La Vuelta 16: Frank Schleck At His Best... and Purito In Red

Embedded image permalinkStunning beauty of the Spanish landscape in this mountains where the white rock emerges sharply among the lovely green of the trees, where villages are like a brush stroke on the rough canvas.
From Luarca to Ermita de Alba (Quirós) in 185 km and seven climbs (2 of 3th cat, 3 of 2nd cat, 1 of 1st cat and 1 HC).
On the 1st climb (Alto Aristébano-3th cat, 14.6km, avg 3.4%) the first attack get no reaction and the break-away is set. It includes: F.Schleck, Torres, Bennett, Verona, Warbasse, Rolland, Lemoine, Fraile, Moser and Grmay. They got a maximum advantage of 22'! 
Embedded image permalinkOmar Fraile in the KOM Jersey collects some more points passing first at the 1st KOM. As well as at the 2nd - Alto de Piedratecha - 2nd cat, 10.6km, avg 4.8%. - at the 3rd - Alto de la Cabruñana - 3th cat, 4.8km, avg 6.7% - and at the 4th one - Alto de Tenebredo, 2nd cat.  65 km to go the gap still  is around 20'.
Embedded image permalinkThe 5th climb is Alto del Cordal (2th cat, 8.5km, avg 5.7%), 38 km to go and Tinkoff Saxo begins to chase. 26 km to go the break-away is in the descent and the gap is down to 11’. Suddenly there is acrash: Duque and Chavanel fell agaist a guadrail and the last one is sitting up. Frank Schleck was at the back so far but now he sets a very high pace and the break splits: only Torres, Verona and Bennett can follow. They are approaching the 6th climb: Alto de la Cobertoria (1st cat, 9.8km, avg 8.7%, max 13%). Behind Team Astana goes in front and many riders are dropped at the back. 
Embedded image permalink20 km to go only Torres remains ahead with Frank Schleck. The rest of the break scattered all over the climb. Behind Nieve attacks from the bunch but is quickly caght. Still remains in the selected group and looks good. The final climb is coming, it's Ermita de Alba (BC, 6.8km,avg 11.1%,max 21.6%). 3 km to go Frank Schleck speeds up and Torres can't keep his wheel. He's solo and solo he climbs to the best result in many years. A beautiful victory.

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Embedded image permalinkBut behind they are coming. A reduced bunch pulled by Team Astana and Team Tinkoff. Dropping Dumoulin is the shared goal and yes, they achieve it. Only, Team Astana almost drops also his leader Fabio Aru... In Red he's at the back. In Green Purito is toward the front and at the last steep km he attacks. Aru responds but there is a gap at the finish and that Red is now on Puritos's shoulders.
Bravo Nieve: he tried to go in the last climb, caught he finished in the front group and is now 5th in the GC.

Frank Schleck:
“I don’t know. It’s been so long for me without a win. The whole day was long and hard, but I was on a good day. It’s all so fresh still to make big comments… I just know that I owed myself to do well, I worked so hard for this, I deserved it.
I have been fighting hard the last month, had some injuries, couldn’t do the Tour [de France] and came here with a lot of confidence for the Vuelta, and it was tough to win this stage, but all the work, all the injuries – today was all worth it.
Embedded image permalinkI was not so confident about Torres, I didn’t know much about him so I was pretty nervous. He was tough, and I knew the other guys, but not him. Fortunately today, Luca [Guercilena, General Manager] returned to the Vuelta and he was in the car. Josu [Larrazabal, director] was there too with Dirk [Demol, director] and they analyzed the race and told me what I needed to do. A little uncertain point was Torres; we didn’t know what he can do, or how he was feeling.  
I came here with intentions of a nice classification, but then we had to change the team tactics after my crashes to focus on stages and not the GC anymore. We talked about this stage, a lot of reputed climbs and how it’s good for me as a lightweight, so I had the plan to go in the breakaway today.
This Vuelta has been so hard. The last 10 days have been so fast, the first hour 46, 47km/h average. And today it took a big character, a strong head, to go out there, and there were a few guys who dared to go out there, and this [win] has been the reward today. It showed character to go out and suffer again, and that’s why I got the win.”

