Adam Hansen gave the sprinters the slip on stage 19 of the Vuelta and hung on to cap his tenth consecutive grand tour with a stage win. The Australian capitalised on a chaotic finish at Cangas do Morrazo to take victory, with a couple of late climbs proving sufficient to derail the sprinters’ trains.
The calm before the storm
The stage started in a rather pedestrian fashion, with the peloton quite happy to let three riders go off the front of the bunch. Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Laurent Mangel (FDJ) and Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) were the three optimistic escapees, who were no doubt hoping that the two cat 2 climbs on the profile would be enough to dissuade the sprint teams from mounting a serious chase. Alas, that proved to not be the case, with the bunch carefully monitoring the gap throughout the day. Just as the final categorised climb of the day started, they were caught.
Chaos on the climb
As the peloton raced for the start of the Alto Monte Faro climb, it was all rather scrappy. Not only were the sprinters and puncheurs looking to stay near the front in the hope of winning the stage, but the general classification teams were all twitchy too – being caught at the back of a splintering bunch on such a sharp climb could have had serious ramifications for the contenders. But not even the pace of the nervy peloton could stop Kazakh youngster Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) slipping off the front and opening up a handy advantage.
However, once the riders crested the final climb, Lutsenko’s lead began to melt away. Not even a couple of crashes – the worst seemingly suffered by Sky’s Dario Cataldo, who still managed to finish the stage – on the worryingly technical descent derailed the chase. Soon enough, things were all back together at the front of the peloton.
Hansen doesn’t hesitate
The peloton had been so nervous about getting over the climb that it seemed to breathe a big sigh of relief once it was over, with no one assuming control on the front. The general classification teams were no longer too worried about their riders being caught out of position, and the sprinters looked around and realised they had no lead-out men to carry them to the finish. Step forward Mr. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol).
Hansen made his attack almost as soon as Lutsenko was caught with around 5km of the stage remaining. While everyone in the bunch was waiting for someone else to chase, Hansen put his head down and drove towards the line. Aided by a slight descent down to the finish, the Australian opened up an unassailable advantage and eventually crossed the line five seconds ahead of the rest of the field. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) won the sprint for second place, and so consolidated his lead in the points classification.
VeloVoices rider of the day
— Vuelta a España (@lavuelta) September 12, 2014
Today’s award could only go to the winner, Adam Hansen. Not only is he one of the most likeable riders in the peloton, but he’s proven to be one of the strongest and most intelligent. This may be Hansen’s tenth grand tour in a row, but he’s about much more than just strength and endurance. He timed his late attack to perfection, and he had the power to hold off the raging peloton. His reward was a second grand tour stage win after his solo victory at the Giro d’Italia last year, and I’m guessing it won’t be his last.
Stage 19 result
1. Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol) 4:21:58
2. John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) +0:05
3. Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) same time
4. Yannick Martinez (Europcar) s/t
5. Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) s/t
1. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 76:00:40
2. Chris Froome (Sky) +1:19
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +1:32
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +2:29
5. Fabio Aru (Astana) +3:15
6. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) +6:52
7. Samuel Sanchez (BMC) +6:59
8. Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) +9:12
9. Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) +9:44
10. Damiano Caruso (Cannondale) +9:45
Points leader: John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano).
King of the Mountains leader: Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural).
Combined jersey: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Team classification: Katusha.