La Vuelta 16: La Reina (y su Rey)

Embedded image permalinkSavage mountains, savage climbs. A really really REALLY demanding day. 160.5 kilometres from San Martín del Rey Aurelio to La Farrapona. 5 climbs on the menu of this monster stage: Category 1 Alto de la Colladona (7.4km at 6.7%), category 2 Alto del Cordal (7.6km at 5.5%), category 1 Alto de la Cobertoria (10km at 8.8%) category 1 Puerto de San Lorenzo (10.1km at 8.5%) before the final climb to La Farrapona (16.5km at 8.5%).
A savage race since the start to crown Contador a savage king. 
Already on the first climb, Alto de la Colladona, Tinkoff-Saxo is in front and Contador sets a first attack. Valverde and Froome are ready to respond, while Rodriguez is got by surprise and have to chase a bit before he's back with them. Meanwhile a break goes away, they are 13: Bilbao, Brambilla, Cunego, De Marchi, Dennis, Kennaugh, Le Bon, Malori, Poels, Rovny, LL Sanchez, Sicard & Ten Dam. After 50 km their gap is around 8'.
Not only climbs, also tricky descents, like the one down Alto del Coral. A savage pace. Rigoberto Uran can't follow the peloton led by team Katusha, Contador on the wheels. With the help of his team mates Uran manage to come back but now the road climbs to the alto de la Cobartoria and he's going to be once again in trouble. Not his day, not his Vuelta.
Froome: Attacked his rivals in thrilling finishAt the top of the Alto de la Cobertoria Cancellara attacks and gets a gap: 47.5 km to go the peloton is at 4'45" of the leaders, Cancellara at 2'58'', but it doesn't work. Katusha and Sky begin to set pace and the breakaway's advantage is down to 3' at the begining of the Puerto de San Lorenzo (1st cat).
Then something unespected:Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Gianluca Brambilla (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) fight, punch each other on the bike!! Brambilla is angry because Rovny is not collaborating, Rovny reacts with a punch and Brambilla responds with a slap. And all in front of the Jury car!! 38km to go De Marchi and Brambilla leave the company, Poels joins. 
The peloton is at 2'46" led by Team Sky on full force: KiryienkaKennaughDeignan, Cataldo and Nieve are escorting Chris Froome who looks in a good day and making a great selection. Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Chris Froome, Fabio Aru, Dan Martin and Robert Gesink are all there, Kelderman too. Contador is suddenly dropped and it seems a flat tyre, but no he changed his bike for the final climb.
In front there are still Brambilla, De Marchi and Poels, they could still get the stage win... but suddenly the Jury Car drives close: Brambilla is sent home. He's upset, about to cry, more than angry. He makes a heart by his hands and sadly slows down. Back to the peloton he has some compliments for Rovny... but Rovny has also been disqualified. Race over for both.
Brambilla & Rovny se boxent en courseIn front De Marchi drops Poels and goes solo: 5 km to go for De Marchi his advantage is 1.35. In the chasing group Peter Kennaugh has put in an incredible turn for Chris Froome. Cataldo, Deignan and Nieve are still there. Philip Deignan got a flat tyre. Still Sky looks strong. 
Last climb. Chris Froome attacks, Alberto Contador is like a shadow on his wheel. They got a gap, the gap increases. Valverde and Rodriguez are dropped, Aru again chasing solo. De Marchi is caught. Contador opens the gas and goes to win the stage. Froome can't follow but closes on 2nd. Then a splendid De Marchi, 4th Valverde 5th Rodriguez 6th Aru 7th Dan Martin. 
La Reina has got her Rey, the Queen Stage crowned King Alberto Contador. But what a race Team Sky! what a grinta Chris Froome! 
Now it's matter of maths for the final GC.

Alberto Contador:
“I’ve not won the Vuelta but it’s an important step forward. I could distance everybody and that makes me feel satisfied. 
Froome didn’t just go for it once, it’s hard to see because he attacks sitting down but he accelerated three or four times. But my legs could respond each time.
It’s been a good day. I saw Sky were working but I still thought I could do something. It’s a relief to have gained some time on Rodriguez and Valverde. 
But it’s not over yet, there are still five more difficult days. Anybody can have a bad day. I’m taking it step by step.
W started off with a bike that had good tyres for the wet, yesterday we needed them because it was so slippery on the final ascent, and the weather forecast was not good. But then. I opted to switch to dry. My greatest fear?   that something unexpected might happen. [About  no-collaboration] I’m only thinking about my race, everybody else can think about their own.”

Team Sky DS Dario Cioni:  
"Today we started out with a plan and everyone really committed well. It was a really impressive performance. Pete managed to get in the break, which we’d hoped for, and that enabled him to get a long way into the stage and be there with good legs at the end. We waited for other teams to do their share of the work but when we felt the pace wasn’t enough we took it up and worked to make it harder.
Chris did a great job and he’s been very consistent across the three mountain stages. That was a big goal and today has put us right in the mix.
It was a good day from the GC point of view. Alberto showed why he is leading the Vuelta, but for Chris to be able to put time into Valverde and Rodriguez is very impressive. You need to have good legs to do that."

Alejandro Valverde:
"Froome took a strong attack halfway through the ascent, and Alberto and him were able to keep that pace. We did what we could, but as well Contador as Froome were really great, superior to us today. There's still the final week ahead and anything could happen: we can improve our situation or lost more time, but the race is still on. Froome is being a strong rival in this Vuelta, doing really great, though you can see he goes through better or worse days. We'll see if he might be my biggest rival for this last week or not. We're still there at the moment - the race is not over until Sunday and we all must keep fighting."

Joaquim Rodriguez:
"It was a hard stage right from the beginning. The group went at kilometer zero and we were not quite awake yet so we had to chase. The team did very well all day. In the finale we saw a strong rider than us. Froome was amazing today. I can accept when I am beaten in an honest way. These past few days people have said Froome was over and out, but now you see. Alberto and Chris were the strongest today. But I am very happy about the work of the team. There is still one week left in this Vuelta. It’s not over yet because I don’t think all are satisfied with the current situation. There are exciting things still to come"
Samuel Sanchez: 
"I felt better than yesterday. It was really a very tough day. I am quite satisfied because I am still fighting with the best riders without losing too much time and that was our goal."

Belkin DS Merijn Zeeman:
"We are absolutely satisfied. Gesink did an excellent job, and moved up two spots on the GC. We are really proud of that result Everyone gave their maximum today. We have to continue like this for one more week. Because we gained two spots, it was good for us, better than for some other teams. The guys are happy that it is behind us, and we can be proud of the results.
We wanted to have Laurens in the breakaway for a chance to win the stage, but the peloton didn't give them a lot of space. Katusha started to pull immediately."
There is a long transfer, and it will be very late arriving to the hotel. That's hard for the riders. Tomorrow is a rest day, but we have to be focused for the stage on Wednesday. You can only live day by day, because anything can happen on the flat stages."


1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 4:53:36
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:14
3 Alessandro De Marchi (Ita) Cannondale 
4 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:53
5 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team
7 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:01:12  
8 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:22  
9 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:01:43  
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Sharp 0:01:48  
1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 63:25:00  
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:36  
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:39  
4 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:29  
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:03:38  
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp 0:06:17  
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:06:43  
8 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:06:55  
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:08:37  
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:09:12  

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