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“It’s an important victory because of the surroundings and because of the rivals who were here. It was spectacular, it was a great race and a great fight with Froome."

Photo: Sirotti

VUELTA A ESPAÑA

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
12.09.2016 @ 01:03 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) ended his memorable grand tour debut on a high as he took his second stage win of the Vuelta a Espana on the final stage in Madrid. After a great lead-out from Jens Keukeleire, he found a late gap to come around Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) and claim the prestigious victory. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished safely and took the overall win ahead of Chris Froome (Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange).

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Nairo Quintana: The level of the rivals makes it a big win

The 71st edition of the Vuelta a España ended on the highest possible note for the Movistar Team. Seven years after Alejandro Valverde worn the last 'jersey oro' in the race, Nairo Quintana claimed red following a perfect race, in all instances, by the Eusebio Unzué-managed squad.

 

Following a close call, 2nd, by only 0"28, in Ourense's opening team time trial and a brief spell in the lead by an impressive Rubén Fernández in Ézaro, Quintana stroke twice almost consecutively, at La Camperona and the Lagos de Covadonga, the Blues' sole stage win in the race, to which he subsequently added the big time gain at a huge stage 15 towards Formigal. Friday's 'scare' against a sensational Chris Froome in the Calpe ITT was happily forgotten a day later, thanks to yesterday's solidness by the whole group in the Aitana showdown.

 

Quintana joins a very restricted ciub of riders, 17, after the Colombian took his win today, with podiums in all three Grand Tours, adding a second victory to the 2014 Giro that makes him become the only Colombian to have won more than one three-week stagerace. His success, the fourth in the Spanish grand tour for Unzué's squads, Degado, 1989; Olano, 1998, is also the 14th GT victory for a structure that today hits 850 wins since 1980, and takes over the lead in both the 2016 individual (Quintana) and team WorldTour rankings. The Blues also remain two wins short (34, vs. 36) to a new record in a single season, dated back to 1998. They will still have a whole month after the end of this Vuelta to reach, or improve, that figure.

 

This Vuelta's exploits would have been impossible to carry out without a thirty-man group that includes sports directors (José Luis Arrieta and Chente García Acosta), different staff members and eight devoted, superb domestiques. Valverde, a torrent of experience and commitment, less than two minutes short to achieve top-ten finishes in all 2016 GTs; Dani Moreno, 8th overall, always consistent; Erviti and Sutherland, two sensational rouleurs; José Herrada, wonderful allrounder; Fernández and Castroviejo, crucial at key points of the race; and José Joaquín Rojas, whose awful crash yesterday prevented him from enjoying the last parade through Madrid with his team-mates. The whole squad kept the Spanish road race champion in their minds as they reached this marvelous success.

 

Quintana said:

 

“Yesterday, when I crossed the finish line in Aitana, I finally could feel pure joy and calmness. We had got through a big day, a difficult one, where we could have lost it all. It didn't happen - thanks to the big team that supported me. They helped me out from the very beginning, and all the way through these three weeks. Riders, sports directores, mechanics, carers... the whole group took care of me and remained there for everything I needed. They really deserve this win, they deserve to enjoy this.

 

”I came into this Vuelta with a grudge after not being able to really contest the win in the Tour - yet very calm. The training rides I went on prior to the race showed that my fitness level was good, the data was telling me I could aspire to get a good result, and the team offered me their confidence from the start of the race. It kicked off with a great team time trial, where we lost by barely a fraction of a second, and from the very first week, my team-mates always kept me at the front and fought every single day so I didn't lose terrain on stages that didn't favour me. That was one of the keys to me winning this Vuelta.

 

”At La Camperona, when I took those meters in front of my main rivals, I saw that I was really going strong - then I pledged to dig deep and really go for the GC win. I transferred that confidence to my team, I wanted to let them know I could fight for victory and I needed their support, which I always got. And after Covadonga, and the first leader's jersey, came Formigal, the place where we re-confirmed our condition and intentions. There, the huge job by my team-mates was most visible, fundamental to reach that time advantage that could let me enter the Calpe TT not so stressed and remain in red before Aitana.

 

”This Vuelta win means a whole lot to me. At the Tour, I reached the podium more out of class rather than legs. I didn't feel well in France, yet I found my best condition here. Also, it was a race with almost all all big GC names in the peloton present: a huge Chris Froome; Alberto Contador, who is one you must always keep an eye on; Chaves and Orica... Winning the race this way, and against them, makes it even more valuable.

 

“It’s a great, special feeling. I fought several times to win this Vuelta. It’s a dream come true. This morning I thought I had won the Vuelta but I could not raise my arms before crossing the finish line. I take huge pride to have such a team around me.

 

“It’s an important victory because of the surroundings and because of the rivals who were here. It was spectacular, it was a great race and a great fight with Froome. He is a great rival and I have no problem with him. I still dream of winning the Tour de France and I hope it will come true. I will continue to prepare for it hoping I can achieve this goal.”

 

Chaves: The goal was to show that I can do two grand tours for GC

The Vuelta a Espana concluded this evening with Orica-BikeExchange walking away with an impressive four stage wins and third overall with Esteban Chaves.

 

Dane Magnus Cort put the icing on the cake for the Australian outfit by claiming the final stage sprint in Madrid, giving the 23-year-old his second stage victory in what was his debut Grand Tour.

 

Chaves’ bold, long-range attack on yesterday’s penultimate stage saw the 26-year-old return to third position overall after he lost it in the individual time trial to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) the day prior.

It’s the second Grand Tour podium this season for Chaves and the Australian outfit, following his second place at the Giro d’Italia in May.

 

Briton Simon Yates also finished sixth overall to give Orica-BikeExchange two riders in the top ten.

 

“The objective this year for me and the team was to try to do two big tours strongly on the general classification and I think we did it,” Chaves said after the podium. “Also for the team, this is a really important one because we won four stages and had two riders in the top ten.”

 

When asked if he can take the final step on the podium, Chaves greeted the question with his famous optimism.

