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Part of a big 24-rider breakaway, Oliveira made a strong solo attack and even though several riders chased hard, he time trialled his way to the win stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana; Aru defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

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04.09.2015 @ 18:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Nelson Oliveira continued what has been a great grand tour season for Lampre-Merida when he emerged as the strongest from a 24-rider breakaway to win the hilly stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana. Launching a strong solo attack, he time trialled his way to the victory as he managed to hold off his chasers despite their hard efforts. Fabio Aru (Astana) finished in the peloton and defended his overall lead.

 

In the Giro d’Italia, Jan Polanc took an impressive solo win for Lampre-Merida and in the Tour de France it was Ruben Plaza who emerged as the strongest from a breakaway. Today the Italian team firmly established themselves as the kings of the grand tour breakaways as Nelson Oliveira made the hattrick by emerging as the strongest in the difficult stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana.

 

Throughout the entire race, Oliveira has proved that he is one of the strongest riders in Spain. With no GC rider in the team, he has had a rare chance to chase personal success and he has been very eager to do so. He was already in the break in the first road stage and since then he has been on the attack several times.

 

Two days ago he again underlined his great condition when he was 11th in the queen stage and today he was eager to capitalize on his form in a stage that seemed to be destined for a breakaway. Joined by teammates Valerio Conti and Ruben Plaza, he was part of a 24-rider group that emerged after a frantic start to the race and he turned out to be in a class of his own.

 

Sergio Henao, Nicolas Roche (Sky), Rinaldo Nocentini, Mikael Cherel (Ag2r), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Julien Simon, Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Gianluca Brambilla, Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep), Kenny Elissonde, Kevin Reza (FDJ), Sylvain Chavanel, Jerome Coppel (IAM), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Steven Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka), Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE), Yukiya Arashiro, Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Pawel Poljanski (Tinkoff-Saxo) had joined forces with the Lampre-Merida trio and soon it became apparent that they were going to decide the stage. As they hit the bottom of the final climb with 40km to go, they had an advantage of 3.30 and as it was just the Astana pair of Alessandro Vanotti and Andrey Zeits working in the peloton, the battle for the stage win could start.

 

Oliveira was part of the action right from the start as he joined forces with Chavanel when the pair got a gap on the lower slopes. However, it looked like it was never the plan to get clear and they were clearly not going full gas. De Marchi was the first to join them but with 38km to go, it was back together.

 

With no cooperation in the group, Poljanski was the next to take off and he immediately got a solid advantage. Monfort took off in pursuit and was joined by Coppel, Oliveira, Roche, Bagot and Rojas but as there was no cooperation, the chasers were back together. At the top of the climb with 35km to go, they were 20 seconds behind the Pole who had extended his advantage over the peloton to 4.10.

 

De Marchi, Roche, Coppel, Conti, Rojas and Cummings took off in pursuit of Poljanski whom they managed to join shortly after the top. Meyer was the next to make the junction and the group entered the final 30km with an advantage of 15 seconds. However, there was again a lack of cooperation and so the group came back together.

 

Oliveira refused to give up and so he took off in an immediate attack. No one responded and so he had built an advantage of 15 seconds when he entered the final 25km.

 

The gap continued to grow as Plaza and Conti did an excellent job to protect their teammate, joining all the attacks that were constantly flying. With 18km to go, the gap was 30 seconds and it had gone out to 40 seconds two kilometres later.

 

With 13km to go, the gap was 55 seconds and now the chase finally got organized as the attacking stopped. Arashiro, Sicard and Terpstra started to ride hard as Sicard and Brambilla could move into the top 10 on GC and they got some help from Elissonde and Bagot who both had fast teammates in the group. Nonetheless, the gap was 1.00 with 10km where the peloton had been distanced 5.15.

 

From there, the gap stayed at 1.00 for the rest of the stage even though Sicard, Terpstra, Arashiro, Simon and Elissonde were all doing their best to reel the Portuguese in. Hence, he had plenty of time to celebrate the biggest win of his career. The chasers could only sprint for second as no one tried to escape in the finale and after he had launched a long sprint, Roche was passed by Simon who banged his handlebar in frustration over a missed opportunity.

