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Flying up the steep climb, Contador beat Quintana by 5 seconds in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco time trial to take his fourth overall win in the race; Henao was 12 seconds behind in second, with Quintana completing the podium

Photo: A.S.O.








09.04.2016 @ 17:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) ended his spring campaign on a high by taking his fourth overall win in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco by winning the final time trial on a brutal course that included a climb with a gradient of more than 20%. Having crushed the opposition on the ascent, he lost some ground on the descent but still beat Nairo Quintana (Movistar) by 5 seconds. Overall leader Sergio Henao (Sky) was 18 seconds behind in third and slipped to second in the GC while Quintana moved into third.


At the start of the year, Alberto Contador aimed for three wins in what is likely to be his final spring season. However, the Spaniard came up short in both Paris-Nice where he was hampered by the cancellation of the hardest stage, and the Volta a Catalunya where he was beaten by Nairo Quintana.


This left him with just one chance to win a stage race before he turns his attention to the final preparation for the Tour de France: the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The Spaniard went into the race as a three-time winner of the race and after solid performances in the mountain stages, he went into today’s time trial in a great position, sitting in second overall just 6 seconds behind Sergio Henao.


Finally, things came together for Contador in his final event of the spring as he managed to take it all on the final day, winning both the stage and the overall in what could be his final stage race on Spanish soil. The Spaniard benefited from a very hilly course where he could make the difference on the climb and beat a resurgent Nairo Quintana by five seconds.


The hilly course was split in two as it started with a brutal ascent with sections of more than 20% before the riders hit a technical, wet descent and a short, flat section in the end. Contador proved his excellent climbing skills as he was by far the fastest on the ascent, putting a massive 23 seconds into Quintana who had been in a class of his own before Contador made his way to the top.


When it came out that Henao had crested the summit in third with a time loss of 46 seconds, Contador opted for a safe approach to the wet descent. He also lost his advantage to Quintana who took a lot more risks, but he still had 5 seconds left of his advantage when he sprinted to the line.


He had to wait for Henao’s arrival to confirm his overall victory and it turned out to be closer than it looked like after the time check. The Colombian was faster than both Contador and Quintana on the descent but in the end he had to settle for third on the stage with a time loss of 18 seconds. Hence, he slipped to third in the overall standings, losing the leader’s jersey in the final time trial for the third time in four years.


Going into the stage, Quintana seemed to be out of the battle for the podium positions but his great time trial allowed him to move into third. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) who had started the stage in third overall, had to settle for sixth in the time trial and as Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) could only manage 8th and Samuel Sanchez (BMC) was fifth, Quintana passed those three riders in the standings. Pinot finished fourth while Rodriguez completed the top 5.


The surprise of the day was Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) who has had a disappointing race but did a very good time trial to take fourth. Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) also had a solid ride for seventh which allowed him to take the same result in the overall standings.


Henao won the points classification while Diego Rosa (Astana) was the best climber. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) won the sprints competition and Team Sky was the best team.


With the Vuelta al Pais Vasco done and dusted, the attention moves to Sunday’s Klasika Primavera, the final race in this big block of racing in Spain. The next event on the WorldTour is completely different as the riders will tackle the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix tomorrow. The next stage race is the Tour de Romandie which will start on April 26.


A difficult time trial

After yesterday’s queen stage, it was time for the decisive time trial which brought the riders over 16.5km around the city of Eibar. After 1.5km of flat racing, the riders hit a brutally steep climb that includes sections of 22% and averaged around 15% for large portions of the time. A short false-flat section led to a technical descent before the riders got to the final four kilometres which were flat.


It was raining when Caleb Fairly (Giant-Alpecin) was the first rider to roll down the ramp at 14.35 local time. He set an early mark of 34.00 but as expected he was quickly beaten. Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural) went 16 seconds faster before Mekseb Debesay (Dimension Data) set an early mark of 32.31.


Best time for Denifl

Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff) posted the second best time and Maxim Belkov (Katusha) slotted into third before Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural) set a new mark of 32.22. That was 29 seconds better than Winner Anacona (Movistar) who set the third best time.


Lastra didn’t spend much time in the hot seat as Marcel Wyss (IAM) was three seconds faster but the Swiss had barely caught his breath before Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha) moved into the lead by going 8 seconds faster. However, it was Stefan Denifl (IAM) who became the first rider below the 32-minute mark as he posted a time of 31.53.