 

“Why not, all is possible,” he said. “Things arrive when it’s time. This year it’s not my time, maybe next year, maybe in two years or maybe in three, you never know. The most important thing is that you keep trying, you keep believing and continue to work and it will happen.”

 

On speaking about the three weeks of racing, sport director Neil Stephens was full of praise for the entire nine-rider team.

 

“Two riders in the top ten, a rider on the podium, four stage wins - all on varying terrain and with young riders. It just shows the promise and belief we have in this team,” Stephens said.

 

“There were obviously the race winners in Movistar but we were one of the major players and we did a fantastic job.

 

“We took four stages but there were an additional two or three stages that we really animated the race and put everything on the line. These were critical days for the GC and the team executed every piece of the plan to perfection on these days.”

 

Cort: I hope to be Denmark’s rising star

Cort’s success on stage 18 and tonight’s final stage was joined by victories from Briton Simon Yates (stage six) and Belgian Jens Keukeleire (stage 12) – each rider’s first taste of success at a Grand Tour.

 

“This is unbelievable,” Cort said. “This is my first Grand Tour. It was incredible to get one stage but to get this one in Madrid too is amazing.

 

”Plus we had two other stage wins, a podium and two in the top ten overall. It’s been an amazing month with this group.”

 

“Each one is very special. The first one was amazing and this one is amazing, too. At the end of the day I’m thrilled that I won two stages.

 

“It was a tricky finale with all these U-turns. Jens Keukeleire protected me well and gave me a great lead-out. It was long and I found myself behind a guy but I managed to squeeze out.

 

"It was a long lead out for Jens and I could feel his speed was dropping a little bit, but luckily there was a small gap and I was able to squeeze through. To get the win is fantastic. The main goal for the team was the GC with Chaves and it can be tricky to combine going for stages with a target like that.

 

“I hope [I am Denmark’s rising star]. We have many talents and after these three weeks I hope I’m regarded as one of them.

“I think I’ve learnt to save my energy. I took it a bit easier in the first week to still have something in the tank for the last week and I reaped the rewards.

 

“I think I have an option for the classics, of course will do my best in the sprints but let’s be honest this may be not be the world’s hardest sprints here.

 

“Of course, Matthews is one of the great riders on the team and he’s done amazing things so I’m very proud that I got the same result than him.”

 

Chris Froome: Next year my goal could be the Tour-Vuelta double

Chris Froome wrapped up second place overall at the Vuelta a Espana after three weeks of hard racing.

 

The Spanish Grand Tour culminated with a largely ceremonial run into Madrid, confirming the overall podium which saw Froome take the runner-up spot, one minute and 23 seconds behind victor Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

 

The two men went to battle across a gruelling parcours, with Froome taking two impressive stage wins along the way, with the stage 11 summit at Pena Cabarga, followed by an emphatic stage 19 time trial.

 

Team Sky also kicked off the race in the best-possible fashion, with victory in the opening team time trial. That win put both Pete Kennaugh and Michal Kwiatkowski into the prestigious red jersey for a day apiece.

 

Leopold Konig sat as high as fourth in the GC battle before slipping back, and along with David Lopez, Kennaugh and Ian Boswell, supported Froome in the mountains.

 

Michal Golas, Salvatore Puccio and Christian Knees got through a huge amount of work, as did Kwiatkowski before pain from saddle sores forced him out of the race.

 

After crossing the line and taking an incredible third runner-up spot at La Vuelta, Froome told TeamSky.com:

 

"This has definitely been my most successful season to date. I think I can be happy with how things have gone. Of course I can't help but have wanted more out of this Vuelta - but at the same time it's been a great race. As a team we've fought hard.

 

"I think we learnt a lesson on stage 15 and we weren't prepared at the beginning of the stage. Inevitably that cost us the race - but I think we can still be happy with what we've achieved here. Second place overall, winning the team time trial, winning on Pena Cabarga was a special day for me, and also the time trial. So I think all in all I'm certainly going into the office season looking forward to spending some time with the family, and happy with how things have gone.

 

"The tides can always change. If you look at the Tour in 2015, when the split happened, we were on the front side of that and I gained a minute and a half on Nairo there and it can be argued that I won the Tour because of that.

 

"The same can be said for Nairo's victory here. That's racing, that's sport, that's one of the things that makes cycling so special. It can just change in the blink of an eye and it's unpredictable."

 

Froome also reserved special praise for the Spanish fans, and believes it is still possible to do the Tour de France/Vuelta double.

 

"The fans are one of the reasons why I love coming to the Vuelta," he added. "The people make the race really special. The passion of the fans, and the way they cheer for all the riders, not just the Spanish riders, makes it really special and enjoyable. At the same time it's one of the hardest races on our calendar, but enjoyable at the same time.

 

”I definitely think (the double) is possible. I've finished second here and I won the Tour. So I came close, and I'll have to be back again in the future to try again. Maybe that could be my objective for next year.

 

“Three stage wins if you count the TT it’s been a successful Vuelta for us. Of course I was here to fight for victory but after  the season that I’ve had with the Tour and the Olympics, it’s been one of my best seasons and I’m really happy to finish this Vuelta. Nairo was great in this Vuelta.”

 

After a four-man break featuring Kennaugh was hauled back with 5km to go, as expected the final stage came down to a bunch sprint on the streets of Madrid. Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica-BikeExchange) took his second win of the race, while Puccio mixed it up to take 10th over the stripe.

 

Bennati: That guy is really strong

Stage 21 presented one final sprint opportunity at the Vuelta a España for the peloton as the race rolled into Madrid for its conclusion after a hard three weeks of racing. Eager to set up Daniele Bennati for one more shot at a stage win, the team delivered him for the sprint where he nearly took the win, only being overtaken by one in the dying metres.

 

Tinkoff had to overcome a late mechanical for Alberto Contador but they brought him back in a good way before turning the focus to the sprint. After a big turn by Manuele Boaro in the final kilometres, it was over to Michael Gogl as the last rider to position Bennati for the sprint. Launching his effort quite early, Bennati dug deep but was passed in the dying metres, leaving him in second place.

