We thought yesterday was a hell of a stage. It kicked off from Kilometre Zero today, led by Etixx-QuickStepper Gianluca Brambilla, closely followed by Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana and their teammates. The chasing group, including an isolated Chris Froome, never saw them again. Brambilla won his second GT stage this year and Quintana gained a truckload of time on his Sky rival.
Rider of the race
Gianluca Brambilla might have started the break but Alberto Contador made sure it stuck – and Tinkoff and Movistar made sure Sky never came back from that moment of inattention at the drop of the flag. So it’s no surprise that my rider of the race is Baby Blackbird himself, who flew today like we know he can. This was the move of the day:
Once the smoke cleared, there were 14 men in the break, including crucial teammates for both Contador and Quintana, enabling them to keep the pressure on and the pace high until Froome’s few teammates blew themselves up in the chase, leaving the Sky leader isolated. While OBE and Astana helped in the chase for their own reasons (although what those reasons would have been for Astana is anyone’s guess …), Alejandro Valverde was the joker in the pack who tried to disrupt the rhythm of Froome whenever he could to help his leader up the road.
After riding full gas, Alberto started to flag and was unable to follow the increased pace of Quintana and Brambilla in the last few kilometres, eventually finishing 6th on the stage but jumping from 6th to 4th in the overall and taking Most Combative Rider.Embed from Getty Images
Will that matter to him? Only in that he has just three people to leap over in order to take the top step – which is always his focus. Contador never races for a podium place and he has never placed second or third on a GT podium in his career. He’s in it to win it and he’ll go for broke to do it. No defensive riding from this guy – and that’s what makes him such an exciting rider. I think Shane Stokes said it best.
All hail Brambilla!Embed from Getty Images
Gianluca Brambilla is a favourite here at VeloVoices Towers, after first coming to our attention in this year’s Strade Bianche. His first Grand Tour stage win was in the Giro – again from a breakaway so I think we can see a pattern emerging here – which put him in the pink for a few stages and now he’s added another GT stage to his palmares. Holding his own in that leading group with Quintana and Contador, he stayed focused, worked hard to keep a healthy time gap and then patiently sat on Quintana’s wheel until he jumped out to sprint for the line. It was a brilliant win for the young Italian and was the third Etixx win this weekend, with Tom Boonen turning back the clock to win the Brussels Cycling Classic yesterday and Marcel Kittel winning in today’s Grand Prix de Fourmies.
By the way, for anyone counting, we have had 15 stages and 14 different winners so far this Vuelta.
Froome’s ‘mare of a dayEmbed from Getty Images
What do we learn from today’s stage? That Team Sky isn’t invincible? That Chris Froome can be isolated? That shit happens? Whether today’s break at the drop of the flag was planned by Tinkoff and Movistar or was just an example of two riders with a lot to gain grabbing the race by the scruff, one thing it definitely did teach us was this. On a short stage of a Grand Tour, your entire team has to pay attention. Everyone from Sky missed Contador and Quintana’s jump and by the time they realised what was happening, the break was working together and had ridden away at full gas. But not only did they miss the jump, they lost track of their leader as well and lost 5mins in no time, to eventually roll in more than 20min off the winning time.
Froome rode admirably but lost a whopping 2.37 to Quintana, now over 3 and half minutes behind the Colombian, but additionally Esteban Chaves made over a minute on him to be sitting just 20sec behind him on the GC. Is that it for Froome this Vuelta? Is the business going to remain unfinished here? We still have the time trial on Friday and no doubt Sky will come out of the blocks on the attack – and we still have a week left in this Vuelta.
It’s not over yet.
Tough love for the gruppetto
And speaking of the gruppetto, they lost time so quickly it was as if it were sand between their fingers. We never saw hide nor hair of them after about 10km – even the helicopter couldn’t be bothered to go down the road and find them. At more than 20min down from the winning time, on this stage that meant they were outside the time limit. Will the organisers decide that “dem’s the rules” or will it be safety in numbers? With 90-some guys in the gruppetto, it will certainly be the later. But that wasn’t Kirsten’s reaction.
Seriously though, don’t you wonder what it would be like if they did send those guys packing? What kind of crazy, mayhem-filled, wacky racers of a final week would THAT be? Then it would be the greatest Grand Tour ever in the history of anything.
1 Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) 2:54:30
2 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:03
3 Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) +0:25
4 Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) +0:28
5 David De La Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) +0:31
1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 61:36:07
2 Chris Froome(SKY) +3:37
3 Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) +3:57
4 Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) +4:02
5 Simon Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) +5:07
Points leader: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
King of the Mountains leader: Kenny Elissonde (FDJ)
Combined classification leader: Nairo Quintana (Movistar)
Team classification leader: BMC
Stage’s Most Combative: Alberto Contador (Tinkoff)
For full stage review: Cycling News
Header image: Gianluca Brambilla in victory (GETTY/AFP/Jose Jordan)