Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) claimed one of the biggest victories of his career when he benefited from the tactical battle between the favourites to build a big advantage in the queen stage of the Vuelta a Burgos. While the Spaniard soloed to victory, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) launched a big attack to take second place which was enough to win the race overall with a tiny 1-second advantage over Ben Hermans (BMC) and Pardilla.
In 2010, Sergio Pardilla emerged as one of the biggest Spanish climbing talents when he won the Vuelta A La Madrid overall and finished second in the Tour of Austria. However, his progress stalled and he never fulfilled the lofty promises he showed in the early part of his career.
One year ago, Pardilla was set further back when he was involved in the big crash at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and it even looked like his career was over. However, the Spaniard refused to give up and during the last few months, he has slowly returned to form. Earlier this year he finished second overall in the Vuelta Asturias behind teammate Hugh Carthy and this showed that he is back on track.
Today Pardilla showed that he is maybe better than ever as he approached his big goal at the Vuelta a Espana. The Spaniard took the biggest win of his career as he soloed to victory in the traditional Lagunas De Neila queen stage at the warm-up race Vuelta a Burgos.
Pardilla made it into a select group of favourites on the final climb and then showed great tactical skills by launching a strong attack at a time when all the favourites were left isolated. While the main contenders watched each other, he got an advantage of 50 seconds as he went under the flamme rouge.
Further back, Ben Hermans made a big attack and only Alberto Contador could follow the strong Belgian. When the BMC rider started to fade, the Spaniard went full gas and from there a thrilling pursuit ensued.
Pardilla and Contador both dug deep and the gap came down quickly. With the Caja Rural rider having started the stage with an 18-second advantage, it was evident that it would be a very close battle.
Pardilla crossed the line for a solo win before Contador sprinted to the line 17 seconds later. Hermans who had started the stage with a 4-second advantage over Contador arrived just five seconds later and so Contador got an important confidence boost for the Vuelta by taking a narrow victory in one of the only Spanish stage races that he hasn’t won yet. Hermans and Pardilla were both 1 seconds behind the Tinkoff star in a very close GC.
After four days in relatively flat terrain, it was time for the queen stage. The 163km between Caleruega and Lagunas De Neila followed the traditional pattern as a mostly flat first half with just two small category 3 climbs led to the difficult second half. Here the category 2 climb of Alto del Gargardero served as a warm-up before the riders got to the finishing circuit. They first tackled the category 2 climb of Alto del Collado before they got to the final climb for the first time. This time they did not all the way to the top and instead they started a descent with 30km to go before tackling the Alto del Collado for the second time. At the top, only 11km remained and they consisted of a short descent and the final 7.8km climb which averaged 8.76%. The first three kilometres weren’t that hard but then the climb got really difficult. The third last kilometre averaged 9.7%, the penultimate kilometre was the steepest at 11.9% and then it eased off a bit in the end as the final kilometre was ‘only’ uphill at 7.5%.
It was again a hot and windy day when the riders gathered for the queen stage, and like in previous stages, it was a brutally fast start. Unfortunately, there was an early crash which forced Sebastien Chavanel (FDJ) to abandon. After 12km of racing, a big 21-rider group got a gap of 14 seconds, but it was obviously too dangerous and so it was back together just five kilometers later. Along the way, Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) beat Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) and Cedric Pineau (FDJ) in the first intermediate sprint.
No one had escaped on the first climb where Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar) won the KOM sprint ahead of Daniel Oss (BMC), Jochem Hoekstra (Giant-Alpecin) and Ivan Rovny (Tinkoff). The peloton was also still together at thesecond intermediate sprint which was won by Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini) ahead of Eneko Lizarralde (Euskadi) and Pablo Torres (Burgos).
After an hour during which the riders covered 47km, the break was not yet established. Moments later, a group with Rojas got a gap of 15 seconds, but it did not suit Tinkoff who chased extremely hard for several kilometers until things were again back together. At that point, Marc Fournier (FDJ) left the race.
Finally, the break was formed when Jonathan Restrepo (Katusha), Cedric Pineau (FDJ), Giacomo Berlato (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Omar Fraile (Dimension Data), Reinier Honig (Roompot) and Ibai Salas (Burgos) got clear before the final intermediate which was won by Berlato ahead of Honig and Pineau. The peloton crossed the line at the 60km mark 1.18 later. On the second climb just six kilometers later, Restrepo beat Fraile, Salas and Berlato in the KOM sprint while the bunch was now 2.33 behind.
After 75km of racing the gap had gone out to 2.46, but it was as much as they would get. Etixx-QucikStep took control in the peloton and kept the gap between 2 and 3 minutes. When Artem Ovechkin (Gazprom-RusVelo) left the race at the 100km mark, it was still 2.42.
Salas beat Fraile, Restrepo, Berlato, Pineau and Honig in the third KOM sprint before the peloton reached the top 2.48 later. Chad Haga (Giant-Alpecin) managed to bridge the gap as they headed down the descent to make it a septet. Meanwhile, Genki Yamamoto (Nippo-Vini Fantini) abandoned.