 

“Maybe I started too early. The guys did really good job. When Michael (Gogl) came out I caught the wind and I decided to start my sprint but it was 50 metres too early. But this guy (Nielsen) is really strong. It was a good Vuelta although I’m missed out on a stage win. But I’m not young anymore,” Bennati said.

 

Contador: Next year there will be changes

For his efforts in lighting up the racing over the course of the Vuelta, Contador  was awarded with the most combative rider in what is the team’s final Grand Tour. Another race to remember.

 

Contador said after the hype had died down:

 

"I enjoyed racing at the Vuelta but, obviously, I am not happy with the fourth place. This was not at all our goal at the start, our aim was to win. Yesterday, we lost the podium spot but this doesn't worry me. I could say I am satisfied overall with the way I raced and we lived a few days of incredible cycling that thrilled the crowds.

 

"I will now discuss with the team what the schedule is for the end of the season. We will see what we can achieve in terms of WorldTour Team ranking. This being the final year of Tinkoff it is important to close the curtain on a high note. Last but certainly not least, I would like to express my gratitude to the Spanish public. Their support made me hang on and not abandon.  In every village and town we went through it was amazing to hear them cheering me. I feel fortunate to be able to live that.

 

"On the 2013 Tour de France I was looking at the podium with more jealousy. This time it’s different. Midway through the race I was already almost out of contention so it’s not such a big disappointment. I missed out on the podium for a few second but that’s the way it is. I am however happy with the way I raced. We saw great stages and I feel grateful that I was part of it. Next year, we’ll have new objectives and there will be changes.”

 

“It was the traditional procession today, and it nearly always finishes in a sprint here,” Sport Director Sean Yates added. “Benna got close and the team did a good job as always. The pace was high out there – Alberto had a bit of a mechanical but the guys brought him back well. Then Boaro and Gogl did a good job in the final, before Benna gave a good effort and came up short, but not from a lack of trying.

 

“If you look back, we went for it and the guys gave their maximum. Alberto had the massive set back with the crash and lost energy that he would never get back during the race. All in all, though it was a good tour. There was a good ambience and the guys helped each other as much as they could. The result wasn’t as wanted but as Alberto said we didn’t come here to finish third, we came to win.”

 

Etixx-QuickStep end memorable grand tour season with three top 10 results

The bunch gallop was a highly contested one, and Gianni Meersman – a double stage winner at this edition – got involved in the fight for victory after being handily placed in the upper part of the peloton by his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates. The Belgian sprinted to third, behind Magnus Cort (Orica-BikeExchange) and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff), ending the team's Vuelta a España campaign on a high note.

 

Former red jersey David De La Cruz enjoyed a calm day in the peloton, after three intense weeks, and finished his home tour in seventh place, his best result to date in a major race. The 27-year-old, Spain's sole stage winner at this edition, is the third Etixx – Quick-Step rider to place in the top 10 of a Grand Tour in 2016, after Bob Jungels at the Giro d'Italia and Dan Martin at the Tour de France.

 

On top of that, Etixx – Quick-Step – who concluded the Vuelta a España with all nine riders – is also the most successful team of the season in terms of Grand Tour victories, with no less than nine stages in the bag, scored by Marcel Kittel (3), Gianluca Brambilla (2), Gianni Meersman (2), David De La Cruz and Matteo Trentin.

 

Omar Fraile: This jersey gives me confidence to be even better in the future

Kristian Sbaragli put in another strong sprint to claim 4th place for Dimension Data

 

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka certainly had our difficult days at this year's Vuelta when they lost Igor Anton and Nathan Haas to illness. Jacques Janse van Rensburg crashed heavily on stage 14 but despite fractures to his collarbone, hip and ribs, Janse van Rensburg fought valiantly to finish the final 130km of that particular stage. It was that fighting spirit that also brought the African Team some great success at this year's Spanish grand tour.

 

Kristian Sbaragli was once again in the the thick of things during the mass sprints and the Italian notched up 6 top 10 finishes, twice placing 4th on a stage. Anton and Haas both also came close to the elusive stage win they were chasing but had to settle for 7th and 5th respectively during stages in the opening week of the race. Merhawi Kudus and Jaco Venter completed their 4th Grand Tours, while Nic Dougall successfully completed his debut 3-week race. Tyler Farrar captained the team throughout the tour and his contribution on a daily basis was truly invaluable.

 

The absolute highlight of the race for the African Team though was Omar Fraile and his exploits in the mountains. Having never won a competition classification and jersey at a grand tour before, it was the African Team’s goal to win the King of the Mountains jersey at the Vuelta a Espana.

 

While Fraile may have only won back the jersey on yesterday's penultimate stage, the team look back to his performance on stage 10 as the stage where the jersey was won. Fraile, after being distanced from the breakaway, latched onto the GC favourites as they came by and the Basque climber turned himself inside out to finish 4th on the stage. A remarkable performance that goes down in the history books as for the first time an African Team wins a jersey classification at a grand tour.

 

Omar Fraile said:

 

“It has been a very tough Vuelta a Espana this year. We were riding well as a team but the stage win was just not going our way. I really wanted to win the Mountains jersey again, I was motivated and it was a big goal for the team. It was difficult becuase Elissonde was very strong and the stages were extremely tough. I am so happy I could win the jersey in the end and stand on the podium for my teammates and for Qhubeka for the first time. We worked hard for this jersey and I want to thank all the team and everyone who supported me.

 

“To win this jersey for a second year is a row is an amazing feeling. I am super happy. I didn’t come here hoping  to take the jersey, but at the end I took it, so let’s enjoy it. It’s something that gives me confidence to get greater results in the future”

 

The gamble pays off for proud Talansky, grand tour brakthorugh for Formolo

When the peloton arrived in Madrid after one of the hardest Vueltas in recent memory, Cannondale-Drapac had two riders inside the top 10: American Andrew Talansky and Italian Davide Formolo. The team finished third overall in the teams classification.

[Andrew Talansky on stage 14 of the 2016 Vuelta a España by Photo: Graham Watson 2016.]
 
