With the main GC contenders playing it safe, it was the day for a solo win for Bert Jan Lindeman (Lotto NL-Jumbo), whose third day in a break finally came good when he sprinted away from fellow break-mate Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) in the last 200m to take the first high mountain stage of this year’s spicy Vuelta.
It was a sweltering day for the peloton, which meant a six-man break was allowed to get away and clock up some serious time (over 13min) before the big teams decided to start the business of reeling them in. With some hard riding on the front from both Astana and Movistar, it looked a bit touch and go when the break hit the slopes of the final 20km climb with only 5.30sec in hand.
A few big attacks from Jeromé Cousin (Europcar) that only Koshevoy and Lindeman could follow trimmed the six to three. From then on, there was a lot of attacking from Cousin and Koshevoy, with Lindeman grinding back up to each of them as the climb hit the steepest parts. Cousin didn’t have Lady Luck on his side, as he clipped his backwheel and fell with no chance of catching the other two. In the last 200m, Lindeman put in a strong surge that Koshevoy couldn’t follow, winning the first grand tour stage for the LottoNL-Jumbo team.
Further down the mountain, Chris Froome (Team Sky) lost contact with the small chasing peloton and, on hearing this, Fabio Aru (Astana) went off the front like he was shot from a cannon, putting in a spectacular ride to take third on the stage. The red jersey on the back of Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) stayed with the chasing peloton, as did Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), keeping them the top two in the GC for another day.
Rider(s) of the stage
I don’t believe that Bert Jan Lindeman could have won that stage without having Jeromé Cousin and Ilia Koshevoy with him in those upper reaches of the climb. While it was Cousin and Koshevoy who did most of the attacking, they gave Lindeman something to aim for when he looked like he was completely on the rivet. With the peloton seemingly docile for much of the climb, these three animated this big summit finish. The unlucky spill taken by Cousin (finishing 4th on the stage) does make one wonder what could have been but it’s always good to see that persistence really does come good. Let’s hope Cousin’s agent gets a few profitable calls from teams wanting to sign the rider for next season.
Three things we noticed
1 The Astana leadership battle is over Or is it? Astana and Movistar were setting a harsh pace on the lower slopes of the climb but it wasn’t until they realised that Froome was having difficulty that Astana really came alive. In the post-stage interview with teammate Mikel Landa, he said: “Aru’s attack was a good move, plan was to keep GC spots and take no risks. I did okay.”
Not sure if it was the heat that drained Landa of all emotion or if he was rueing the fact that he wasn’t able to follow his teammate’s attack, but he didn’t look as happy as he might have during that interview.
2 What if they’re don’t have it? Everyone’s wondering when the GC favourites are going to come out of the blocks and start racing. But today, Aru took time from all his rivals – not in an epic battle but almost because no one could be bothered to chase: Froome was dropped, lost 34sec and dropped out of the top 10; Tejay van Garderen has hardly been visible this week and lost almost a minute; and Nairo Quintana seems happy to stay in the peloton – although he and his co-leader Alejandro Valverde lost the least amount of time at 7sec. Of course it’s early days, they’re a bit fatigued from the Tour, they’re waiting for the big challenges in the next two weeks, etc etc, but what if they don’t have it? We might see riders on the podium we never expected.
3 He’s not letting go of that red jersey! It was another impressive day from Esteban Chaves, riding in the front of the peloton to keep hold of his red jersey (and to take back the green from Peter Sagan, but I doubt that was his intention). Right on his wheel was Tom Dumoulin, ready to pounce if the young Colombian looked to be flagging. But he didn’t flag and he came in 6th on the stage with a group of riders including Dumoulin. Those two aren’t riding like they think they’re just placeholders in this race, they are riding with real verve and ambition. That’s why the Vuelta is so spicy!
1. Bert Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) 05:10:24
2. Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) +0:09
3. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:29
4. Jeromé Cousin (Europcar) +0:34
5. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:36
1. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) +27:06:13
2. Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) +0:10
3. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) +0:33
4. Nico Roche (Team Sky) +0:36
5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:49
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:56
7. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:57
8. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0:57
9. Dani Moreno (Katusha) +1:18
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +1:19
Points leader: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE)
King of the Mountains leader: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural)
Combined classification leader: Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE)
Team classification leader: Team Sky
Link: Official race website
Header image: © Javier Belver/Vuelta