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After joining forces with the Quintana brothers, Lopez won the 3-rider sprint in the big summit finish on the Tour de San Luis queen stage; Dayer Quintana took the overall lead on the eve of the final sprint stage

Photo: Sirotti

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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DAYER QUINTANA

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MIGUEL ANGEL LOPEZ

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NAIRO QUINTANA

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TOUR DE SAN LUIS

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23.01.2016 @ 22:50 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) confirmed his status as one of the future climbing stars when he conquered the Tour de San Luis queen stage after a Colombian showdown. Having joined forces with the Quintana brothers to drop overall leader Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) on the final climb, he beat his two companions in the 3-rider sprint while third place was enough for Dayer Quintana (Movistar) to take the overall lead with just one sprint stage to go.

 

In 2014 Miguel Angel Lopez won the Tour de l’Avenir and proved that a new great Colombian climber was born. Astana were quick to offer him a contract and he soon confirmed that the Kazakhs had seen right.

 

Despite being hampered by knee problems in his first year at the pro level, Lopez won a stage in the Vuelta a Burgos and finished in the top 10 in the Tour de Suisse. The Colombian has done nothing to hide that he wants to improve significantly in 2016 when he is set to make his Vuelta debut, and today he got the year off to a perfect start.

 

Already in the first mountain stage two days ago, Lopez had been the best of the riders in the group of favourites when he beat Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) in an uphill sprint. Today he was again the strongest as he came out on top in the queen stage.

 

The early part of the stage had been dominated by a 3-rider break of Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Juan P. Magallanes (Mexico) and Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida)  who had at one point had an advantage of more than 7 minutes. As the riders hit the final climb with 17km to go, the three escapees only had 3 minutes left and the climbing took its toll. With 15km to go, the advantage was 2.10 and they lost another 40 seconds during the next two kilometres.

 

Surprisingly, it was the local San Luis team that was doing the damage and whittling down the peloton on the steep slopes. They had brought the gap down to 55 seconds as they hit the final 10km.

 

The attacking started when Alfredo Lucero (San Luis), Richard Carapaz (Strongman) and Cesar Rojas (Costa Rica) attacked and they soon bridged the gap to Grosu who was now the lone survivor from the break. However, that quartet didn’t survive for long and it was soon back together.

 

Astana and Movistar were setting the pace and created a big selection. However, the strong headwind made the climb less selection and when they entered the final 7km, key riders ole Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Dayer and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Daniel Diaz (Delko Marseille), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Rodolfo Torres (Androni) were still there.

 

Torres was the first pre-race favourite to make a move when he attacked alongside Josue Gonzalez (Costa Rica). He quickly dropped his companion and started a big solo rode.

 

Two riders took off in pursuit and were followed by another 5 riders as they entered the final 2km. Another two bridged the gap and it was a 5-rider group with Torres, Lopez, Sepulveda and the Quintana brothers that gathered. At this point, Nibali was 30 seconds behind.

 

Nairo Quintana set a brutal pace that left both Torres and Sepulveda behind while Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) joined the two South Americans. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) approached from behind, followed by Nibali.

 

Nairo continued to ride on the front, working for his brother who had a big chance to take the overall lead. As they entered the final kilometre, Quintana rose from the saddle but it was Lopez who launched the sprint. None of the Quintanas had any response and the Astana rider had time to celebrate the win before Nairo and Dayer crossed the line in that order, losing 2 and 4 seconds respectively. Koshevoy and Sepulveda were next with a time loss of 23 seconds, followed by Torres at 41 seconds and Majka and Nibali at 58 seconds.

 

Dayer had started the stage just 3 seconds behind Sepulveda and so his time gains were enough to move him into the overall lead with a 20-second advantage over Sepulveda and 35 seconds on his brother, with Lopez in fourth at 38 seconds. He now just needs to get safely through the short final stage which includes an early category 3 climb but mostly takes place on a mainly flat circuit in San Luis where the sprinters are expected to shine.

 

The queen stage

After yesterday’s dramatic sprint stage, it was back into the mountains on the queen stage which brought the riders over 159.5km from La Toma to a summit finish at Filo de la Sierra de Comechingones, the highest point in the area at 2140m above sea level. The first 140km were almost completely flat but from there it was uphill all the way to the finish, with the final climb being split into three: an early category 3 climb 13.1km from the finish, a category 1 KOM sprint at the previous finish at Miradol del Sol 7.5km from the finish and the final category 1 ascent to the finish. Overall it was a 16km climb with an average gradient of 7.8%.

 

It was another very hot day in Argentina when the riders headed out for their final ride in the mountains and it was another fast start with lots of attacks. Ultimately, three riders managed to escape when Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Juan P. Magallanes (Mexico) and Matej Mohoric (Lampre-Merida) attacked and they quickly got an advantage of more than 5 minutes

 

A big gap

Grosu beat Magallanes and Mohoric in the first intermediate sprint at the 47km mark when the gap was still around 5 minutes but the peloton was not chasing yet. It was still 5.30 with 82km to go but it had gone out to 7.30 just 12km later.

 

The gap stabilized slightly but it was still a massive 7.45 when the riders entered the final 60km. That’s when the peloton finally started to accelerate slightly and they took back 45 seconds during the next 5km. Meanwhile, Grosu beat Magallanes and Mohoric in the final intermediate sprint

 

With 42km to go, the peloton had accelerated significantly and brought the gap down to 6.05 and just 5km later, it was already down to 5.10. With 25km to go, it was only 5.20 and it dropped below the four-minute mark as they entered the final 22km. Here Grosu beat Magallanes and Mohoric in the first KOM sprint. Moments later they hit the final climb where the dramatic action unfolded.

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