Talanksy finished fifth on the general classification, his best-ever finish in a grand tour. It was exactly what he set out to do: better his seventh place in the Vuelta, set in 2012.
 
“It’s a great feeling. When we made the decision to skip the Tour de France and focus on the Vuelta, we came up with that idea before the Tour of California,” Talansky said. “A lot of people questioned that, because it looked like I was riding well in Suisse. It was also putting a lot into one grand tour for the season, and really hoping that it would all come together for the Vuelta. Now, here in Madrid, it’s my best grand tour result. Fifth in the most difficult grand tour I’ve ever been a part of. I think we can all be really happy with that.”
 
Formolo also slotted into the top 10. His ninth-place finish is his highest in a grand tour. He came in with a straightforward goal.
 
“Just to do my best, you know? After the Giro, I started training really hard for this Vuelta. I am really happy now to be in the top 10, and also for working for Andrew in fifth. It was nice,” Formolo said. “I knew I didn’t have any pressure. Just stay as close to Andrew as I could.”

 
In the end, neither of them did it with flash but rather simple grit. As some faded in the final week, both Talansky and Formolo improved. Talansky moved up a spot during the individual time trial, and Formolo moved up a spot on the race’s final climb, up the Aitana.
 
Talansky was a model of consistency over the three weeks of racing, slowly moving up the general classifcation. He finished eighth up the Aubisque on stage 14, moving him into eighth, and seventh on the individual time trial on stage 19, moving him into fifth.
 
“The top four places are occupied by proven, grand tour podium contenders all supported by very strong teams. And the route this year was a very challenging route for the GC riders. All of that combined made for 21 days of very hard racing,” Talansky said.
 
For Talansky, the finish serves as a confirmation. His decision to skip the Tour de France after a less-than-ideal early season and focus on the Vuelta instead has been rewarded.
 
“I’m happy,” said head sport director Charly Wegelius. “I think it was a brave decision that Andrew took to skip the Tour. A lot of people at the time had some difficulty understanding that. It’s nice to see that paid off for him, and it’s nice to see his career has taken a step back where he deserves to be. I think it’s an important step to next season.”
 
Formolo’s Vuelta story is similar to Talansky’s in that his success was incremental and his racing calculated. From stage 11, Formolo found himself near the top 10, in 13th. He moved up to 11th after stage 14, then climbed into the top 10 on stage 15, hitting eighth on GC.
 
From there, it was about maintenance. Formolo lost time on the time trial into Calp, falling to 10th, but would get back to ninth on the final climb of the Vuelta.
 
“He didn’t drop his head after a disappointing Giro. He put is head down and kept on working. It’s nice for him to get a confirmation that his talent just didn’t disappear,” Wegelius said.

 
Through and through, the solid general classification results come as a result of a team effort. Ben King riding the break on stage 20, falling back and helping Talansky. Moreno Moser pulling stage in and out. Pierre Rolland keeping Talansky out of the wind. The directors were proud of their squad, which lost Simon Clarke after a crash on stage 10. Clarke finished the stage, in a show of loyalty and tenacity, but was forced to withdraw when it was determined he required surgery on his shoulder to fix a broken scapula, among other issues.
 
“They all rose to the challenge in what I think is fair to say is one of the hardest Vueltas of recent times. I’d say that the place in the team competition [third] really reflects the strength of the team. It’s a testament to strength of the riders,” Wegelius said.
 
On the road, Talansky saw how strong the team was every day and is well aware that this strength gave him opportunity.
 
“You can have the best form of your life. But if you don’t have the right team to support you, you’re not going to get a chance to show it,” Talansky said. “The final selection on a stage like yesterday, stage 20, we have four guys out of less than 20, when teams like Sky and Movistar have less. That just speaks to the depth and the strength of the team.”

 
DS Bingen Fernandez, on the ground at the Vuelta, said the Vuelta success came down to smarts, too.  
 
“Apart from being strong, we were smart. I think it’s not only we rode strong, we rode smart. It’s something that makes me proud of the team. That in the right moment, we were there,” Fernandez said. “It was hard. The first part of the Vuelta, we weren’t so good. Around 15th position. But we knew we could move up. So day by day we focused on that. The Vuelta is a challenge from day one. The most challenging aspect is the entire Vuelta itself.”
 
Pierre Rolland came to Spain as a super domestique rather than team leader. He took the same joy in the task as he does chasing personal ambitions in France. 
 
“I arrived here to help Andrew first, second I tried to win a stage. I think my help is very important for him and the team,” Rolland said. “I’m very happy for his result, and the team’s. I think it’s very important. Fifth on the GC, almost every day with the GC group — it’s very good spirit for the team. With tme, Andrew, Joe, it’s very good for next year. This team is fun, no? This team is very good — it’s good work, and it’s so fun.”

 

Arndt’s legs only good enough to get fifth in Madrid

After two podium finishes earlier in the Vuelta, Nikias Arndt took 5th from the bunch sprint as Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica – BikeExchange) was the strongest in the streets of Madrid.

 

Coach Luke Roberts said: “It was a solid team effort once again in the lead-out for Nikias. Unfortunately, the fifth place was the best he had left in the legs.”

 

Strong Vuelta finish gives Manzin confidence for the future

Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ) was 6th on the stage

 

: “It was a positioning problem. I still lack self confidence. I had good legs but I’m not well positioned in the final metres. We were five riders but with some climbers so it’s difficult. I am happy to finish my first Grand Tour, it gives me confidence. I feel I’m getting more powerful and I’m there in the sprints. I hope I can win one before the end of the year.”

 

Breakthrough performances for Mamykin and Silin at the Vuelta

With the close of the 71st Vuelta a España Sunday evening in Madrid after more than three weeks of challenging racing, it was all over after a final group sprint, except for personal reflection and evaluation from Team Katusha sports director José Azevedo.

 

“We came to this race with the ambition to try and fight for a stage victory and to be present in the breakaways to give our riders chances to fight for results for themselves. At the end of this Vuelta we have one stage won with Sergey Lagutin and riders present in 90-95% of the breakaways. They have shown good attitudes and efforts to be good team players. Without a team leader for GC they had to figure things out and work it out among themselves for chances to go for results,” said José Azevedo.