Sky took control of the chase as they lined out their entire team on the front and it was Xabier Zandio who did the early work. He set a fast pace and after the gap had briefly reached three minutes, he had reduced it to 1.45 when they hit Alto del Collado for the first time.
Fraile made a small attack to win the KOM sprint and then dropped back to the break as they headed down the descent. Further back, Loc Vliegen (BMC) made a solo attack as he tried to bridge across to the front group. While he pressed on, Movistar briefly upped the pace near the top of the climb but it was a big group that reached the top 1.30 behind the leaders.
As they hit the final climb for the first time, Sky were back in control and they didn’t react when Jose Herrada (Movistar) attacked. He quickly bridged the gap to Vliegen who was just a few seconds ahead of the peloton. He quickly left the Belgian behind and pressed on in a solo move.
Behind Herrada, there were lots of attack as Cannondale, Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep were all active but it was Michele Scarponi (Astana) who bridged across to Herrada. Sky tried to control things but it was Etixx-QuickStep that hit the front to keep the Scarponi duo under control. Meanwhile, Fraile split the front group and only Fraile could keep up with the strong Spaniard.
While Fraile and Salas tried to keep the break alive, Scarponi dropped Herrada who was passed by Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep) and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar). They passed the chasers who were brought back and then the trio found together 20 seconds behind the front duo.
The trio caught the leaders before the top and Salas was dropped almost immediately. Further back, Sky were leading the chase with Ian Boswell, keeping the gap at 30 seconds.
Fraile accelerated to win the KOM sprint and this sent Scarponi out the back door but the Italian managed to rejoin the group on the descent. Boswell led the peloton to the top 30 seconds later, bringing Salas back just as they crossed the line.
Fraile sat up on the descent where Visconti, Brambilla and Scarponi increased the gap to 1.05. Meanwhile, Tinkoff joined forces with Sky in the peloton and the two teams worked together to keep the situation under control.
As they hit the Alto del Collado for the second time, Orica-BikeExchange joined forces with Sky and Movistar and they started to bring the gap down. David Lopez (Sky), Amets Txurruka (Orica-BikeExchange) and Yury Trofimov (Tinkoff) worked well together to reduce the gap to just 30 seconds as they hit the final 12km. This forced Visconti to up the pace and he immediately left Scarponi behind. The Italian was soon brought back but with 10.3km to go, it was also over for Brambilla and Visconti.
With Visconti back in the fold, Movistar put Jose Joaquin Rojas on the front and he didn’t respond when Lluis Mas (Caja Rural) launched a solo attack. The Caja Rural rider was the first rider at the top and then pressed on as he headed down the descent.
Mas hit the final climb with a minimal advantage but he was soon brought back as Movistar were going full gas. Javier Moreno set the pace and he made the peloton explode to pieces.
Gorka Izagirre took over and he quickly neutralized an attack from Brambilla. Mas tried again but Izagirre quickly reeled him in and then continued to ride on the front.
Brambilla attacked again and this time he got a small advantage. Izagirre still led the pace and this created a a big selection as Dario Cataldo (Astana), Samuel Sanchez (BMC), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) and Matvey Mamykin /Katusha) were among the riders to be dropped.
Izagirre slowly reeled Brambilla in and led the small group into the final 5km. At this point, only Izagirre, Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Brambilla, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExhange), Igor Anton (Dimension Data), Ben Hermans (BMC), Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural) and Peter Kennaugh (Sky) had survived.
Pardilla launched a solo attack and while he rode away, Izagirre ended his day. That left everybody without teammates and so the strong Caja Rural rider could benefit from the tactical battle to build an advantage of 20 seconds.
Kennaugh and Brambilla did most of the work in the small group but they were 30 seconds behind with 3.5km to go. The slow pace allowed Mamykin, Pozzovivo and Izagirre to rejoin the group and Pardilla to extend his advantage to 40 seconds.
Izagirre went straight to the front but he was unable to reduce the gap which was 50 seconds with 2km to go. Here Brambilla upped the pace and finally the gap started to come down as Izagirre was again dropped.
Brambilla didn’t get any help and so Pardilla hit the final kilometre with an advantage of 50 seconds. As they passed the flamme rouge, Hermans made a big attack and initially only Contador, Yates and Fernandez could follow. The latter two were soon dropped but Contador stayed glued to the Belgian’s wheel.
With 500m to go, Contador made an attack and he immediately rode away from Hermans. The Spaniard went full gas in an attempt to reduce his losses and secure the overall win.
Pardilla dug deep and managed to cross the line for a solo win. Contador sprinted to the top 17 seconds later, 5 seconds ahead of Hermans. The rest of the favourites rolled in one by one, with Yates and Anton completing the podium.
Pardilla gained enough time to take the overall victory with a 3-second advantage over Contador while Hermans was 3 seconds further adrift in third. Fraile won the mountains classification and Danny Van Poppel (Sky) took the points jersey. Eneko Lizarralde (Euskadi) took the victory in the sprints competition and Mamykin was the best young rider. Movistar won the teams classification.
With the Vuelta a Burgos done and dusted, the attention in Spain will turn to the biggest race of the year, the Vuelta a Espana, which starts in exactly two weeks.
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