La Vuelta 6: Up La Zubia

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Last day in red for Matthew

Sometimes a race is all in climb. Usually the last one, not always. Today it was La Zubia
Other climbs before and a break-away of course: Pim Ligthart again - Most Combactive yesterday - and Más Bonet, collecting points for his blue dot jersey. They got a good gap, almost 10' and 3 to go, already on the ramps of La Zubia, Pim Ligthart was solo. Only few seconds but only few road.
Hellish heat again. Plenty of water bottles on the head and down the throat. Plenty of public. A messy crowd even too close in Cumbres Verdes. The valley slowly apearing at the back of the race.
Embedded image permalinkThey were not going slow. Ligthart caught, a very selected group remained. Dropped one by one team leaders and gc contenders. Nobody able to attack, everybody expecting Purito. Indead Rodriguez attacked but it didn't work. Still together, hellish pace, screaming and pushing amongh the crowd, people running beside, more water on the head and finally a slow motion uphill sprint
Movistar TeamValverde and Quintana had done the split, Movistar secured the stage with relative easiness. Froome looked good but saving energy, at the back of the small group but able to respond better than AlbertoContador, on the short gear.
La Vuelta is still long but maybe on La Zubia somebody has already lost it.

Alejandro Valverde:
"This victory means a lot to me. Though it's harder to feel great with these temperatures, my legs were really good today, I felt well all over the course and I was able to win. It was a climb that really suited me and we couldn't miss such an opportunity had we got it - still, I think everyone saw clearly I was working for Nairo. There was a tailwind into the climb and it was hard for anyone into the main group to go away, they had to stay on our wheel. I was setting a strong pace to take some rivals out of contention, but saving an extra bit of energy in case anyone attacked, as it happened with both Purito and Froome. I never looked back: as well Nairo as the team car were telling me to keep the pace: 'Only ten or twelve riders behind you.' 
When Purito jumped away, I didn't think about it for a second - I went after him. He's someone we can't let take a single meter. I still had strength to counter and go for the win, so, at the end of the day, we couldn't do better: we took some rivals out of contention, though gaps weren't really huge - we also took some bonus seconds and the result is fantastic for the whole team. For me, the main leader of the squad is still Nairo, though I don't rule out my own chances. I keep really clear in my mind he'll be doing better and better, and he showed today he's up for the fight. Many mountains will come for him to do great. We get on really well with each other and I worked my heart out for him today. If I keep feeling well, I'll try and go for some more stage wins, though I keep faith GC-wise. The important thing is that one of us Blues can win the race."

Nairo Quintana: 
"I'm extremely happy for Alejandro. He's a great rider. He did a great work for me in the finale and still was able to win the stage - that's something not many riders can do. I'm still lacking some pace, you could see in the final kilometer I'm not still in my top condition, but I hope to keep progressing in the next stages. The important thing for us is to keep the win within the team, no matter if it's him or me, and for the time being, that goal is being fulfilled".

Team Sky DS Dario Cioni:
"The guys did a really great job today. We talked about a strategy to use on the climb and Chris really stuck to that and finished well. He followed the early attacks and was there when it counted at the end.
The team rode really well. We were able to get all nine riders over the second-category climb which meant we had numbers coming into the finish. That was an advantage as everyone could do a bit of the work before the final climb.
Tomorrow is a stage which you could mistakenly look at and think it's an easy test. It could prove to be a lot more challenging than people think. You can lose time every day if you aren't careful and we certainly won't be looking to do that."

Tinkoff-Saxo DS Steven De Jongh:

“The goal was to put Alberto in a good position entering the foot of the climb and the boys did a very good job guiding him in the finale. From here, we didn’t really know what to expect after his crash during the Tour and the break from racing so I guess he took us all by surprise today and naturally I’m more than happy with this result. However, we still have to go easy and we take the race stage by stage and see how things are going. Tomorrow’s stage is probably going to be just as hot as today but I expect a bigger group battling it out between them and we obviously have to keep protecting Alberto”

Team Katusha Joaquim Rodriguez:
"It was a very hot day. The team did great job for me today. In general I didn’t feel bad during the day and I like climbs like this. But in the final climb I suffered a little from the heat. I tried to attack with 600 meters to go, but could not get enough gap. Maybe I had to go a little bit later, but in that moment I felt good and I decided to try. So it was first test in the mountains. Hopefully the next days will not be as hot."