Cataldo moves into the lead

Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) had crested the summit of the climb with a time that was 15 seconds faster than Denifl’s and he flew down the descent to take the lead with a comfortable 41-second margin. David Lopez (Sky) did well to slot into the top 10 and Jeremy Roy (FDJ) confirmed his great TT skills by posting the third best time of 32.05.


Everybody was now waiting for Dario Cataldo (Astana) as the Italian had been 18 seconds faster than Edet at the time check. The Astana rider lost some ground on the descent but his time of 31.03 was enough to take the lead with a 9-second advantage.


Cummings misses out

Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo) had a surprisingly good ride to slot into fourth with 31.55 and Egor Silin (Katusha) could also make it into the top 10. Another youngster, Fredrik Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin), also did very well by positing the third best time of 31.31.


There was disappointment for Sergey Chernetskii (Katusha) who failed to make it into the top 10 and instead it was Michael Woods (Cannondale) who surprised many by slotting into fourth. Stephen Cummings (Dimension Data) had been just three seconds behind Cataldo at the time check but at the finish, he had to settle for third, 27 seconds off the pace.


Brambilla flies down the descent

Simone Petilli (Lampre-Merida) confirmed his great climbing talent as he pushed Cummings into fourth by going four seconds faster but it was Fabio Felline (Trek) that everybody was waiting for. The Italian had been two seconds faster than Cataldo at the time check, and at the finish he had pushed his advantage out to seven seconds.


Felline didn’t even get a chance to sit in the hot seat though. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) was 16 seconds behind at the time check but he flew down the descent to beat Felline by 10 seconds. Moments later, Jan Polanc (Lampre-Merida) became the next rider to make it into the top 10 as he slotted into 7th.


Yates crushes the opposition

At this point, it was already known that Yates had flown up the climb, going a massive 48 seconds faster than Felline, and he didn’t slow down on the descent, as he crossed the line in a time that was 40 seconds faster than Brambilla’s. He had picked up Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal) in the finale and this allowed the Belgian to slot into sixth.


Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) had a fine ride to take seventh before Jurgen Van den Broeck (Katusha) confirmed his new-found status as a specialist. The Belgian champion slotted into seconds with a  time that was just 36 seconds slower than the dominant Yates.


Lopez gets close

Laurens De Plus (Etixx-QuickStep) posted the 8th best time while Diego Rosa (Astana) lost some ground on the descent to move into 6th. Another young climber Sebastian Henao (Sky) had an even better day as he was just 44 seconds behind in fourth.


Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) narrowly missed out on a top 10 spot but it was Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) that the spectators were waiting for. The Colombian had been just 2 seconds slower than Yates at the time check but at the finish, he was 29 seconds off the pace in seconds place.


Quintana takes the lead

Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) surprised most by posting the third best time, just 5 seconds slower than Lopez, and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) also had a great ride to take fifth. Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal) confirmed his great potential by taking 9th while there was disappointment for one of the pre-race favourites Simon Spilak (Katusha) who could only manage fifth.


Costa had been far off the pace at the time check but he did an excellent descent to post the second best time, 23 seconds slower than Yates, while Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) had a very bad day with 21st place as he sprinted to the finish. Instead, it was Quintana who got all the attention as he sprinted to the line in 29.18 to beat Yates by a comfortable 48 seconds.


Contador takes it all

Samuel Sanchez had been 52 seconds behind Quintana at the top of the climb and crossed the line in third with a time loss of 59 seconds. Rodriguez again did a fine time trial in the Basque Country as he was just 12 seconds slower in fifth.


Pinot was 48 seconds behind Quintana at the top of the climb but did a fine descent to slot into fourth with a time loss of 1.04. Meanwhile, everybody was eagerly awaiting Contador’s arrival as the Spaniard had been clearly the fastest at the time check. A cautious descent meant that he lost some ground but he took the lead with a 5-second advantage over Quintana.


Contador still had to wait for Henao to arrive and after the Sky leader had been 46 seconds behind at the time check, it became much closer at the finish. In the end, however, he had to settle for third on the stage with a time loss of 18 seconds and so slipped to second in the standings.



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