 

For several young riders, it was a first chance to show what they can do in a grand tour, most notably Sven Erik Bystrøm, Jhonatan Restrepo and Matvey Mamykin.

 

“It’s good to see the young riders on the team and what they showed us for the future looks promising. It’s been nice seeing Sven and Restrepo fighting for the sprints as well as Mamykin climbing with the best in the world. He finished the Vuelta in 24th place for his first grand tour and most important is that he finishes this race still fresh. He has recovered well from the last few days and all of this is a good sign for the future. All three weeks we have shown that Team KATUSHA is present in this race,” continued José Azevedo.

 

Some seek to compare Matvey Mamykin with teammate Ilnur Zakarin, but director Azevedo isn’t keen on such comparisons.

 

“Zakarin has shown us this year what a strong climber he is and he did the same last year. His quality as a rider is unquestioned and I think without his crash, he would have finished top 5 in this year’s Giro. From what I’ve seen from Mamykin these last 3 weeks, he needs to continue to improve and develop his qualities. But at some time in the future I do think he is a rider that could win a big tour,” offered Azevedo.

 

With no pure sprinter on the squad for this Vuelta, Sunday’s 104,1km, nine-lap race in Madrid was another day for an opportunist and this time Jhonatan Restrepo took his turn to sprint in for 8th place behind winner Magnus Cort Nielsen of Orica-BikeExchange. Second and third places on the day went to Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Gianni Meersman of Etixx-QuickStep, all on the same time of 2:48.52.

 

Other revelations were unexpected in this Vuelta, most notably the top 15 finish for Egor Silin.

 

“In the last few years Egor has worked for team leaders so of course his results here have come a little as a surprise. But I think these are good indicators of possible results for him in the future and should give him a good amount of confidence,” commented Azevedo.

 

“I’m sure when we started this race without a GC leader there were questions that came up about how we would show our Team Katusha colors in this race. Right from the beginning we showed a clear desire to get results and the proof is in the number of times we won the combativity award, then two times for best team, and several times for the mountains jersey. And of course we got a stage win. We started this race with clear and realistic goals for the riders. We believed in them and they believed in themselves. I think the sponsors are happy because every day we were on TV for a variety of reasons – I think out of 21 stages we were in the front for seventeen of them, fighting for a stage win,” concluded a satisfied director Azevedo.

 

Good legs not enough for Selig in Madrid

Bora-Argon 18 focused on Rudi Selig. The team protected him the whole evening and made sure that he had the best conditions for the finale.

 

Bora-Argon 18 gathered in front of the race and made a good work for Rudi Selig. In the final sprint he was in a good position. He was in the wheel of the later winner Cort. Selig who rode his first grand tour, lost some position sin the last meters. But he finished 9th, which is another top ten result for him.

 

“The Team did a great job and brought me into  a good position for the final- thanks to all! On the last lap I had to ride on my own, that cost some strength. I was in a good position in the final sprint, but lost some places because I was on the limit. The last 300 meters I just rode and tried to save some places for the result. I think we tried everything, the legs were good but it wasn’t enough,” said Rudi Selig.

 

Gesink and Bennett turn the Vuelta around for LottoNL-Jumbo

Team LottoNL-Jumbo ends the 71st edition of the Vuelta a España with a victory of Robert Gesink in the queen stage and a tenth place of George Bennett in the overall standings. The last stage in Madrid was won by Magnus Cort Nielsen (Orica - Bike Exchange). George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo crossed the line as 29th. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the final standings holding off Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica - Bike Exchange).

 

Team LottoNL-Jumbo can look back on a successful Vuelta. After the setback in the first week where the team saw its captain Steven Kruijswijk literally disappear, the team had to push back the ambitions for a classification a shifted to stage victories.

 

"The crash of Steven Kruijswijk was a huge disappointment for us," said Sports Director Addy Engels. "We came with ambitions for the general classification at the Vuelta losing the leader of the team was hard. Also the loss of Enrico Battaglin, who like Steven fell in fifth stage, hurt the team a lot."

 

Sports Director Jan Boven adds:

 

"After Steven’s loss we directly sat down with each other and re-defined the strategy. It took some time for the riders to get used to their new roles, but they have taken it quite well and accomplished their tasks well. We as sports directors are very pleased with the results. If you win a stage and have a rider in the top ten in the standings and also rode offensive and attractive at the stages then you can be happy."

 

In the second and third week of the Vuelta LottoNL-Jumbo rode an offensive race with Robert Gesink. The new role of Gesink paid off with a couple of podium places and a stage victory.

 

“This is how I wanted to ride in the Tour but the season turned out differently," said Robert Gesink. "Maybe it's something to do in the future. The game to get into the decisive escape, choosing the right day and time to attack is difficult. I have learned a lot in this Vuelta and I know where I can improve on while on the attack. I'm happy with the performance here."

 

After the crash of Steven Kruijswijk the team management gave his domestic George Bennett the opportunity to have a shot at the general classification.

 

"I never expected this. A top ten in a big Tour. I am very happy,” said an enthusiastic Bennett. "I was here to work for Steven. After Steven crashed out I started living for the GC per day. Robert Gesink took me by my arm. Also Tankink and Van Emden did. They have a lot of experience. Especially Robert shared his knowledge with me how to tackle a classification. Again, I’m over the moon."

 

The 71st edition of the Vuelta was hard. The many vertical metres (54.013m), the heat and arrivals uphill made this Vuelta one of the toughest in history.

 

“But also the way of racing," Bram Tankink adds. “There was only one day there was no fighting from the start to get away. Thirty, sometimes forty kilometres long battles to be in the break. I did 16 grand tours but this one was physically quite possibly the hardest of all. We were smart and did tactically well with Robert and George. We used all the opportunities there were."

 

At a personal level were also boundaries pushed, as rookie Koen Bouwman told about the physical pain in the Vuelta.