Warren Barguil (11th):
“Today was really hard. The guys looked after me really well and they put me in second position at the foot of the final climb which was great. I gave it everything at the end. I had to let go of the group a bit but I then set my own tempo and ended up passing several others. I personally don’t feel like I am climbing my best yet but each day I am feeling better and this will hopefully play into my favour in the last week."

Sergio Pardilla (12th today, 15th GC)
"It was a really hard and hot day. It was the first mountain stage and the team worked really hard for me. When it came to the final, the top guys were really fast. The climb was a short climb and an explosive climb which doesn't suit me but at least i could still do a decent result. I will look for the stages where there is more climbing and longer climbs as well but for now i am happy."

Fabio Aru (6th):
“The team kept me at the front – they worked hard in the heat and that last climb was so tough"

Team Belkin 
Robert Gesink:
“I went all-in on the final climb. It was my best, so I’m happy with it. The climb was very hard, especially as it was a hot day again. The sprint to the final climb was very hectic because everyone wanted to be in the front and the roads aren’t very good in this area.” 
Laurens ten Dam
“It climbed for four kilometres and was straight uphill with an average gradient of 10 per cent. Valverde set the pace and really hurt me. I cursed him. I suffered a lot in the final three kilometres, but in the end, this is a great result. I did better than in the first mountain stage of the Tour.”

ORICA-GE DS Neil Stephens:
“We had plans for Adam Yates to try to get up for the stage win and also Esteban was also going to work to maintain his position in general classification. The team again did another fantastic job to lead the pair through the streets of Granada and position them at the front for the last climb. For the first two kilometers they were both there amongst the action, the heat and extreme velocity of the climb then got the better of Adam.   
Esteban did really well to maintain himself with the best climbers in the world until the final kilometre, losing a few seconds at the end. 
He is only 24 years old and coming back from a year out with an injury last year. It’s a bit early to tell how things will go from here, that was just one uphill finish and there are some very demanding mountain stages to come but so far so good.
It was really nice to see the boys riding through Granada at the front of the peloton with the leader of the bike race amongst them. We won a stage, we defended the lead for a few days and now we have other goals. We are trying to find other stages on the way and really look after Esteban. Holding the lead was one part of the Tour of Spain and we look forward to the next part.”

TFR DS Adriano Baffi:
“Julian is not in good shape at this moment. This week he has been in trouble, and he has suffered a lot in the [hot] temperatures. Our other card today was Haimar, but we know that this is not his finish. We always expected more for today, but it is what we have at the end, and we also expect Julian to be better in the second week. We just have to be patient to wait the best opportunity.
Tomorrow we can be more aggressive, because we start a stage where we can finally go in the breakaway, and it can go to the end. From tomorrow onwards our Vuelta will start. I also hope the situation for GC will become better as we go forward, but we also put zero pressure on Haimar.  We will take each day as it comes.”

BMC Samuel Sánchez: 
"The best riders stayed in front and in the final one-and-a-half kilometers, I could not follow them. I preferred to continue with my own pace to limit my losses. I have said from the first day that if Contador is here, he will be competitive. So is not a surprise for me."

OPQS Rigoberto Uran:
"It was a special climb with no corners, but a long straight road. I suffered a bit in the final, but we'll see in the next days what can happen. On Sunday there will be another test on an uphill finish."

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 4:35:27  
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky  
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo  
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:08  
5 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:12  
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:18  
7 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge 0:00:25  
8 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits  
9 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:00:32  
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:33

1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 22:48:08  
2 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:15  
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:18  
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:22  
5 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica Greenedge 0:00:41  
6 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:45  
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:55  
8 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:58  
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:01:02  
10 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:06  

1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Shimano 72 pts
2 Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica Greenedge 50  
3 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr 49
1 Luis Mas Bonet (Spa) Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 18 pts
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 10  
3 Jerome Cousin (Fra) Team Europcar 10  
1 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 13 pts
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 16  
3 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 24  
1 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 67:58:17  
2 Movistar Team 0:00:45  

3 Team Katusha 0:02:28

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