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"I was looking at Sanchez and Valverde but I can tell you I'm not slow and I knew that if I went over that hill, there would not be many sprinters left and I would have my chance."

Photo: Sirotti


01.09.2016 @ 22:23 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Reactions from stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana


Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange) took his first grand tour stage win when he came out on top in a reduced bunch sprint on stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana. In a fast and aggressive race, the Belgian dug deep to make it over the steep Alto El Vivero and then launched a long sprint to clearly beat Maxime Bouet (Etixx-QuickStep) and Fabio Felline (Trek) in the final dash to the line. Despite an attack from Alebrto Contador (Tinkoff), there were no changed to the top of the GC and so Nairo Quintana (Movistar) retained the red jersey.


We have gathered a few reactions.


Jens Keukeleire: I can tell you that I am fast

Tour of Slovenia stage winner Jens Keukeleire finished off a perfect day to take a sprint victory on stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana today, hitting out early to finish well clear of the reduced bunch.


ORICA-BikeExchange hit the finale in numbers and a great team performance was brought home by 26-year-old Keukeleire after Briton Simon Yates covered late moves and Australian Damien Howson executed the lead out.


“The first thing I thought about (after crossing the line) was my girlfriend and my son who are here today,” said Keukeleire. “It has only been a month since I became a father for the first time and they’ve been here the last couple of days, so to get my first GrandTour win in front of them is amazing.


”I’ve been feeling pretty good for the last couple of days and we knew that today was going to be a hard stage and we decided this morning if I was still there in the finale we could go for it.


“I am really happy that the team gives me this opportunity because understandably when you have guys in good positions on the general classification it’s not easy to give everyone a chance and I’m very grateful.


“The first time over the climb (within the finishing laps) I was on my limit and thought I would never make it over again, but I felt a lot better the second time. It’s amazing and I’m very happy that I was able to finish off the work of the team.


“It's beautiful, as you say. My first victory in a Grand Tour, it's even more special because I did it in front of my family. I became a dad about a month ago. They were there the last three days. It's really beautiful.


“We didn't really commit after that last climb to make everything for a bunch sprint. We said at the briefing in the morning that if I was still there, I should give it a crack but we should not sacrifice the team for a bunch sprint. I'm very happy we eventually did. It was not up to us to control the race.


“It was my main job to look after Simon today. One day it's Esteban, one day it's Simon. I had to stay around in case he was in trouble. When we did that final climb the first time, I was really on the limit and really not convinced I could get over it. We were right at the back with Simon and it was normal that I brought him to the front. In the end it was good for me because I felt much better the second time and it went OK.


“When we passed the line the first time, I noticed there was a bit of headwind. But I went early because I didn't want to get boxed in. I was confident I was one of the faster riders left in the bunch. I was looking at Sanchez and Valverde but I can tell you I'm not slow and I knew that if I went over that hill, there would not be many sprinters left and I would have my chance.


“It's a bit of a coincidence. As I said I was told in the morning that I could have a go. But we don't have a lot of chances like that. Mind you last year we did the same with Caleb Ewan where just targeted one stage and it worked. I'm not going to say I targeted that stage but it was the first time I had that freedom and to finish if off is even more special.


“A first Grand Tour stage win is always a big step you take in a career and this will be the same. It's just not easy to win a race. I've had this question a lot. I won a few races when I started but it's not like it all went dizzy afterwards. Every year I took it step by step. The races I won early on were national races. Then every year I've been doing Pro Tour races. Only very good riders win immediately at that level. It takes time. For me it took some time. I'm really happy I've done it this year.”


Colombian general classification contender Esteban Chaves remains in fourth overall with stage six winner Yates also finishing at the front and retaining seventh place going in to tomorrow’s stage 13.


Sport director Neil Stephens was delighted with the win and praised the selfless work and attitude of the team.


“It was a really special outcome today,” said Stephens. “In the team meeting this morning we said that our main goal is obviously the general classification.


”Everyone has noticed that Jens (Keukeleire) has been recovering well and going about his work with relative ease and we all agreed that if it came to a reduced bunch then Jens should go for it.


“In a way, we went one step further because everyone rallied around Jens in the finale to help him pull off the win. It was a great win for the workers and a great win for the team all round.


