La Vuelta a Espana #11: Solid ride by Meintjes on difficult day

Alessandro De Marchi (BMC Racing Team) soloed to victory on stage 11 of La Vuelta a Espana, coming in ahead of Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha-Alpecin) and Franco Pellizotti (Bahrain-Merida).

After the textbook sprint stage of yesterday, today was a return to the hills for Stage 11 of La Vuelta. While the 207.8km included three categorised climb and one category two climb, there were numerous other ”non categorised” climbs throughout the stage, making it an incredibly difficult day.

With the breakaway enjoying success so far through the race, nearly every team wanted to be in the breakaway today, including a few riders who were threats on the overall GC. Our riders were in the mix, instigating a number of moves and following every other too. Ben King, Merhawi Kudus and Igor Anton were all at one point part of moves that looked like it could be the break of the day, but when a GC threatening rider jumped across the gap, the peloton closed them down.

This would go on for the opening 100km of the stage, resulting in a 50km/h average speed. Eventually after going flat out for two hours, a group of 19 riders went clear and Ryan Gibbons was part of the escape for Team Dimension Data.

With 40km of racing left, Mollema triggered a flurry of attacks which continued until two riders established a lead. Eventually Gibbons could no longer follow the pace of the climbers he was surrounded by and returned to a reduced peloton. As the race entered the final climb of the day, to the summit of Mirador de Cabezoas, De Marchi was the first at the crest just ahead of his companion, Restrepo with the remainder of the break left chasing.

De Marchi put his head down for the final descent to the line and took a good stage win. Back in the peloton, a massive acceleration from EF-Education First on the final climb saw the GC contenders come to the fore, with a small selection of 15 riders going clear. Having been looked after by the team really well, Louis Meintjes put in a solid performance and was always able to follow the main favourites.

By finishing in the main GC selection group, Meintjes moved up 2 places on the GC, breaking into the top 20 overall.

Ryan Gibbons – Rider 
That was an incredibly hard and fast day. There was never a flat section of tarmac and with over 3500m of climbing, and a tough last 5km, it was always going to be a stressful and challenging day. The race blew up on the first climb with every team wanting to be represented in the break of the day. Finally after 100km of flat out racing, a group of us got away. It went on a climb so therefore it was a breakaway of climbers – and me. Pinot was there from FDJ and as a GC rider it caused a lot of hesitation from the rest of the break and we never rode well together, instead everybody used every possible opportunity to attack. Not being a climber eventually took it’s toll and I lost contact with about 25km to go with a few others. Our guys looked good in the group and Louis rode really well in the final to move up slightly on GC, so all in all not a bad day out for us.