Joaquim Rodriguez:
"Everything is still possible in this Vuelta. My 1-second margin does not excite me but in the end this Vuelta has already brought me more than I expected: a stage win and the red leader's jersey. My final goal is to arrive at the overall podium in Madrid so why not on the highest step of the podium? It is in my hands but first we need to deal with the time trial in Burgos. I need to do a super chrono and I will give my maximum. That's why we are here. With Dumoulin at less than 2 minutes it will be hard, but not impossible. Dumoulin surprised me today. On the Cobertoria as well as on the last climb he was better than yesterday, really good. He can recover tomorrow and will be super motivated for the time trial. But we will fight too!" 
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Tom Dumoulin:
"So motivated today to stay in the top ten, it meant a flight in the helicopter for the first time!! Ah, and to still have a shot at the podium in la vuelta after todays stage is also quite nice... Haha!"
“I am feeling good. The legs were very good today and I managed to limit the losses really well once again.
We worked super well together and the guys were fantastic. The pace was high in the finale but Lawson was still there to help me until the second to last climb, which was great. After that, only a small group was left and most of the GC guys were isolated as well. In the end I fought my way up to the finish.
After Wednesday’s time trial we will know a bit more about my chances for the final GC. Even if my time trial is really good, there will be three hard days to go.”

George Bennett:
“I targeted this stage months ago. I’m satisfied with the fact that I was there to fight for the win, but obviously, I’m disappointed that I didn’t actually win. Schleck was just too strong, though. I was chasing full gas to get them back, but it wasn’t enough. However, stuff like this makes you stronger.”

Mikel Nieve:
"It's a long time trial at 38 kilometres and obviously it is difficult for me. I'll obviously give it my all to try and maintain a strong position on the GC. Most of the hard mountain stages are behind us now. There are only really two climbing days left, so I don't see the GC changing too much after the time trial on Wednesday. That is what makes it so important."

Embedded image permalinkRafal Majka:
“I’m satisfied, I have to be, because I was up there among the first. But it was difficult to follow Rodriguez, when it’s this steep. He is a specialist on these shorter steep climbs but I only lost a few seconds, 12 to Rodriguez and 10 to Aru. The last 500 meters were not easy but I tried my best and gave it everything I had. I tried to put pressure on the other favorites with my team and Poljanski pulled at the front. In the end, I gained time on some of the riders behind me in the GC and I’m still 3rd overall. It will be very close. We still have five stages left of the Vuelta and everybody will normally have a bad day - Dumoulin didn’t have that today and he was very impressive on the final climb. We will see how the GC is after the time trial. Tomorrow is the rest day and we have to prepare for the time trial. I haven’t done an individual time trial in two months but I have to go full gas for my team. 40 kilometers of flat time trial, it’s going to be very tough and surely we will see some changes in the GC”, says Rafal Majka.


1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 5:49:56
2 Rodolfo Torres (Col) Colombia 0:01:10
3 Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:48
4 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:02:42
5 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:02:49
6 Omar Fraile (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:03:05
7 Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:04:26
8 Larry Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling 0:06:02
9 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:08:51
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:53
11 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:09:03
12 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
13 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:09:05
14 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:09:06
15 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:09:07
16 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:09:18
17 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:09:33
18 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:09:48
19 Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Team Europcar 0:09:54
20 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:09:56
21 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:10:25
22 Andre Cardoso (Por) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team
23 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team  
1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 67:52:44
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:01
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:35
4 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:51
5 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:02:32
6 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:38
7 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:49
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:11
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:58
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:05:22
11 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:06:46
12 Fabrice Jeandesboz (Fra) Team Europcar 0:10:20
13 Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:13:25
14 Andre Cardoso (Por) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:14:36
15 Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:27:04
16 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 0:31:20
17 Rodolfo Torres (Col) Colombia 0:36:10
18 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:52:18
19 Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:56:02
20 Larry Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling 1:11:33
21 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 1:14:32
22 Omar Fraile (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 2:03:53
23 Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 2:11:37

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