”I think Jens felt honoured that his teammates recognised the fact that he was going well and the stage suited him and the victory is maybe a way to repay that confidence. Everyone felt a special feeling with the result today, every win is special but this one even more so.


”The stage was pretty difficult and again, thanks to the team, Esteban (Chaves) and Simon (Yates) made it through without issue and we are maintaining our good positions on the overall.”


Maxime Bouet after second place: I rode the race of my life

On the first of the four mountain passes, Gianluca Brambilla slipped away together with six other riders. On paper, it should have been a stage for the escapees, but the advantage didn't exceed three minutes as some teams were keen of fighting for the win in Bilbao and as a result pulled hard behind the leaders, who waved the flag at the foot of the last climb, Alto El Vivero (4.2 kilometers, 8.5%), despite Brambilla’s efforts of keeping the chasers at bay.


Maxime Bouet, who protected David De La Cruz (9th in the GC) on the ascent, got involved in the sprint and finished runner-up, just behind Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange), for his first career podium in the Vuelta a España. It was for the 16th time this season that an Etixx – Quick-Step rider came in the top 3 of a GT stage, half of these results being victories, which makes the team the most successful of the year in terms of Grand Tour victories.


"On one hand, I have a bitter feeling, because I came so close, but on the other hand I am content, as I put in a good ride and had strong legs. Astana made the stage really difficult, but I stayed in the bunch on the climbs, knowing I might have a chance in the finale. I launched my sprint with around 250 meters left, did the best I could, but Jens was stronger today", said Maxime Bouet, who vowed to try again until the end of the race. "Last year, in stage 12, I was caught by the pack with 200 meters to go; now, on the same stage 12, I finished second. It's not bad to be on the podium of a World Tour race, but you can be sure that I'll not stop here and go for other strong results in the stages which are yet to come.


"There was a stronger rider than me, that's all. I think I rode the finale of my life. In the last climb I was OK but during the stage I was often on the limit. Everybody is tired. Such a shame to finish second. Last year in a Vuelta stage I was caught with 200 metres to go and this time I'm so close. I started the sprint with 300 metres to go because nobody had already gone.


”The problem is that I didn't believe in myself. I'm going for a podium, not for a win. It's silly because I'm convinced I could win. I make mistakes because I don't believe in myself enough. Today I proved to some people I could do well on sheer strength, not only in breakaways. I can't wait for next year."


Gianluca Brambilla: It was a day of fatigue for nothing

Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step) said:


“I wanted to get in the break, I thought that today was the good day to go to the finish, but Movistar controlled the race, so actually it was another day of fatigue for nothing. Let’s see, we will have other stages”


Hugely disappointed Fabio Felline: I am really good

After incredible work from Haimar Zubeldia to close the gaps in the final kilometers, a vastly reduced bunch sprinted for the win in stage 12. It was a great opportunity for Fabio Felline, who on paper had the fastest legs from the 42 riders that arrived at the line together, but sprinting is a fickle game.


"Honestly, I don't have words," said an extremely disappointed Felline, who finished in third place. "I fought a lot today. I was again so close to victory, and in the last 50 meters I felt really powerful for the victory. I passed two guys in the last meters after I had been blocked.


"I am really good, I think, at 300 meters, but Chaves was in the wheel of the winner, and when I tried to go on the right side to start the sprint, he closed me. I felt good, but I didn't have room to move. The sprints are like this."


It was another fierce fight to be in the breakaway in the 193-kilometer race that ended in Bilbao, the de facto capital of Basque Country, and after numerous moves were neutralized a dangerous seven-man group broke clear at the top of the first categorized climb.


Movistar policed the threatening move until Astana assumed control and brought the escapees to heed ahead of the final ascent of the category-two Alto El Vivero (4.2km, 8.5%) whose top came with 13 kilometers to go.


Felline dug deep to stay in contact with the fast dwindling peloton as attacks flew on the climb. At the top, Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling) held 30 seconds over a strong eight-man chase group with the peloton close behind.  Then Zubeldia went to work.


Zubeldia, motivated by racing on Basque Country roads, closed the gap to the eight men on the descent and continued riding hard to help pull back Devenyns with two kilometers remaining.


