Today featured the longest stage of this year’s Vuelta a Espana. The peloton needed to cover 213 kilometers from Bilbao to Urdax-Dantxarinea with 4 cat.3 climbs being the major obstacles. After a fast first hour of racing 12 riders managed to forge clear, with eventual stage winner Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) among them. Without too many options on today’s stage Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka took advantage of an easier day to ready the legs for the tough challenges to come over the weekend.
Our team’s goal was to ride for Kristian Sbaragli today, as the finish seemed to be a good one for the fast guys. But as ever, so often things do not always work as planned. When a group of 12 riders got a gap the peloton hesitated to react. After 35 kilometers of racing Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant – Alpecin), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Etixx – Quick Step), Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling), Valerio Conti (Lampre – Merida), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon18) and Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) already had managed to put 4.40 minutes into the bunch. The gap would continue to grow until the end of the stage, with the peloton – incl. our African team’s riders – crossing the line more than 30min after the stage winner.
The break worked well together and it was only inside the last 20 kilometers that action struck the race, when Conti decided to attack the break. He was able to solo away from the others and to finish the race 55 seconds ahead of Wyss and Lagutin.
With no real GC threat out fron today Movistar also took an easy day to help Nairo Quintana defending the GC lead.
Tomorrows stage will then probably see more fireworks on the road with 3 cat.1 climbs and a summit finish atop the iconic Aubisque.
Alex Sans Vega – Sports Director
Today was the longest stage of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. It was actually not an easy race course with a lumpy profile and lots of narrow roads. We wanted to ride for Kristian today, but when the break got up the road and managed to build up a solid gap we decided to save the legs for the coming days. The last stages were all ridden very fast, and we actually thought that teams like Etixx-QuickStep and Trek would have an interest in a sprint finish today. If that would have been the case we would have been joining the chase, but it’s just would not have been possible to chase alone for the majority of the stage. In the end the peloton decided to let the break go. We missed it but will have more chances over the next days.