With most UK cycling fans having to watch this stage live on illegal feeds, the GC boys made our afternoon of trying to avoid porn pop-ups worth it. Przemyslaw Niemiec won the stage from the break, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez wheelsucked their way to second and third, while Alberto Contador concentrated on staying ahead of Chris Froome‘s power-metered ride to take a few seconds from him.
Break to the finish
From a small five-man break that included the mighty John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural), Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Kristof Vandewalle (Trek), the wily winner of this stage was Lampre-Merida’s Przemyslaw Niemiec.
He first went away with Meyer at 8km from the summit, then dropped him at 5km and had to ride hard to stay ahead of the rampaging Spanish trio of Contador, Valverde and Rodriguez. With just five seconds between him and Valverde, Niemiec kept his cool – and had time to zip up his jersey and put on his sunglasses – to cross the line victorious.
The hare and the tortoise
With his hang-dog, stem-staring posture, no one has ever accused Chris Froome of having an elegant riding style and no one ever will. The past few days he’s been ‘riding his own race’, keeping his eyes glued on his power meter and using that to keep up a steady tempo that has kept him in contention in this Vuelta. Granted, the yo-yoing back and forth can get tiresome, but no one said racing had to be pretty.
Contrast that with the always attacking, always dancing style of Alberto Contador. I can’t imagine Baby Blackbird ever giving a power meter a second thought during the race, riding as he does by instinct and chutzpah. Bertie may have had Valverde and Purito trying to do him over on the climb today, but he was riding to keep Froome away – and more fools the other two for not working with him to distance the Sky rider even further.
Because in the scheme of things, this race is a battle between Froome and Contador and both of them know it. Everyone else in the race is just someone to elbow out of the way or use as springboards to keep the distance between them as wide as possible.
VeloVoices rider of the day
My rider of the day goes to Giant-Shimano’s Warren Barguil. Why? Because he kept attacking on the final climb, refusing to give up or be intimidated by the Spanish Armada who kept chasing him down. Even when they left him behind, he kept working away, climbing from 13th to 10th in the GC.
Stage 15 result
1. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) 4:11:09
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:05
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) same time
4. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:10
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:17
1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 58:31:35
2. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:31
3. Chris Froome (Sky) +1:20
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +1:20
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +2:22
6. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +2:57
7. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) +4:55
8. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) +5:02
9. Robert Gesink (Belkin) +5:11
10. Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) +6:36
Points leader: John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano).
King of the Mountains leader: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Combined jersey: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Team classification: Katusha.