"Today was special for me because we are in the Basque Country," said Zubeldia. "I know we had really good options with Felline today, and when we passed the last climb, I saw then we had a really good chance for the stage. So I pulled for Felline, and I tried to close all the gaps. Also, in the last moment I tried to keep the speed high for him in the sprint, but sometimes in the sprint, you also need to be lucky. But we all did our best, and I am happy about that."


Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange) claimed the stage victory and the top rungs of the overall classification remained unchanged.


"The team was great right from the start," Felline pointed out, heaping praise on his hard-working teammates. "We all tried to get in the breakaway. The team has confidence in me, and when you see this, even though I was tired today, I needed to take responsibility and fight to the line.


"I am happy because I had a really good reaction after the last climb because I suffered a lot there. In the start, I tried to go in the breakaway, and I spent a lot of energy, and when you spend so much in the first part, the finale is never easy. I fought hard today… but I missed the win.


"I need this victory, the team needs this victory, and today was also an important day because Mr. Zanetti (CEO of Segafredo -ed.) was here and I would have liked to give him a beautiful present."


Great Kristian Sbaragli survives tough climb, ill Nathan Hass misses time cut

Stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana from Los Corrales de Buelna to Bilbao was an eventful one for Dimension Data. Nathan Haas had fallen ill and wasn’t able to finish today’s tough stage within the time limit. For Omar Fraile it was an emotional stage in a different way, as the race reached not only his home area but also passed through his home town. Wearing the KOM jersey (on behalf of GC leader Nairo Quintana), he was keen to represent Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka out front. He was seen to be in nearly every move from the beginning. However, none of these groups managed to forge clear. In the end the Basque all-rounder had to settle for a ride in the peloton, but played an important role in helping Kristian Sbaragli to finish inside the top 5 of the day. The Italian crossed the line in 4th place behind stage winner Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange).


Kristian Sbaragli said;


“It was a very tough stage. We already went full gas from the start to the finish yesterday and today it was not different. There were good riders in the break, but it came all back together in the end. It was a good stage for me. The guys were really super in helping to put me in a good position for the first time up the hard circuit climb. Today was one of the stages I wanted to do well at, it was a bit harder than I expected. The group was really small so I had to go really deep to stay in front. I missed a kick in the sprint, I went early and they overtook me but it’s better to try than to have a problem because you waited too long.”


Astana: We did everything to win with Luis Leon Sanchez

"We wanted to win the stage,” said Gatis Smukulis on the finish line Bilbao. “We tried to make the selection, but the climb was not steep and long enough.


” Luis Leon Sanchez is really strong and focused,” he continued. “And the team will do everything to help him win."


"We pulled a long time to cath the escape,” said sport director Alexandr Shefer. “But we have to settle for fifth place with Luis. The race is still long and we will try again.”


Pello Bilbao after sixth place: It was a crazy sprint

Caja Rural - Seguros RGA showed great tenacity and motivation on stage 12 of Vuelta a España with numerous attacks at the beginning of the stage and finally Pello Bilbao taking sixth place in the bunch sprint on his home roads in Bilbao.


With an undulating profile and a difficult circuit waiting at the end, it was no surprise to see countless riders trying to make it into the early breakaway. Caja Rural - Seguros RGA was very active but no groups managed to gain more than a handful of seconds before being shut down by the peloton. It took almost 50 km before a group of seven riders got a gap on the peloton. However, the pack kept the break on a tight leash and made sure it all came back together for the final circuit in Bilbao.


In chaotic conditions, Bilbao did well to finish sixth, while Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange) took the win. Sergio Pardilla still sits in 14th place in the general classification, 5:55 minutes behind the overall leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).


Pello Bilbao said:


“This was a very fast finish. We came into the last roundabout in high speed. I tried to take the wheel of Sbaragli, who I thought was the fastest rider in the group, but unfortunately, it got very messy at the end and I wasn’t really sure which trajectory to take. I tried to fight for a good position but this was a crazy sprint”.


 Sergio Pardilla added:


“The team’s goal is to win a stage and we'll keep trying every day. So far, we haven’t had much luck with all the crashes and such but there are still stages left for us to fight for. Personally, I don’t have any stage picked out in particular. I’ll take it day by day and try to make it into a break one day and fight for victory”.