 

"I'm totally empty. Every day you step back on the bike and hope for a good day. I experienced one day that I was dropped and drove between the cars in the caravan. Other riders came to get water bottles and got back to the peloton. I had never experienced this before. But I managed to get to Madrid and I will benefit from that. I am glad I have finish a Grand Tour. Its in the legs now."

 

For Victor Campenaerts the Vuelta went as desired. The Belgian time trial champion played a crucial role in the team and did a lot of work for team leader Robert Gesink and also rode a good time trial in Calpe.

 

"The shape was good when I came to the Vuelta," said the Belgian. "We stood not long still after the loss of Steven. We had to adapt and turn the key. That’s sport. I had put my mind on the trial to Calpe. I finished fifth a good performance at the end of a Grand Tour."

 

For Martijn Keizer the Vuelta went differently than expected.

 

“I was going as a domestic of Steven to the Vuelta," he said. "We were going to do the same as in the Giro with Steven. But after five days, that role falls away. If you then can not do what you want, you need to do something else. It is precisely this flexibility we have shown here with Robert and George. I myself was once in a break, all the other days I have sacrificed me for the team."

 

Michele Scarponi laments lost top 10 after bad day in final mountain stage

"From the beginning it was very hard, hot and long Vuelta,” said Michele Scarponi after the finish of the last stage. “We were unlucky with Lopez, but anyway we tried to do the maximum.

 

"I had the crisis day yesterday, but I must to thank all my teammates. The team did a very good job to support me". 

 

"Michele was good and was fighting until the final, we also tried to win a stage and to animate this race, - but at this Vuelta we did not have luck,” commented sport director Dmitriy Sedoun, –

 

Caja Rural: This was not a good Vuelta

As expected, the last stage of Vuelta a España ended in a bunch sprint in the center of Madrid. Caja Rural - Seguros RGA’s Eduard Prades did well to get in the mix and take 11th place in the sprint as Magnus Cort (Orica) won the stage. This was the fourth time Prades made Top20 in a stage during his first Grand Tour.

 

Sergio Pardilla crossed the line safely within the peloton, consolidating his 18th place in the general classification.

 

In the team’s classification, Caja Rural - Seguros RGA finished in 15th place, ahead of several World Tour teams, due to a good second part of the race.

 

Sports director Eugenio Goikoetxea said:

 

“Overall, we can’t say this has been a good Vuelta for the team. We lacked a little quality and it didn’t help to lose three riders as strong as Madrazo, Mas and Gonçalves. However, the last days have been much better for us, even though we only had six riders left. As I said, we can’t really be satisfied with this Vuelta but at least we end the race on a good note”.

 

Eduard Prades said:

 

“As we reached the final circuit, I tried to be well-positioned on every lap. Unfortunately, at the end, I forgot how to sprint. I braked too much and too many riders passed me. I’m a little disappointed with this 11th place but still, we tried our best”.

 

Lampre-Merida pleased with solid Vuelta

Lampre-Merida, who had no pure sprinters, relied on Arashiro, who managed to ride in the first part of the bunch in the final circuit in Madrid and to battle for a top position in the sprint. The Japanese rider was 12th.

 

Lampre-Merida can be satisfied with their performances in the Spanish race: the victory of Conti in the 13th stage gives value to the attitude of the blue-fuchsia-green riders, who were in almost all the main breakaways.

 

Peraud: This is how I wanted to end my career

Jean-Christophe Peraud will retire from professional road cycling tonight after the last stage.

 

"Honestly, I am exhausted but I have lived great cycling moments like Pierre Latour’s victory. My 12th position, just behind the favorites, on Lagos de Covadonga stage was also an amazing memory. It is my last race ever, therefore, it is difficult to hold back my emotion. However, my body tells me it is the right decision to make,” he said.

 

"When you see my previous results you can tell my overall ranking is not that outstanding exceptional. My last year of competition was much more complicated. That is why I really wanted to be in great shape again for this Vuelta and I have no regrets. This is how I wanted to end my career.

 

"To me, the last stage of the Vuelta was last Saturday. During this ultimate mountain stage it was difficult to follow the peloton’s rhythm.

 

"With an Olympic medal and a second place overall on the Tour de France I am truly proud of what I accomplished. The Olympics are the high point of sports and it was an honor to win a medal. It was a childhood dream and it came true. I have maybe one regret about my career: I never completed a Giro."

 

"It will be hard to completely retire from the sports world. I want to stay close of professional sports and, may be, start a new career in the cycling industry."

 

Jean-Christophe career in few figures:

1 One silver Olympic medal won in 2008 at Beijing.

2 A second place overall on Tour de France 2014.

3 Three UCI World Tour stage races podiums on Paris-Nice (3th place in 2013), Tour of the Basque Country (3th place in 2014) and Tour de France (2nd place in 2014).

7 In seven years of professional road cycling he spent six years within AG2R LA MONDIALE Pro Cycling Team.  

 

Fabio Felline takes unexpected green jersey in the Vuelta

Fabio Felline crossed the line in 20th place in stage 21 at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana on Sunday to win the overall in the points competition.

 

Although Felline never reached his goal of a stage victory, his persistence netted him a second place in stage five, followed with four thirds that included two mountain summit finishes, pushing him into the points competition fight.

 

"I never did get a victory in a stage, but for me to have the green jersey is like a victory," said Felline."Today I saw all my teammates focused for this jersey and they were always close to me in the race. It motivated me to see them focused on one goal today It was strange; never did I feel the sensation during the race that this jersey is mine. The legs were not super for a good sprint; I felt the effort of yesterday."

 

Unlike the other Grand Tours, the points competition in the Vuelta - this year's race again heavy with summit finishes and without many stages for the sprinters – was a battle between the GC climbers.

 

Except for one rider: Felline pushed his way into the green jersey fight one week ago, a competition that was not on his or the team's radar at the start of the Vuelta.

 

Felline finally grabbed the lead in the competition with his incredible third place in stage 20 after a tenacious fight on the final mountain climb of the three-week race.