 

Zeits and Vanotti had allowed the gap to go out to 5.30 but a bit of action happened in the final 5km when Tinkoff-Saxo tried to split the field in the crosswinds with Maciej Bodnar and Daniele Bennati. That created some tension as Movistar took over with Andrey Amador and riders started to get dropped.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE started to ride hard with Daryl Impey to protect Esteban Chaves’ GC position and in the end it was Sky that took over with Christian Knees and Vasil Kiryienka. The Belarusian set the pace all the way to the finish and didn’t respond to Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r) who made a late attack to steal a few seconds, with the main group losing 4.48.

 

The results allowed Brambilla and Sicard to move into ninth and tenth respectively but they were no threat to Fabio Aru who defended his 28-second advantage over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). He faces a much harder test in stage 14 which is the first of three consecutive mountain stages. After a flat first half, the riders will tackle a category 3 climb that precedes the difficult final. A very steep category 1 ascent with 66km to go leads to another flat section and then the final HC category climb to the finish at almost 2000m of altitude.

 

A hilly stage

After yesterday’s sprint stage, the terrain got hillier in stage 13 which brought the riders over 177km from Calatayud to Tarazona. The first third of the race was mainly uphill with a category 3 and a category 1 climb along the way. From there it was mainly descending or flat until the riders got to the bottom of a final category 3 climb whose summit was located 33.5km from the finish. Then it was mainly downhill to the finish.

 

It was a cloudy and relatively cold day in Spain when the riders gathered for the start. Maarten Wynants (LottoNL-Jumbo) was missing as he had fallen ill and became the first rider from his Dutch team to leave the race.

 

A strong trio

The stage was expected to suit a breakaway and so it was no surprise that an MTN-Qhubeka rider took off right from the start. The fast pace made it much harder for Angel Madrazo (Caja Rural) and Dominique Rollin (FDJ) to rejoin the peloton after they suffered early punctures.

 

No one had gone clear after 12km of racing where Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep) became the next rider to suffer a mechanical and so he was unable to join Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Iljo Keisse (Etixx-QuickStep) and Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar) when the trio took off. They never got an advantage of more than 10 seconds and at the 28km mark it was all back together.

 

Relentless Chavanel

20 riders got clear and as they were joined by another 30, a big 50-rider group had suddenly taken off. However, the move was neutralized and instead Chavanel, Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) and Yukiya Arashiro (Europcar) attacked just before they hit the first climb after an hour of very fast racing.

 

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) dropped down to his team car and he was dropped as they went up the climb. Here Alessandro De Marchi (BMC) joined the leaders and later Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida), Mikael Cherel (Ag2r), Jerome Coppel (IAM) and Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) also made it across.

 

A 24-rider group is formed

Plaza led Oliveira and Coppel over the top of the climb where they had a 32-seconds advantage over a big chasing group while the Astana-led peloton was 42 seconds adrift. With assistance from teammate Francisco Ventoso, Quintana managed to rejoin the bunch.

 

Nicolas Roche, Segio Henao (Team Sky), Davide Arroyo (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA), Julien Simon (Cofidis), Kevin Reza (FDJ), Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Pawel Poljanski (Tinkoff - Saxo) were the first riders to join the leaders and at the 63km mark, Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r), Yoann Bagot (Cofidis), Niki Terpstra, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep), Kenny Elissonde, Kevin Reza (FDJ), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida), Maxime Monfort (Lotto Soudal), Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) also made the junction to make it a 24-rider group. They hit the category 1 climb with an advantage of 2.54 over the peloton which was led by Astana.

 

The gap grows

Plaza led Elissonde, Arashiro and Monfort over the top of the climb while Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida) and Mitchell Docker (Orica-GreenEDGE) abandoned. At the same time, Astana rode pretty fast in the peloton and had brought the gap down to 2.28.

 

Roche had to ask for medical assistance while riding in the break and Astana slowed down to let the break go. At the end of the second hour, it was 3.34 and as they entered the final 85km it had gone out to 3.50.

 

Astana accelerate

With 65km to go, the gap was 4.30 and it was still just Alessandro Vanotti and Andrey Zeits riding on the front for Astana, receiving the occasional help from their teammate Dario Cataldo. They increased the pace a bit on a small climb and so the gap was down to 3.15 with 45km to go.

 

Brambilla and Sicard were attentive to pick up a few bonus seconds in the intermediate sprint, with Arashiro taking third. Moments later they hit the final climb with an advantage of 3.30 and this spelled the end of the cooperation as the fight for the stage win started.

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