Nairo Quintana: We were not worried by Sky’s attacks

It's a leader's jersey, and loads of sweat are required to keep it. That was evident in the first of two Vuelta a España stages joining the Cantabric mountains and the Pyrenees, 193km between Los Corrales de Buelna and Bilbao, a day which started off with serious attacks and didn't become easy at any point, even if the Movistar Team's leaders finished safely.


At the top of the Puerto de Alisas (Cat-1), the peloton was split into four different groups, with lots of different breaks trying to stick - even Alejandro Valverde made one of them - and a seven-man split ultimately making its way - with David López and Peter Kennaugh (SKY) in it. The small gaps in the GC between many of its members and Nairo Quintana thus forced Imanol Erviti and Rory Sutherland to work from early.


The serenity and experience from the two Blue powerhouses kept the group always within two-and-a-half minutes from the big bunch, a gap which Astana helped bringing down. Despite subsequent attempts from the likes of Devenyns (IAM), Luis León Sánchez (AST) and even Alberto Contador (TNK), followed by Dani Moreno, to alter harmony in the GC group, the peloton, led by a consistent Rojas and Jonathan Castroviejo in the finale, ended up contesting the winning sprint. Jens Keukeleire (OBE) was victorious, with Valverde in 8th to keep his third place overall as Nairo Quintana spent another day in red.


Friday will bring the longest stage in this year's Vuelta: 213km with four climbs in Gipuzkoa -Igeldo, Aritxulegi, Agiña and Lizaieta, all Cat-3- before a rolling, final loop between Navarra and France to finish in Urdax.


Nairo Quintana said:


“Calm days? Today wasn’t one, we didn’t find any in this Vuelta… and I don’t really hope for any of those until Madrid. People getting into breaks are so close in terms of GC and force everyone to go fast, especially us in the pursuit. Plus, as we saw today, in a finish that really suited escapes and where we wanted to leave them some space, other squads looking for the stage pushed hard for the junction. That’s the reason why it wasn’t an easy day.


”Worried about Sky’s moves? Not at all. We were really calm: we controlled the whole race before Bilbao with two riders - Imanol and Rory - and later on, squads chasing the stage win completed that job. All in all, it wasn’t quite troubling today. We kept ourselves composed.


”Stages like today’s are ones that I like, too: I won here the Itzulia, in such circuits, and enjoying good weather and fantastic fans here makes it even better. Obviously, descents are not so easy, but this is cycling: we like it, and there are some risks inherent to it.


“Like the last days, it was a tough stage. There was a climb at the start where there were a lot of attacks, even by people from the rival teams which were close to us in the GC. That made our team ride fast all day. We knew that Contador had the will to attack but Alejandro (Valverde) checked him without problems. We were able to cover all the attacks.


"We each handle different situations, but we can't let Froome or Alberto out of our sight. Normally Alejandro controls some attacks, and then the harder ones, from Froome, are for me.



“Here there are lots of Colombians who live here, people from Colombia… they are proud of their country and want to show that Colombia is about sport, Colombia is about art and Colombia is about peace.”


Alejandro Valverde: I didn’t want to kill myself in that sprint

Alejandro Valverde said:


“Of course I tried to fight for victory in that sprint, but there were so many strong riders for that finish and you had to take so many risks. I got boxed in at some point of the final straight and it wasn’t reasonable to ‘kill’ yourself for maybe just a fourth, fifth spot. However, that’s no excuse when you’ve got legs and win other days.


“It was a ‘big’ day, in the sense of big intensity. That, even when the big mountains are yet to start this weekend. We worked with Imanol and Rory all day, also with Rojillas and Dani - yet I think everyone is suffering in such a difficult Vuelta, I don’t feel like we spent extra energy. We remain in the best position we could, and that’s the only thing that matters.


“Today we rode again at an amazing speed. Two Sky riders went to the break, but we  kept working with the same two guys, Imanol (Erviti) and Rory (Sutherland), and we could control them. Alberto (Contador) tried it again, he’s a combative rider, but for the moment everyone is OK.


“Pretty selective days are coming next, but we are used to these long stages at the Tour and the Giro, with stages of up to 240 kilometers. For now, here we are, suffering as everyone. I think the Aubisque stage will be the key, that's the reason why it is the queen stage.”