 

"Green was not on the plan at all," explained director Dirk Demol. "At the start, we were thinking perhaps (Niccolo) Bonifazio could be competitive for the green jersey. But after Fabio's third place one week ago we saw that he was in the running for it.

 

"It was a pity on stage 18 when Kiel was 6th that Fabio could not have managed the bunch sprint that day because it could have been easier. But then he marked stage 20, and we were not expecting that he could be third on that climb! The plan came one week ago to take the green jersey, and he just went out and did it!"

 

Felline was never threatened in the final stage and with his teammates always around him, notably Kiel Reijnen who helped keep him at the front in the final crucial kilometers, he sprinted safely across the line with the peloton to secure the overall.

 

"In the finish, I did not have great legs, and I saw Valverde in the front, and I thought I need to give the maximum. Finally, though, he did not do the sprint, and I only needed to finish safely to defend the jersey.

 

"This jersey is not just for me, but for the whole team, and all the people who stayed close to me after I crashed in Amstel Gold. It's easy to stay close with people when things are good, but when there are problems, you are always alone. This jersey is not a victory, but it is a big value for me, and I want to dedicate it to the people who supported me during this time."

 

"In the first part of the Vuelta, perhaps because the team did not race a lot with each other, we missed a relationship. But after one week, we were a family. I'm honest, these three weeks passed so fast, and never did I feel like I was in a big tour. Only my legs did. The harmony in the team was perfect, and Dirk (Demol, director) was excellent and motivated me all the time."

 

Three weeks ago, Trek-Segafredo went in with one goal: a victory. However, they came away with an unexpected green jersey. Director Dirk Demol heaped praise on the team, and singled out Felline as making the Vuelta a success:

 

"Honestly I am satisfied with the performance of the team. We knew from the beginning that we did not bring our strongest team to the line. I was counting on Fabio or Niccolo (Bonifazio) to win a stage, those were our two best cards to play, but Niccolo pulled out on day seven and then we lost Markel (Irizar) on day 10 to a crash. That was a big loss as he is always a big force on and off the bike.

 

"After that, we went all-in for Fabio, he was always our first card unless he said otherwise. His performance since he has returned from injury has been incredible. We discovered new things from Fabio, how competitive he is on all kinds of parcours: uphills, classics, sprinting, time trial, just a pure all-rounder and he can also perform in bad weather as we saw in Poland. He is an awesome rider. He did super well in Poland already, but what he has shown here in these three weeks…chapeau! In general, I am happy with the team, but especially with him.

 

"I have to say a big thanks to the riders. After losing two riders in the first part and to see how they continued fighting, they gave more than their best; you cannot ask for more. And to the staff, because Grand Tours are never easy, and with the hot weather they had to do more services. So a big thanks to them, also."

 

BMC riders reflect on successful Vuelta with ups and downs

BMC Racing Team capped off the Vuelta a Espana by winning the team classification, after three weeks of racing which saw Darwin Atapuma in the red jersey for four days and Jempy Drucker claim his first Grand Tour stage win.

 

With the good also came the bad, and on stage 19 Samuel Sanchez crashed in the time trial while currently sitting seventh overall to end his race, following on from the abandon of Tejay van Garderen and Philippe Gilbert, who crashed in the first week.

 

As the race came to an end on the traditional circuit finish in Madrid, the team did an excellent job of positioning Drucker for the sprint. Drucker was in a perfect position in the final 500m, but was eventually boxed in 200m before the line, ending his chances for the win.

 

As BMC Racing Team’s six finishing riders took to the podium for the team classification presentation with Sports Directors Valerio Piva and Max Sciandri, they reflected on their past three weeks of racing.

 

Valerio Piva, Sports Director: “It was a Vuelta a Espana with a very nice result but also bad luck. In the end we are very happy that we have this team classification. We have a victory and we we had a lot of nice days of racing. Now we look forward to the end of the season.”

 

Max Sciandri, Sports Director: “It was fantastic. We came away with four days in the red jersey, best team and Jempy Drucker’s stage win. Obviously we lost Samuel Sanchez who came here as a leader. For sure he could have done maybe even a top five finish, that would have been fantastic, but that’s cycling. But I think at the end we did a good result.”

 

Darwin Atapuma: “For me this Vuelta a Espana was a dream come true. To have the red jersey for four days was never something I imagined coming into the race. I would have liked to win a stage, and I was close on two stages, but I’m still really happy with my ride. It was a great experience to be on the podium with the team for the team classification.”

 

Silvan Dillier: “For me the Vuelta a Espana was the first race after the track experience in Rio and it was good. I started ok and could build up my shape and this was the most important for me. As a team we won the team general classification so we could step on the podium here in Madrid and this is an awesome experience.”

 

Jempy Drucker: “For me it was a good Vuelta a Espana with the stage win and I think as a team we did our best and we won team GC. In the final stage I was in a good position and the team did a very good job. I got a bit boxed in in the final 200m and touched Nielsen’s wheel so then I had to brake and my sprint was over, which is a pity because I felt really strong.”

 

Ben Hermans: “There were some positive sides and some negative sides for the team. We came for the GC with Samuel Sanchez but he crashed out in the final week so it was not so good. But we were active in every stage and I think that’s why we also won the team GC and we were pretty close with three times second place.”

 

Dylan Teuns: “It was my first Grand Tour and it was a totally new experience for me. In the first week I was not so good but I started to get better. I had a small crash but overall I’m really happy with my three weeks of racing and for sure I’m really happy to be on the podium for the team GC.”

 

Danilo Wyss: “I think it was a good Vuelta a Espana for the team with the stage victory, three second places, team classification and a few days with the leader’s jersey. That’s a good Vuelta a Espana for BMC Racing Team. But there were also some hard times with the crash of Samuel Sanchez, Tejay van Garderen stopping and Philippe Gilbert was also in a crash so it was an up and down Vuelta but I think the overall summary is positive. For myself it’s good with a second place on stage 13 and a lot of help for Jempy in the sprint. I’m happy with my race.”

