Nicolas Roche (Team Sky) won the 18th stage of the Vuelta a Espana after out-sprinting fellow breakaway partner Haimer Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing). Louis Meintjes was our top finisher in 17th
Roche and Zubeldia were initially part of a 25 rider breakaway that also included our Songezo Jim. One of the riders also in the move was Bart de Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) who sat in 14th place on the GC. Once the break got a 6 minute lead, de Clercq became a threat to Louis Meintjes top 10 GC placing.
With Giant-Alpecin only really committing a single rider to the chase, our African team then took control of the race to protect Louis position. Johann van Zyl and Natnael Berhane did some sterling early work, supported by the rest of the team too. As the race neared the final climb of the day, Astana and Katusha also made their presence felt which ensured de Clercq would not leap frog Louis.
All but 3 riders from the original break were caught on the slopes of the cat 1 Puerto de la Quesera. The fast 13km descent also ensured they would not be caught by the GC favourites group before the finish either, which arrived just 38 seconds adrift of Roche. Louis would cross the line 17th on the stage.
Songezo Jim – Rider
It took some time for the break to form today but when it did, I was happy to be up there representing my team. I didn’t really have a great day in the office though, the legs just weren’t there. I hope I can feel better than I felt today in the next few days as we continue to support Louis for the general classification.