Jonathan Castroviejo added:


“As with all stages in this Vuelta, it was a tough day. There are like eighteen teams seeking for a place in the early break, and it often takes too long for them to form. Plus, the riders inside today’s were too close in the GC, and we couldn’t let them gain much time. As we kept that margin short, in the end there are some other squads trying to contest the stage win, and that makes it even harder. It was, however, easier than it looked like in the beginning. Sky tried to put us into panic, but a six-man break isn’t enough for that. We must keep working like this to keep the current results and reinforce our leadership."


Silvan Dillier back in the top 10 after track experience in Rio

Stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana looked like a stage for a breakaway or the better climbers on paper, but it was a bunch sprint that played out in Bilbao where Silvan Dillier crossed the line in ninth place.


In keeping with the last stages, it took more than one hour for the breakaway to go away. Darwin Atapuma made it in the day’s break of seven riders which eventually gained a 2-3-minute lead.


With 100km to go Atapuma crashed on a descent, also requiring a bike change, and lost 40 seconds on the breakaway. He was quickly pulled back by the peloton who increased their pace to bring the race back together.


The breakaway was caught 15km before the line which set the stage for last-minute attacks and the eventual bunch sprint won by Jens Keukeleire (Orica BikeExchange).


Silvan Dillier said:


“Actually I’m pretty happy with how my legs for the road have come back again after the trip to the track for the Olympics. It’s getting better and better each day and normally I should do better in a sprint like this but I’m just happy that I’m up there now. It always gets a little more tactical when you don’t have so many teammates up there. Every team was there with only two or three riders so then it’s about trying to attack, and you just have to be smart and take the good wheel that will put you in a good position for the sprint. I think that this Vuelta is probably a little bit out of control because we fight for one or two hours until the good breakaway goes so normally I will target stages where the breakaway can go to the finish but as I said it’s a little bit out of control so I will try every day but we will see if I make it or not.”


No fractures for Darwin Atapuma after Vuelta crash

Atapuma was taken to hospital for X-Rays following his crash. Dr. Daniele Zaccaria gave an update:


"Darwin was taken to the Hospital Universitario Basurto after his crash on stage  12 of the Vuelta a Espana. He had X-Rays taken of his right elbow which was the point of impact and the point of pain from the crash. Fortunately the X-Rays showed no fracture. Darwin lost a lot of skin and it will be painful for a while, but we have no doubts that he'll be back racing on stage 13 tomorrow. We will continue to monitor his injury for the remainder of the race."


Dries Devenyns: In my heart I know  that I was the strongest rider in the race

Dries Devenyns said:


“Obviously the only thing that matters is the victory. But being able to be at the front of the race at this sort of level gives me great satisfaction. In my heart, I know that on this stage, I was the strongest. So, even though I didn’t manage the win, I am comforted by that thought.


“Coming to the Vuelta, my personal goal was clear: to win a stage. Twice now I have been very close. Even today when I broke away I believed in my chances.  Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to achieve it.  But that doesn’t mean that I won’t try again.”


Sports director Eddy Seigneur added:


“Dries Devenyns has been itching for that victory for some time now.  In the streets of Bilbao, he came very close to raising his arms in triumph. As a consolation, he can see that there are still several stages that could suit him. And we have other riders who are still able to be successful in this Vuelta. Mathias Frank and Marcel Wyss in particular proved that after twelve days into this race we can still count on them.”


Mathias Frank said:


“Once again, the motorcycles hovering around us favored the peloton in its hunt for the breakaway artist. Dries Devenyns calculated his shot perfectly. But the group had the benefit of this slipstream, and managed to reel in Dries with barely a kilometer to go to the line.”

As a member of a counterattacking group, Mathias Frank was also very much present for the team in the final. The Swiss rider crossed the finish line in tenth place and was given the same time as stage winner, Jens Keukeleire (Orica BikeExchange).


“My legs are responding well,” the Swiss rider said.  “I feel good on the bike. And I am having fun, which is the most important thing.”


