In His Own Words: Neil Stephens on Vuelta a España Stage 16

It was the third consecutive summit finish during the second week of the Vuelta a España. After a hard fall yesterday, Daniel Teklehaimanot was in survival mode to make today’s time cut. Simon Clarke, who regained the polka dot jersey on stage 14, focused on the mountain classification. The rest of the ORICA-GreenEDGE team looked to get through stage 16, however they could, and make the most of the well-deserved rest day that followed. Neil Stephens describes the day.

After the race yesterday, we took Daniel back to the hotel where the team doctors assessed his conditions. He was sore, especially in his shoulder, but he was fortunate to escape serious injury. There was nothing broken, sprained, fractured and no abrasions requiring sutures.

He got back on the bike today, and it was slow-going but he struggled through the stage within the time limit. Daniel will benefit from a rest day before racing begins again on Tuesday, and he should be able to make it to Madrid next weekend.

Everyone else is feeling as good as can be expected on what was an incredibly difficult day of racing. We all worked really hard to keep Clarkey [Simon Clarke] in the mountains jersey. At first, we tried to get him up the road, but that didn’t happen.

Eventually, a two-rider break formed. First category climbs offer points for five riders, so when we hit the second of four ranked climbs, a category one mountain, Simon, Pieter Weening and David Moncoutie (Cofidis) burst from the pack to contest the points. Simon took points for third with Weening behind him, taking points for fourth. Moncoutie had to settle for one point for fifth place. Clarkey and Weening stayed off the front until Euskaltel and Sky brought them back before the next climb.

Having only scored points on one of the four climbs today, it will be really difficult to win the mountains classification. The overall contenders are closing in on us in terms of points, and the riders in today’s break – Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)-- are up in the rankings now, too. We’ll do what we can to hang onto the jersey, and if we go down, it won’t be without a fight.

Tonight we’re bypassing the race hotel to stay at a really nice spa resort. One of the team doctors has a relationship with the resort, so that’s how we came to make these plans. We’ll go for a light ride in the morning, and after that, the boys will be treated to some spa treatments and water therapy. After lunch, we’ll transfer by bus. This should be a far more relaxed day than we had last week.

I’m still working on how to get the staff better rest. They deserve a break tomorrow as they’ve been working really hard all Tour, too. Hopefully, I’ll find a way to get them some relaxation mixed in with all the work they do on their rest day.

Oh – and one last thing. We elected to have Cameron Meyer exit the Vuelta yesterday, and he did not start today’s stage. We noticed that he was accumulating fatigue during the last two weeks, and we didn’t want the final week of racing to hinder his preparation for the Team Time Trial World Championships. Cam is an integral part of our line-up at this trade team event, which is a huge goal for ORICA-GreenEDGE. 

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