win a stage”



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