 

Lotto Soudal: We wanted better results in the Vuelta

Lotto Soudal went through a lot the last three weeks. In the first week GC rider Bart De Clercq crashed pretty hard. From that moment on he could forget about his goal of achieving a top ten place. Luckily Maxime Monfort, the second GC rider of the team, finished his Vuelta with a well-deserved sixteenth place in the classification, at 29’37” of Quintana. The Lotto Soudal riders may have been very active in the stages joining many breakaways, but they didn’t win a stage. Sports director Mario Aerts is pleased about their efforts, but he wanted better results. Also Maxime Monfort expected a little more of his three weeks in Spain.

 

Mario Aerts said:

 

“I cannot be happy with the results because in the past three weeks we only got one sixth place, three eighth places, one ninth place and one tenth place. However, I cannot blame my riders because they did a great effort and they were in the break many times. They did everything I asked them to do. Unfortunately the difficult courses, steep climbs at the finish and chaotic sprints made it hard for them to win.

 

“The sprint train for Tosh Van der Sande wasn’t the best one we have as a team. He only had Jelle Wallays, Gert Dockx and Adam Hansen to help him and that’s not enough. Also for Thomas De Gendt it was a difficult Vuelta. He already rode the Tour de France and then he was in top condition. Here, in the Vuelta, he was good, but not like at the Tour. That made it hard for him to go all the way.

 

“We were always in the breakaway that lasted until the end except for one time. Maxime Monfort tried his best to join a breakaway but he didn’t succeed. He knew that he had to be in a long and lasting breakaway to get a better result in the general classification. Anyway, he also knew that a place in the top ten would have been off limits. He has given all that he had and he’s finished on the right place in the GC of this Vuelta a España.

 

“For Bart De Clercq this was his chance to shine. He had the condition of a lifetime! When he crashed in the first week, we knew that his chances of a good GC were gone. Due to his injuries, he couldn’t sleep well and that has a negative effect on the condition of a cyclist. In the last week he was still able to get in a breakaway twice and I believe that he was getting better. Too bad that he crashed in the first week because I really think that he would have been close to the top ten.”

 

Bart De Clercq said:

 

“After my crash in the first week I was scared that my Vuelta was over. I had to do a lot of efforts to, first of all, stay in the peloton as long as possible and then manage to get to the finish line in time. I was counting down to the rest day but that was still four days away. Then I focussed on healing as fast as possible. I had abrasions all over my body but the flesh wound on my elbow was the worst. I convinced myself to keep going and I hoped that I would be better soon. Physically I felt better in the last week and maybe the Vuelta should have been one week longer for me.

 

“I didn’t want to just ride around doing nothing and finishing with the last twenty riders every day. That’s not why I came to Spain. I wanted to do well and ride in the spotlights and I was able to do that several times. At the end of the Vuelta I also struggled with a cold. Because of that cold I couldn’t go full. However, I’m happy with the fact that I was in the break three times and that I could finish in the top ten of some stages. The crash was unfortunate because my condition has never been better and the cold might have cost me the win on Saturday. But I’m glad that I could turn the negative into the positive and still set some good results. Now I’m going to rest for a bit and let the last wounds heal.”

 

Maxime Monfort said:

 

“Finishing as sixteenth overall in the Vuelta is definitely not bad. The level of performance here was very high this year. Still, I can’t say that I’m fully content with my result. I thought I would be better. I knew that I had to be in the breakaway of the day to reach a higher place in the GC and I didn’t succeed. There were three stages in the second week where I definitely had to be in the break. In two of those stages I gave everything to get away, but both times my companions and I were reeled in. Of course, the riders that created a gap just after the attack I was in, did stay ahead… That’s bad luck, I guess.  The third important stage was the one to Aubisque. That day I wasn’t feeling one hundred per cent so I had no chance at all to join the breakaway. At the end of the Vuelta I still moved from the eighteenth place to the sixteenth place because Samuel Sanchez abandoned the race and Sergio Pardilla had a bad day in the second last stage. But that’s part of the race! Anyway, the sixteenth place on GC isn’t bad for sure, not with these great cyclists at the start.”

 

IAM: We could not ask for more in our final grand tour

Michel Thétaz, founder of IAM Cycling, said:

 

“Winning a stage was already an ambitious goal. But after the heroics and success the team already had at the Giro d’Italia, Tour de Suisse and Tour de France, we decided to place the bar pretty high. Happily we met this challenge with great success. Of course, the victories for Jonas Van Genechten and Mathias Frank are most prominent in our minds. But beyond that, the team more generally was very present and taking places of honor, for example with the excellent performances from Dries Devenyns.”

 

“The Vuelta is the last three week tour of the season. And this Vuelta in particular is the last grand tour in the IAM Cycling story,” Michel Thétaz continued. “So obviously, we cannot help but to have a heavy heart. And to conclude this extraordinary adventure, we could not have asked for anything more. The whole season has been remarkable. This certainly gave us visibility, credibility, and a media response that we wanted to have.”

 

The Swiss team has accumulated 85 top-5 finishes that since the beginning of the 2016 season. Seven of them came in the Vuelta, with the highlight being two stage wins from Jonas Van Genechten and Mathias Frank.

 

On the streets of Madrid, Eddy Seigneur, directeur sportif alongside Mario Chiesa and Marcello Albasini, emphasized the solidarity felt within the group of IAM Cycling riders throughout this Vuelta.

 

“The team has been competitive every day, retaining a real team spirit,” Seigneur explained.  “The team moto was: have fun. This was a great source of motivation, but also provided a lot of cohesion within the group. I congratulate my riders for their bravery.”

 

 “I am disappointed with my last sprint,” Jonas Van Genechten conceded. “I did not make the best tactical choice. The team and especially Simon Pellaud did an exemplary job to put me in the best position. I wanted to say thank you to all of them by bringing in another victory. But I am not all about disappointment tonight. We all rode a great Vuelta. With two stage wins as well as several podiums and strong individual performances, that is everything we need to remember.”

 

 “This might be my last race,” Simon Pellaud said at the finish of the stage. Tired and powerless, the former Swiss U23 champion gave his maximum every day of the Vuelta in the hope of winning a contract for the 2017 season.

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