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On a relaxed day at the Vuelta a Espana, Conti took his first grand tour stage win with a strong solo attack from a 12-rider break that got an advantage of more thaN 30 minutes; Quintana retained the lead.

Photo: Sirotti














02.09.2016 @ 18:30 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) confirmed that he is one of the most exciting Italian talents when he claimed his first grand tour stage win on stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana. On a day when the peloton took it easy and allowed the break to gain more than 30 minutes, the Italian attacked his companions in a 12-rider group and then soloed to victory, crossing the line almost a minute ahead of Danilo Wyss (BMC) and Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) who led the chasers home. The peloton rolled steadily to the finish and so Nairo Quintana (Movistar) retained the lead.


In 2014, Lampre-Merida signed Italian neo-pro Valerio Conti but the signing didn’t get much attention. However, it didn’t take long for him to prove that he is destined for a great future as he took his first pro win already in his first year at the late-season classic GP Bruno Beghelli.


Known as a punchy climber with a fast sprint, Conti was very inconsistent in his first year on the pro scene but occasionally he showed his potential. He won a stage in the 2015 Tour of Japan but it was in 2016 that he really showed his true value.


In his third grand tour at the Giro d’Italia, Conti was absolutely flying in the third week and he carried his good form into the Dauphiné where he was close to a stage win. That created some lofty expectations for the Vuelta a Espana but the Italian had a hard time in the first part of the race. He failed to make much of an impression when he first hit the right break and had shown little sign of progress in the previous stages.


Today, however, he bounced back in the most impressive way as he claimed his first WorldTour win on stage 13 of the race. Having made it into a 12-rider breakaway that got an advantage of more than 20 minutes, he turned out to be in a class of his own and soloed to the finish almost one minute ahead of his nearest chasers.


Conti made it into the group that escaped after less than 20km of racing and as they quickly got an advantage of more than 10 minutes, it became clear that it would be a day for a breakaway. That made it an uneventful affair as the peloton just rode slowly to the finish, losing more than 30 minutes, until the fight for the stage win started. Conti first made it into the front group when six riders escaped and then attacked on a hard climb a few kilometres later before putting almost a minute into his chasers.


The lumpy stage ended with one lap of 31km finishing circuit which Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant - Alpecin), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Etixx - Quick Step), Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling), Valerio Conti (Lampre - Merida), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon18) and Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) hit with an advantage of almost 25 minutes. With a little less than 30km to go, the fight for the stage win started when Rossetto launched an unsuccessful move. Wallays countered and while he got an immediate gap, Gogl and Rossetto gave chase. The Austrian dropped his companion and then made it across to the leader.


Gogl and Wallays hit the final 25km with an advantage of 10 seconds but the chasers worked well together. When the gap was down to 5 seconds, Laengen and Wyss tried to bridge across but the only effect was that the group came back together.


Wyss and Conti made the next move before Laengen gave it a go. Conti, Wyss and Gogl joined him and as they went up a small climb, that quartet got a small advantage. At the same time, Smukulis was dropped.


Lampaert made a big effort to bridge the gap to the four leaders and then Lagutin also made the junction to make it six riders in the lead. The chase group split up as Wallays, Cardis and Benedetti were also left behind.


As the front sextet hit the next small climb, Conti countered a move from Wyss and he immediately dropped his rivals. Impressively, he managed to build an advantage of 30 seconds before he reached the top.


The chasers were not working well together and so Conti managed to increase his advantage to 45 seconds as he hit the final 10km. He started to lose a bit of ground but things were looking promising when he still had 40 seconds with 8km to go. Meanwhile, the peloton was still riding steadily 23.50 behind the lone Italian.


Conti showed that he was the best climber and on a small ascent with 6km to go, he pushed his advantage out to almost a minute. Further back, Lampaert was unable to keep up with the chasers when Wyss gave it one final try to make it back to the front.


