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Part of a 5-rider breakaway, Lindeman took the biggest win of his career in the first mountain stage of the Vuelta a Espana; Aru won the GC battle while Froome lost time and Chaves defended the lead

Photo: LottoNL-Jumbo










28.08.2015 @ 18:34 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Bert-Jan Lindeman became a hugely surprising winner of the first mountain stage of the Vuelta a Espana when he turned out to be the strongest from a five-rider break that exploited a long lull in the peloton to decide the win on the Alto de Capileira. The Dutchman dropped Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) and Jerome Cousin (Europcar) inside the final kilometre while Fabio Aru (Astana) rode away from the group of favourites and Chris Froome (Sky) lost 27 seconds to his main rivals. Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) rode strongly to sixth on the stage and defended his lead.


Going into the Vuelta a Espana, LottoNL-Jumbo didn’t get much attention. The Dutch team had lost captain Laurens Ten Dam due to a training crash and with a team mostly made up of big guys, they were not given many chances on a very mountainous course.


However, the lack of a leader gave some of the domestiques the chance to go for glory. One of them was Bert-Jan Lindeman who immediately showed his intentions. Before today’s first mountain stage, he had already been on the attack twice and today he made it again when five riders got clear in the early part of the stage.


Despite being up against renowned climber Amets Txurruka, Lindeman refused to give up. He was dropped a couple of time in the finale but with a steady pace he always made it back to the front before he made a decisive acceleration with 200m to go to take a surprise victory on the Alto de Capileira.


Lindeman was joined by Txurruka, Jerome Cousin, Ilya Koshevoy and Carlos Quintero (Colombia) in the five-rider break that escaped after 12km of racing. At one point, they had an advantage of 13.10 as no teams wanted to take control but finally Astana and later Movistar and Katusha upped the pace. Nonetheless, the gap was still 5.50 when they hit the 19km climb.


The climb was split in two parts with a flat middle section and the escapees worked well together in the first part while Movistar were chasing behind. It was Francisco Ventoso and Imanol Erviti who did the early work but quickly it was left to Jose Joaquin Rojas to lead the exploding group.


Very quickly, only 50 riders were left in the main group and for a long time nothing really happened as Javier Moreno was just setting a steady pace for Movistar. The gap was slowly coming down and was only 4.20 when the riders entered the final 15km.


Moreno brought the gap down to 3.45 before he swung of with 12km to go. Andrey Amador took over but suddenly Alejandro Valverde moved up and asked his teammate to stop his work. Immediately, Luis Leon Sanchez took over for Astana and as Dario Cataldo also came to the fore, the pair wored together to slowly bring the break back.


As they hit the second part of the climb, the gap was only 3.00 and the front group was still working together. It changed with 7km to go when Koshevoy made the first move before Cousin gave it a try.


Cousin looked like the strongest rider and when he tried again, he got an immediate gap. Txurruka and Lindeman rejoined him while Quintero was dropped for good. A suffering Koshevoy was behind for a while but made it back with 6km to when the gap was only 2.30 and Cataldo had swung off.


Surprisingly, Koshevoy was the next to attack and he got an immediate gap. He was back by Txurruka but when he went again, he got clear.


Meanwhile, Sanchez swung off in the peloton and left it to his teammate Diego Rosa to lead the 40-rider group. However, the gap was no longer coming down as Koshevoy was riding strongly on the front.


Cousin managed to rejoin the Belarusian and this meant that the pace went down as there was no cooperation. This allowed Lindeman to rejoin the group which was 2.10 ahead with 3km to go. Meanwhile, Rosa had swung off and it was now Giovanni Visconti setting the pace for Movistar


Cousin was the next to give it a try and he seemed to ride away with the stage win when he got a small gap. However, Lindeman managed to accelerate back to the Frenchman, dropping Koshevoy in the process.


Cousin tried to get rid of Lindeman but it was impossible and so the front trio came back together as they passed the flamme rouge. Here the game of cat and mouse started and this was costly for Cousin. While looking back he hit Koshevoy’s wheel and so hit the ground, leaving just two riders to decide the stage.