Injured Bart Declercq: The morale is back

Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) has been suffering from injuries sustained in a crash. He said:


"I'm starting to feel better. I was no super yet today but it was the first time since my crash that I tried to go in the breakaway. I'm glad I could do that. In the end, I still need a little bit more strength but in the next few days, I'm going to try to perform and to win. It won't be easy but it's the only reason why I'm going ahead. It's not easy to ride in the team cars. But the morale is back…"


His teammate Maxime Monfort finished 12th. He said:


"It was a bit the same scenario as yesterday. An ultra fast start with a lot of attacks. I tried a few times but when the breakaway went on the first climb, I just could not follow. Thereafter, the tempo never went down and the attackers never got more than 2'30 ". The victory was finally decided in a sprint with forty riders. I tried to put myself up there to try to anticipate the sprint but it did not really work. I was twelfth. It was a hard day and tomorrow, it will be the same I think. And then we have the mountains this weekend. The Vuelta is really difficult.”


Proud Matvey Mamykin part of great Katusha offensive in the Vuelta

Arriving at the team bus after the stage was one rider in particular who could barely contain his happiness. Every day is a new challenge and new adventure for Matvey Mamykin, Thursday being no different for the 21 year old Russian.


“Did you see? I tried again on that last climb. And I will go on trying. I really feel good!” exclaimed Matvey Mamykin.


Stage 12 on Thursday began in Los Carrales de Buelna and ended in Bilbao at 193,2 km. The final was full of attacks with riders from Team Katusha active in most of them. While a sprint won by Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange) finished off the day, it was the lead up to the final that excited the Katusha riders. Mamykin wasn’t the only rider from Team Katusha working hard today, as Egor Silin rode down an escape from Dries Devenyns to bring about the group sprint.


“I attacked from the group at 2 km to go. Why not? We are in the mood to try so it was just bad luck for Devenyns. In the end we don’t have a sprinter, but we showed our colors,” said Egor Silin.


“We had three guys in the front after a hard stage today. This stage was very fast right from the start until the first categorized climb. Our guys were trying to go in the breakaway, in fact Sergey Lagutin went in an early one, but they were brought back and the big one went on the climb. In the last climbs we saw Mamykin trying to go away, we saw Silin trying something too. We keep attacking, attacking. Everyone is free to try whatever they can on these stages and we will keep trying every single day,” said sports director Gennady Mikhaylov.


Sharing the happiness was Pavel Kochetkov, the third active rider from Team Katusha and highest placed team rider for stage 12 in thirteenth place.


“I’m very happy. The first week of the Vuelta I was a little bit sick and struggled a lot. Now I think the worst part is over. I’m happy I was able to be in the front today. This makes for a promising second half of the Vuelta,” said Pavel Kochetkov.


Aggressive George Bennett shows himself in the Vuelta

Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider George Bennett made a strong showing during the 12th stage of the Tour of Spain. In the final climb into Bilbao, Bennett tried to join the Belgian attacker Dries Devenyns. He ran out of gas, and the main bunch reeled in the attackers, with Jens Keukeleire (Orica Bike Exchange) winning the sprint finish. Bennett finished 19th.


"Today we started with the goal to be in the break. It is a shame that it does not work, but soon we knew that there would be another chance in the final. George Bennett tried it several times at the beginning of the race, but could not get away,” said Sports Director Addy Engels. "In the beginning, we’ve jumped many times, but we could not make it to the group of seven men who escaped on the long climb."


Despite missing the break, Engels soon knew it would come together in the final.


"Movistar kept the lead to a small gap, and Astana had already closed several gaps in the beginning, then you know that they're going to ride in the final. And that is what happened. We had Gesink and Bennett in the peloton who could participate on the final climb. "


Bennett surged off the front of the peloton on the last climb, adding:


"I saw Devenyns go and immediately thought that it was too early. When no one responded, I am trying to follow him. I came close but behind me a group with several strong riders were coming. "


Bennett soon realized that it was not going to happen:


"Despite the strong riders, there was no cooperation, and I just attacked on the descent. Shame it was a wide road, because you’re not in advantage on a big group."


Sports Director Addy Engels looks ahead:


"I saw a beautiful race and the chances are that it will be another good day tomorrow. Tomorrow is a long stage that goes up and down. It can go either way, although I do not think we will see men like Bennett and Gesink in front, because of the lack of a real executioner-style climb like today."


David Lopez: We wanted to make Movistar work

Chris Froome remained second overall at the Vuelta a Espana after Team Sky infiltrated the break on an exciting stage 12.


David Lopez, on his home stage, broke away with Pete Kennaugh and five powerful companions, but the peloton didn't allow the group more than two minutes and they were brought back with 17km to go.


