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"So I just went down the descent, not taking any risks. I ate and drank and waited but they did not come for a while.  My intention was not to attack. The worse thing for me in a 3-week race is to go fast, then slow, then fast."

Photo: Sirotti








08.09.2014 @ 21:54 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Fabian Cancellara got some unexpected time in the spotlight when he launched a strange attack in the Vuelta a Espana queen stage. However, the Swiss just continued at the same pace and never planned to go on the offensive.


It was a pivotal day at the Vuelta a España with the 160.5-kilomter queen stage of the three week race. The five categorized mountain climbs stacked into the parcours of stage 16 made an arduous five hours in the saddle, and for Trek Factory Racing – down a man and with a few others nursing aches and pains after 16 days of punishing races - it turned into a day to get to the finish and look ahead to more favorable stages in the final week.


“We tried to go with breaks in the beginning, Bob was close and then Popo [Yaroslav Popovych] was in the first breakaway but was dropped on the second climb," sports director Josu Larrazabal said. "Finally from this group 13 men went, but Katusha and Sky controlled so the breakaway did not make it to the end. We have a few riders nursing saddle sores, so today ended up a survival day. The guys went as easy as possible. The weather was also better than what was forecasted, so it was good for us to try and recover.”


“Yesterday I already had a hard day because of my saddle sore," Bob Jungels said. "Today it was okay for the first 100kms, the creams we used for treatment helped,  but in the second last climb [the pain] started again. I am also sitting a little crooked on the saddle and my hips cramped. It was okay until the last two hours, but it has been a tough two days.”


Mid-way through the race Fabian Cancellara threw an unusual card into the game as he briefly went on a solo voyage, departing the peloton near the top of the third of the day’s five climbs, continuing down the long descent and through the valley to the bottom of the penultimate climb. Although he gained over 90 seconds lead to the peloton he was still three minutes from the breakaway; the move was not an attack, he explained, but rather just a continuation of a hard pace that was being set by Katusha.


“We went hard on the third climb with a hard pace and 3k to go to the top Katusha just slowed down," he said. "I just continued the pace, it was not to show my legs, or the jersey, or whatever. Already on the first climb we went full gas and by the bottom of the descent there were 20 thousand groups, then everyone went slow again. For me, for my body, this is bad. I want to keep the same pace to the top and I did not expect that they would not follow - I thought I was actually helping [Katusha].


"So I just went down the descent, not taking any risks. I ate and drank and waited but they did not come for a while.  My intention was not to attack. The worse thing for me in a 3-week race is to go fast, then slow, then fast.”


The queen stage did electrify, especially in the battle for the final podium. Chris Froome finished second on the stage and climbed closer to second place overall, while Alberto Contador further strengthened his hold on the red leader’s jersey taking the stage win. Alejandro Valverde finished behind in fourth place, and although he managed to keep his second place overall it is by a mere three seconds over Froome, setting up an exciting final week.


Tuesday is the second and final rest day of the Vuelta a España before the race enters its final five stages. Trek Factory Racing hails the chance to recharge ahead of a few opportunities that are left in the Vuelta’s final days, including the final stage individual time trial.


“Now with the rest day tomorrow we hope to recover more," Larrazabal said. "It was the hardest day of the Vuelta with five thousand meters of climbing. We know Kristof’s shape is good and Fabian is going well, and Bob too. So we will be competitive the last week, especially the TT day, but also we have a couple stages for the break. We will look to the stages for chances for breaks, not the ones for the climbers, but for ones for the strong guys for the flat or a rolling parcours.”


Jasper Stuyven, 22, has quietly been riding a strong Vuelta, his first ever Grand Tour.  He already pocketed two fourth place finishes in the sprint stages, has ridden in a long breakaway on stage 13, and today’s mountain stage, the hardest of the race, he crossed the line with many of the race’s strong climbers in 52ndplace (the first finisher for Trek Factory Racing).  If anything it is an indication his form has not faltered since the start over two weeks ago, a promising sign from the talented young Belgian as the team enters the Vuelta’s final days still seeking a big result.


“Today I felt good," he said. "Every now and then I bring my climbing legs to a race. I am really happy with my feeling after two weeks of racing in my first Grand Tour. Maybe with these legs there will be more opportunities in the last week.”



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