Koshevoy accelerated hard but Lindeman stayed glued to his wheel. When the Belarusian stopped his accelerated, the Dutchman countered and as Koshevoy had no response, he rode away with the win.


Behind the GC battle was on as Jesper Hansen had taken over the pace-setting for Tinkoff-Saxo. The Dane made the group explode to pieces and the gap melt away. He brought Quintero back and continued to ride hard until Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) made the first attack.


Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) quickly shut it down but the accelerated was too much for Chris Froome (Sky) who lost contact alongside the likes of Mikel Landa (Astana) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC). Meanwhile, Fabio Aru made counterattack and no one responded to the Italian.


Mikel Nieve started to chase for Sky before Majka got clear with a strong attack. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was the next to try but he was closely marked by Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka).


Meintjes continued to ride strongly on the front until Chaves made his final surge. He passed Txurruka in the process and caught Majka on the line. However, he was unable to bring Aru back who passed Cousin to take third with a time gain of 7 seconds in addition to four bonus seconds. Froome tried to limit his losses but his group lost 27 seconds to the rest of the favourites.


With a sixth place on the stage, Chaves defended his 10-second lead over Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) who rode well to stay with the favourites. He should get an easier day tomorrow when the riders face a long, mostly downhill run to Murcia. In the end, they will do two laps on a circuit with a category 2 climb, meaning that it could be a day both for a reduced bunch sprint and a breakaway.


The first mountain stage

After yesterday’s stage for puncheurs, it was finally time for the first big mountaintop finish in the Vuelta a Espana. Stage 7 brought the riders over 191.1km from Jodar to La Alpujarra in mostly flat terrain, with just a single category 3 climb at the midpoint. However, it all came to a dramatic conclusion in the finale when the riders tackled the category 1 Alto de Capileira that averaged 5% over 18.7km.


Like yesterday it was extremely hot when the riders gathered for the start. All riders who finished yesterday’s stage were present as they rolled out for their neutral ride where Vasil Kiryienkas (Sky) and Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) both hit the ground.


The break gets clear

Caja Rural attacked as soon as the flag was dropped but it was not easy to get clear. A seven-rider break formed an interesting move but after they had been joined by another four riders, Movistar shut it down.


After 12km of racing, Carlos Quintero (Colombia), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Jerome Cousin (Europcar), Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (LottoNL-Jumbo) got clear and as the peloton slowed down, they already had an advantage of 2.14 after 16km of racing. At the 20km mark, it was 4.20 and it went out to 8.20 before Orica-GreenEDGE slowly started to ride in the peloton


Orica-GreenEDGE on the front

However, the Australian team were not really chasing so the gap was 8.45 when they passed the 38km mark and 9.41 after 61km of racing. Hence, there was no stress for Marcel Aregger (IAM) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) when they went to the medical car.


At the bottom of the first climb, Orica-GreenEDGE had allowed to gap to go out to 10.37 and when Txurruka beat Lindeman and Koshevoy in the KOM sprint, it was a massive 12.07. With not one lending Orica-GreenEDGE a hand, it had gone out to 13.10 when the peloton entered the final 80km.


Astana start to chase

Finally, Astana showed some initiative when they put Andrey Zeits on the front with 65km to go and he slowly started to bring the break back. With 57km to go, the gap was 11.10 and it was down to 10 minutes 5km later.


However, the situation stabilized and the gap was constant for more than 10km before The Kazakh suddenly stopped his work with 41km to go. Sky were next in line but they didn’t want to work so they quickly disappeared.


Movistar take control

For a little while, Ventoso rode slowly on the front for Movistar until the Spanish team decided to go for the win. Rory Sutherland started to chase hard and with 33km to go, he had brought the gap down to 8.35


Lindeman accelerated to beat Txurruka and Cousin in the intermediate sprint while a small crash in the peloton brought down Olivier Le Gac (FDJ) with 30km to go. Here Gatis Smukulis started to work for Katusha and the gap was down to 7 minutes with 25km to go.


The fight for position had started while Sutherland and Smukulis continued to set the pace. As the road started to rise, Ventoso took over and while the peloton exploded, the scene was set for the exciting finale.



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