It was another punchy bunch sprint at today’s 7th stage of the Vuelta a Espana. Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling) was the victor and Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Darwin Atapuma (BMC Racing) had no problem retaining his overall race leader’s jersey.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka started today’s stage with plans to have Kristian Sbaragli and Nathan Haas in contention during the stage finale. 6 riders formed the early break of the day but as the peloton only gave them a 2’30” lead, it was clear it would not be their day. Astana created an interesting situation though as they chased down the escape with still 50km to go.
The new race situation meant it would not be a straight forward sprint stage as fresh attacks put the peloton under pressure and this saw our ill Basque rider, Igor Anton being dropped from the main pack. A number of riders were distanced though as the race sped into to Puebla de Sanabria. After the selection had been made, our African Team still had Kristian Sbaragli, Nathan Haas, Jaco Venter and Merhawi Kudus in the mix.
A dangerous 5 rider move went away on the final categorised climb of the day, containing Simon Clarke (Cannondale – Drapac) and Lluis Leon Sanchez (Astana). Haas would contribute to the chase of the late breakaway attempt as Sbaragli was our go to man for the finish now. Clarke and Sanchez led under the 1km to go banner but the gap was only 6 seconds to the pack and the last few hundred meters dragged all the way up to the line.
Sbaragli once again put himself in a good position as the race went into a sharp left hand bend at 600m to go. There was another crash, like yesterday, but this time Sbaragli was ahead of the misfortune. The two leaders were caught just before the line and Van Genechten went on to prove he was the strongest on this type of finish. Sbaragli was right on the wheels of the front runners but had to settle for 8th at the line. Despite his illness, Anton completed today’s stage to ensure our African Team still have all 9 riders in the race.
JP Heynderickx – Sport Director
It was another missed chance today. It was a tricky finish and getting into a good position before the last 500m, which was all uphill, was really important. We got a top 10 but we wanted more from today.