Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 8 – Lagutin makes the grade, Quintana rockets to red

We’ve had newbies take their first GT stage this week – today we had a veteran. Katusha’s Sergey Lagutin climbed the wall of Alto de la Camperona and slo-mo sprinted away from his companions Axel Domont (Ag2r) and Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) to take his first Grand Tour victory at the age of 35. The GC was shook up with an attack by Nairo Quintana (yes, really!) that put the Colombian in the red jersey.

Rider(s) of the race

It was a tough stage – for both riders and viewers – with 170-some kilometres of flat roads under an unrelenting Spanish sun. Riders got the benefit of a bit of wind and BMC were setting a fast pace, but the viewers … well, let’s just say, I got a lot of housework done. That is until the breakaway hit the gargantuan gradients of the Alto de la Camperona. That got our attention! And one of the first two of my Riders of the Race caught mine. With the breakaway splintering on the start of the climb, Katusha’s Jhonatan Restrepo found the gumption to tackle the steep and steeper climb all by himself until he was caught with 1.6km to go.

Restrepo leading the way up the Camperona 

But that was part of the plan as he was overtaken by his own teammate, Sergey Lagutin, who had Domont and Etixx’s Pieter Serry with him. Lagutin patiently waited for the moment to pounce, judging his attack brilliantly in the final 500m – an attack that could not follow – to take his first Grand Tour win. That makes him my other Rider of the Race.

Lagutin, clearly gobsmacked by his victory, gives credit to his teammate:

Jonny did an incredible job for me, he was fundamental. He attacked on the climb and I was able to sit in the wheel not working so I could save my legs for the final. I would say that more than 50 percent of this victory is thanks to Jhonatan Restrepo.

Quintana springs to life

We’ve had a lot to say about Nairo Quintana this summer – things about not attacking, looking lacklustre, content to sit in the wheels. We were pretty disappointed with his Tour de France (and are mystified as to how he got on the podium!). But today, the Quintana we were hoping for came to the race. As the GC group hit the base of the climb, Movistar set up both him and Alejandro Valverde to have a crack at cracking the competition. Once the steepness started, riders were zigzagging all over the mountain with Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Quintana pulling away from the rest. First Bertie was dropped, then Froome as Quintana put on the afterburners and climbed his way to red. He’s aliiiiive!!!!! 

Baby Blackbird Up!

Midge’s review yesterday had Baby Blackbird Down, but you can’t keep a competitor like Alberto Contador down for long. But I don’t think that anyone expected him to leave Froome in his dust on the final climb to the finish, flying from 12th to 7th on GC today – especially after we all saw him being dropped. As Contador said in his post-stage interview, crashes usually have more effect on the second day – and he has 1.39 to make up to catch Quintana in the GC – so he’s only cautiously optimistic. But he looked much happier than he has in a long time.

A moment for the lost red

Darwin Atapuma (BMC) stayed with the leaders as long as he could today before going backwards and losing the red jersey he’s been wearing from stage 4.

 Stage results

1 Sergey Laguntin (Katusha) 4:09:30

2 Axel Domont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) +0:10

3 Perrig Quemeneur (Direct Energie) +0:17

4 Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida) +0:24

5 Pieter Serry (Etixx-QuickStep) +0:40

GC

1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 29:55:54

2 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:19

3 Chris Froome (SKY) +0:27

4 Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) +0:57

5 Leopold Konig (SKY) +1:16

Jerseys

Points leader: Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep)

King of the Mountains leader: Sergey Lagutin (Katusha)

Combined classification leaderAlejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Team classification leaderEtixx-QuickStep

Stage’s Most Combative: Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha)

For full stage review: Cycling News

Header image: Nairo Quintana takes the bull by the … back legs (©GETTY/Jaime Reina) 

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