The 2016 Vuelta a Espana saw its queen stage today. Over a course of 196 kilometers from Urdatx-Dantxarinea to the summit of the Aubisque the riders had to tackle 3 cat.1 climbs before reaching the final ascent. It was a day that seemed tailor-made for our African team. Omar Fraile was the first rider to attack. As defending champion in the KOM classification he was keen on flying the flag for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka out front today. His move dragged 40 other riders along, including team mate Jacques Janse van Rensburg and eventual stage winner Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Fraile took maximum points atop the Col Inharpu, but it was there that bad luck struck our team once again at this year’s edition of the Vuelta. On the narrow and technical descent Janse van Rensburg crashed onto his shoulder. The 2015 South African road race champion could continue the stage but had to drop back to the peloton. The severity of his injuries is yet to be examined.
Fraile was henceforth the team’s only rider in the break. He managed to take maximum points on the Col de Soudet as well. Later on he couldn’t find the legs though to stay with the break when a small group of riders increased the pace on the Col du Marie Blanque. Kenny Elissonde emerged as the strongest of these. He managed to get the points for the KOM and then continued to dictate the pace at the front of the race in a decimated 6-rider lead group. He and Egor Silin (Katusha) were the only ones to keep up with Gesink, when the latter bridged across on the Aubisque. Crossing the line in second behind Gesink meant that Elissonde would pull on the KOM jersey. Fraile now sits second in this classification, but still has plenty of chances to overtake the Frenchman.
The Marie Blanque was also the turning point for the GC contenders race today. Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) rode away from overall leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and opened up a gap of over a minute. In the end he was able to defend that gap. Behind him Quintana desperately tried to ride Froome off his wheel. However, the Tour de France winner proved to be on top of his game today and both crossed the line together. Contador got dropped on the last kilometers, Quintana retained his lead.
Alex Sans Vega – Sports Director
It was a super hard day today. The 2016 Vuelta has already been a really hard race so far and today was not just another tough day. It was the queen stage with 3 cat.1 climbs and an HC summit finish atop the Aubisque. We wanted to be in the break and Omar and Jacques managed to form part of the 41 rider group that went up the road. That was really good. We didn’t expect that the break will stay away, but the GC contenders let the group go. Unfortunately, Jacques crashed on the descent of the first climb and Omar didn’t have his best legs. He managed to get valuable points for the KOM classification and sits second there now. To be able to go onto the podium today would have been nice though. We still have options with Omar during the next few days. Let’s also hope Jacques recovers quickly.