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One day after losing time due to a crash, Sepulveda bounced back with an amazing solo victory in the first mountain stage of the Tour de San Luis and took the overall lead in his home race in the process

Photo: Sirotti






21.01.2016 @ 23:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

One day after seeing his overall ambitions being dealt a big blow due to a crash, Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) bounced back in the most spectacular fashion in his home race, the Tour de San Luis, as he rode to a hugely impressive solo win in the first mountain stage of the race. After attacking from a select group of favourites with 6km to go, he passed the pair of Janier Acevedo (Jamis) and Dayer Quintana (Movistar) and managed to put no less than 54 seconds into runner-up Acevedo at the finish, with Pablo Villalobos (Costa Rica) bridging the gap to Quintana and crossing the line in third. Sepulveda also takes the overall lead with a 3-second advantage over the youngest Quintana brother.


Since he first showed himself in Europe, Eduardo Sepulveda has been regarded as the first great rider from Argentina and everybody has been waiting for his big breakthrough. Despite his young age, he has been given the leadership role at the Fortuneo-Vital Concept team and last year he made a long-awaited debut in the Tour de France.


That race ended in disgrace as he was disqualified for taking a lift in a car but it has done nothing to change his position in his team. This year he will again lead the French team and today he proved himself worthy of the confidence when he won the first big mountain stage of the Tour de San Luis.


24-year-old Sepulveda has always had lots of success in his home race as he has been 6th and 4th in the last two editions of the race and he was one of the pre-race favourites for the 2016 edition. However, his ambitions were dealt a major blow yesterday when a crash cost him 1.39 to his main rivals.


The time loss fired him with anger for today’s first big test in the mountains and that inspired him to attack from afar. With a brave solo move 6km from the top of the Alto del Amago climb, he dropped all the grand tour stars and rode to a very impressive solo win.


It was all back together when the riders hit the bottom of the final 11km climb which summited just 1.9km from the finish. The group splintered immediately as teams tried to make the race hard and overall leader Peter Koning (Drpac) was one of the first to get dropped.


Astana, Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep were the driving forces in the pace-setting and it was three riders frm the Kazakh team that took control with 10km to go. Movistar quickly took over though and the group was significantly whittled down while the main contenders watched each other.


Movistar played their next card when they sent Dayer Quintana up the road and he quickly built an advantage of 30 seconds over the main group which was down to around 10 riders. Meanwhile, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) had to let his rivals go.


Quintana dug deep and still had a solid advantage as he entered the final 8km while his teammate Daniel Moreno was among the next riders to get dropped from the peloton. Moments later, the Colombian dominance continued when Janier Acevedo (Jamis) set off in pursuit of the lone leader.


Acevedo made the junction with 6km to go but further pack things were heating up when Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) who crashed yesterday made a move. He quickly passed the two Colombians as Acevedo distanced Quintana.


Impressively, Sepulveda quickly put a minute into Dayer Quintana while the main group 45 seconds further adrift and had been whittled down to just Nairo Quintana, Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) and Andre Cardoso (Cannondale). Rodolfo Torres (Androni) was trying to make it back as they entered the final 3km.


However, there was no one stopping Sepulveda who still had a big advantage as he crested the summit with 1.9km to go. He sped down the descent to the finish before sitting up to celebrate a very popular home win.


Acevedo held on to take second with a time loss of 54 seconds while a regrouping took place further back. Roman Villalobos (Costa Rica) benefited from the watching between the overall contenders to bridge across to Dayer Quintana whom he beat in the sprint for third, 1.31 behind the winner. Ilya Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) was next 12 seconds later while further back a big group with Nairo Quintana, Lopez, Cardoso, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), Jonathan Millan (Stongman), Anderson Maldonado (Uruguay), Rob Squire (Holowesco), Torres, Rodrigo Contreras (Etixx-QuickStep) and Eder Frayre (Mexico) had gathered. Majka made a late attack and was followed by Lopez, Quintana and Millan, with the Astana rider leading the group across the line with a time loss of 3.10.


Impressively, Sepulveda gained enough time to overcome his deficit from yesterday and he now leads the race with a 3-second advantage over Dayer Quintana, with Contreras in third at 38 seconds. Pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana is fourth, 42 seconds behind the local rider.


The sprinters are expected to be back in action tomorrow when the riders face a mostly flat stage with no categorized climbs. However, the final few kilometres to the finish in Juana Koslay are slightly riding which has made it a perfect stage for the strongest of the fast finishers.


The first mountain stage

After three stages in relatively flat terrain, it was finally time for the first big mountain test at the Tour de San Luis when the riders tackled stage 4 which brought them over 140km from San Luis to a summit finish at Cerro del Amago. After a completely flat first part, the riders faced a big challenge in the finale. The category 3 Alto de la Canoela which featured 13.3km from the finish served as a warm-up for the category 1 climb of Alto del Amago which summited just 1.9km from the finish line and averaged 7% over 11km.


It was another brutally hot day when the riders gathered for the start in San Luis and apparently they were inspired by yesterday’s breakaway success. In any case, it was a very fast start with lots of attacks and it took a long time for an early break to be formed.


12 riders get clear

The first serious move was made up of 10 riders as Emamanue Guevara (San Luis), Lucas Gaday, Ruben Ramos (both Argentina), Carlos Alzate (Unitedhealthcare), Riccardo Stacchiotti (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Gonzalo Najar (San Juan), Ignacio Sarabia (Inteja), Ariel Sivori (Los Matanceros), Jonathan Hornbeck (Holowesko) and Felix Nodarse (Cuba) built an advantage of 20 seconds after 45 minutes of fast racing. The attacking continued for a while but when Richard Carapaz (Strongman) and Paul Betancourt (Costa Rica) made the junction, the peloton finally slowed down.


The gap had gone out to 3.55 when Guevara beat Stacchiotti and Gaday in the first intermediate sprint and it continued to grow as the peloton showed no interest in starting a chase. It reached a maximum of 6.50 before the peloton finally started to chase.


Najar takes off

Betancourt briefly tried to escape from the break but they soon started to cooperate again when they realized that the peloton was getting closer. With 66km to go, the gap had been reduced to just 3 minutes and it was 2.45 when they entered the final 60km.


The internal battle in the break started again when Najar launched a solo move. He failed to get clear but the action was enough to send Guevara, Sivori, Nodarse, Betancourt and Carapaz out the back door, leacing just 7 riders to press on.


The break splits up

Hornbeck, Najar, Gaday, Ramos, Stacchiotti, Sarabia and Alzate entered the final 32km with an adavnatge of 3.30 but as Movistar and Etixx-QuickStep were chasing, they were losing ground. Four kilometres later, it was down to 2.40 and as they started the climbing with 16km to go, they were only 1.35 ahead of the peloton.


The gap dropped to just a minute and this prompted Najar to make another solo move. This time the action worked and he moved clear while a three-rider chase group formed. Najar did his best to keep the peloton at bay but as they hit the final climb, it was all back together and the scene was set for Sepulveda’s solo ride.



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