Then the battle for the stage win intensified on the streets of Bilbao and Dries Devenyns (IAM) escaped to quickly forge a lead of 30 seconds up the second category El Vivero, but on the long descent to the line he was brought back by the peloton.


Alberto Contador had launched a small attack on the climb but he couldn't distance any GC rivals, and Chris Froome and Leopold Konig were able to stick with the bunch as Jens Keukeleire (Orica-BikeExchange) emerged victorious to win the sprint finish.


Lopez's exertions were rewarded with the day's combativity prize, while Kennaugh impressively came home in the front group and lost no time on GC to remain 15th overall.


Konig remains sixth overall after none of the GC contenders lost any time on the 194km stage.

David López said:


“I couldn’t enjoy it that much, but I will try to realize what I did in the next few days. Our goal was to be up there when there were so many breaks, so Movistar couldn’t stay calm and we forced them to work. It was a coincidence that I jumped into the right one, so it was great. Riding at home was even better, because I knew how hard it would be today. Seeing how the the wind was in the first climb I already knew we would have headwind all day, so that was pretty depressing.”


Cannondale aggression fails on hard day in the Vuelta

The first half of the Vuelta a España has proved a very tough 12 days of racing. Today’s stage in Basque Country was no exception. When the race finally reached Bilbao, Cannondale-Drapac had suffered no losses and made no gains; yet, sport director Juanma Garate declared it a satisfying day for the green team.

“We fought from the very start to the very finish,” said Garate. “Each meter of this stage was hard. The course today was harder than yesterday but it was raced just as aggressively. The riders arrived very tired to the finish.”


As is often the case when the escape group has a high chance of making it to the finish, the stage 12 breakaway took over an hour to establish.


“Normally we would not to be in the breakaway, but it was not possible today,” said Garate. “We fought and fought. Pierre Rolland did a good jo. He was really smart in the first part of the race with his efforts and always in the strongest groups in front of the bunch.”


“The final breakaway was in the last few kilometers in the first category on climb,” Garate added. “At that moment, we simply didn’t have the legs.”


The breakaway was never allowed a long leash and was caught on the last of the Thursday’s three categorized climbs.


“We protected Andrew [Talansky] until the break was caught and then Formolo was active in the last kilometers,” said Garate. “He had the freedom to do that, the space to go to the front and try to win the race. In the end we had two riders, our two leaders, in the front group selection and Villella was really close to them. He was only dropped in the last five kilometers.”


Formolo posted the best finish for Green Arygle with 25th place on the stage, finishing on the same time as stage winner Jens Keukeleire (ORICA-BikeExchange) Neither Talansky nor Formolo saw any movement on the general classification. Talansky remains 11th overall, Formolo 13th heading into Friday’s stage 13.


“At the end, we were not in the break of the day, but this was a really special stage, a really intense stage, with a very high quality of the break,” added Garate. “Today I’m happy. Maybe we did less than yesterday on paper because we were not on the break, but I’m very happy with the work the guys did.”


José Mendes moves up in Vuelta GC

Bora-Argon 18 riders Gregor Mühlberger and José Mendes were always in a good position in the bunch. Mendes also tried several times on the first climb of the day, but did not catch the right group.


At the bottom of the final climb, Gregor Mühlberger and José Mendes both were in the group of favourites. Mühlberger, with his strong sprint, could have been the right card to play for Bora-Argon 18. But on the last climb, the pace was too high.


José Mendes was well placed in this group but had to settle for 29th place. With his strong ride today he moved up in the GC to 22nd place.


“It was a really hard stage. Right from the beginning there were a lot attacks to make the breakaway. But no group was good enough. And in the end we had this one lap with a climb, which we had to pass two times. It was really hard because there were a lot of attacks. Today I wanted to go into a group and so I tried to attack on the first climb but guys like Froome and Contador also attacked so it did not work. But we hope we can stay like this and take a good opportunity, then we will see,” José Mendes said.


Alberto Contador: I wanted to try something on the descent

Sitting just behind the reduced bunch, Alberto Contador took 30th spot with the same time as the sprinters– the first of the Tinkoff riders to cross the line.


With a late push, a small breakaway group went for the win, while Alberto Contador went on the attack himself to test his legs, but the peloton wasn’t going to allow another escape to happen – the fast men had a chance to go for the win with a bunch sprint, and Alberto Contador was on their tail, finishing safely in the reduced bunch with the same time as the sprinters.