Conti maintained his speed all the way to the finish and then sprinted up the finishing straight before celebrating his biggest win. Further back, Lampaert rejoined the chasers and made an immediate counterattack in an attempt to take second. He dug deep but was passed just metres from the line as Wyss beat Lagutin in the sprint for the runner-up spot. The rest of the original break arrived just a few seconds later. Erviti and Sutherland marshalled the peloton safely to the finish before Alejandro Valverde won a small Movistar sprint 33.54 after Conti had crossed the line,


Nairo Quintana finished safely and so retained hi lead of 54 seconds over Chris Froome (Sky) but he will get a much harder day tomorrow which is the day of the queen stage. After 40 flat kilometres, the riders will hit the first category 1 climb and then they face the mighty Col de Doudet and Col du Marie Blanque before they get to the bottom of the mythical Col d’Aubisque which hosts the uphill finish. The climb averages 7.1% over 16.5km and is set to produce a major shake-up of the overall classification.


A lumpy stage

After yesterday’s tough stage, the riders faced another tricky stage in the Basque Country. The 213.4km course brought them from Bilbao to Urdax-Dantxarinea and was far from flat. A relatively easy start led to four category 3 climbs that came in quick succession in the middle section. The final top came with 50km to go and then the riders ended the race by doing one lap of a very lumpy 31km finishing circuit that had several small climbs and very little flat roads.


The 171 riders who reached the finish yesterday, were all present when the field gathered in Bilbao under a sunny sky and in very hot conditions. With the prospect of breakaway success, it was clear that it would be a fast start but just like in the previous stages it was very difficult to get clear. The first riders to get a bigger gap were Silvan Dillier (BMC), Tiago Machado (Katusha) and Romain Sicard (Direct Energie) who got clear at the 12km mark but after being joinedby another 11 riders. They were borught back at the 15km mark.


12 riders get clear

Four kilometers later, a dangerous 12-rider group got clear. Michael Gogl (Tinkoff), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Gatis Smukulis (Astana), Tom Stamsnijder (Giant - Alpecin), Sergey Lagutin (Katusha), Jelle Wallays (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Etixx - Quick Step), Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling), Valerio Conti (Lampre - Merida), Stéphane Rossetto (Cofidis), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon18) g Romain Cardis (Direct Energie) worked hard to make a decisive difference but it was not easy. FDJ and Trek had missed the brek, and therefore it was a tough battle. After 22km of racing, they were just the 11 seconds ahead, at the 24km mark it was 17 seconds, but when the two chasing teams gave up, the escapees managed to create a decisive gap. After 29km of racing, there were 1.10 ahead and the lead had grown to 2.40 just three kilometers later.


Movistar sent Rory Sutherland and Imanol Erviti to the front, and they set a steady pace, which did not give much stress. The gap continued to grow rapidly: it was 4.40 after 35km, 5.50 after 41km, 9.37 after 57km, 12.30 after 64km and a massive 14.37 after 74km. After two hours at an average speed of 43.2 km/h, the break was 15.44 ahead of the peloton.


KOM points for Lagutin

The break hit the first climb with a gap of 16.42, and the advantage had grown to 18.15 when Lagutin beat Stamsnijder and Smukulis in the battle for the KOM points. A little later, Cardis won the intermediate sprint ahead of Benedetti and Laengen before Erviti and Sutherland led the field over the line 18 minutes later.


After three hours, the average speed had dropped to 40.7km/h as the escapees started to ease off, knowing that they would decide the stage. The break went through the feed zone with an advantage of 19.20 and 90km still to ride.-


Steady pace from Movistar

The escapees hit the second climb with an advantage of 20 minutes and they slowly made their way to the top where Lagutin led Rossetto and Laengen across the line in the KOM sprint. For the first time, the gap came down a bit as the peloton reached the top 19.30 later.


Not much happened as Erviti and Sutherland kept the gap stable on the third climb where Lagutin led Rossetto and Wallays over the top. While the peloton made its way to the top, they slowly reduced the gap to 19 minutes and there was even some help for Sutherland and Eviti as their Movistar teammate Jose Joaquin Rojas took a few turns.


Lagutin takes the mountains jersey

As the escapees hit the fourth climb, Smukulis briefly tested his rivals but the group came back together immediately. Instead, they worked well together to get to the top where Lagutin took the mountains jersey by beating Cardis and Conti in the KOM sprint. At the same time, Zico Waeytens abandoned the race.


Erviti and Sutherland were back in control of the peloton and led the bunch to the top 19.25 later. Meanwhile, the escapees started to prepare for the finale.


Smukulis again tested his companions with two small accelerations on a small climb and Rossetto was briefly dropped. However, the group was back together as they started the final circuit with an advantage of 21 minutes. Moments later, the first attack was launched and the fight for the stage win started.



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