It was a hard day for everyone, explained the Tinkoff leader.


“Today was a day of great effort for everybody. The Sky riders spent quite a lot of energy in the breakaway, and Movistar were controlling the breakaway. It's been a few days of incredible watt figures and I'm sure they have taken their toll. Everything went well today though and we finished the day out of trouble.


"I went for it to try to set up something for a descent but I don't have any freedom to manouvre.


“It was another really fast day and without a single kilometre of real flat.We've all used up a lot of energy, and there'll be a heavy bill to pay. We're going to reach the weekend and the last week of the Vuelta feeling really tired."


Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, saw how hard the day had been after some huge efforts from the whole team over the past few days.


“It was a very hard day today. It was very fast after the hard work of yesterday, and so it was hard for the whole team – especially for Manuele who was on the front so long yesterday. We tried to get in the breakaway but did that wasn’t possible, and with Sky in the break, Movistar worked even harder. Luckily in the end everyone was ok, although Manuele did finish later. It was good to see Alberto testing his legs on the Alto El Vivero.”


Tomorrow, the longest stage of this year’s Vuelta will again take place in the Basque Country, with brief forays into France towards the end of the day. At 213.4km, the stage takes in four categorised climbs – all of them third category – but the parcours itself is hilly and will be draining for the riders, who already have tired legs from almost two weeks of hard racing.


Contador was feeling the effort of the past few days’ racing and would be taking every day as it came.


“It has been nearly 600 kilometres in three days with practically no flat part and at a fast pace. Today this was on top of the high temperatures. My SRM power meter was showing 25-26 degrees, which was combined with the high humidity here. All these factors mean we will reach the final week quite weak. We will see how I feel and how I recover."


De Jongh was waiting to see what happened on tomorrow’s stage, especially given the tough stage to come on Saturday.


“Tomorrow will be a day for the break. We’ll see what happens and stay out of trouble – but we’ll see if a big group goes and see if we can get in it. We’ve had some very tough days and tomorrow is another long one before a hard day on Saturday.”


Aggressive Louis Meintjes: The good feelings are back

Louis Meintjes went in search for glory by attacking in the 12th stage of the Vuelta a Espana. In the, he was the best Lampre-Merida rider obtaining the 46th position. In the overall classification, the South African climber is 21st.


"After some stages during which I could not be as competitive as I would have liked because of the consequences of the crash in which I had been involved, I began to have once again good feelings and so I accepted with pleasure the task to try to be in the breakaway,” Meintjes explained. “The peloton covered the Puerto de las Alisas at a high speed and I succeeded in reaching the summit with a small advantage, together with other riders: our advantage increased in the following kilometers, even if the bunch controlled us. Unfortunately, it would have been necessary that some other attackers had joined the breakaway, in order to hold off the chase of the peloton which bridged the gap to us on the second passage on the Alto El Vivero.”


Mechnanical takes Tobias Ludvigsson out of contention in the Vuelta

The first rider to finish for Giant-Alpecin was Tobias Ludvigsson who finished 7’41” behind today’s winner.


Tobias Ludvigsson said: “We decided to go for me in the finale and the guys did a really good job to position me ahead of the final climb. We had done this climb already two times and I was going to go for it. Everything was going well until I faced a mechanical problem and then my chance was gone.”


Coach Luke Roberts added: “Most people today would have predicted that today’s stage would have been one for the breakaway. But with the break not going before the first climb, the bunch split on that ascent. Before that, we had Tom [Stamsnijder] who was very active in a breakaway group but they didn’t manage to create a significant advantage.


“After the climb, a group of seven riders got away, and Movistar took control of the bunch. We tried to set Tobias up in the finale. However, heading into the final climb he had a mechanical problem which was very unfortunate as that took him out of the running for a top placing.”


Kenny Elissonde: Apparently there was an Astana rider missing.

Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) was in the break:


"I had been trying to go in the break for a week and today I managed to be in it but in the climb it was not my day. That's  cycling. I'm going to try again. Everybody was pulling in this group, we were all full gas but what could we do? It took 60 km for the break to take shape and apparently there was an Astana missing with us. I'm going to try and recuperate and in any case I only have one more chance to breakaway…"



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