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Late surge from Chaves maintains third overall after explosive stage 15 of La Vuelta a Espana

Sun 4 Sep 2016

Colombian Esteban Chaves gritted his teeth and produced a fantastic late attack in the finale of stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana today, making up ground and re-taking some valuable seconds as the general classification experienced a significant shake up.

A lightening quick start to the stage saw an unlikely breakaway form early on after an attack by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) was followed by race leader Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

Both riders had teammates with them and once they realised a gap had developed on the other favourites the pace shot up again. Due to the terrain and the speed of the stage start many teams were caught napping.

Despite the huge efforts from ORICA-BikeExchange throughout the stage, it eventually was won from the initial breakaway by Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep).

Quintana came second and extended his advantage in the general classification, with Chaves now in third and gaining time on second place Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) and stage six winner Simon Yates now in fifth overall.

Sport director Neil Stephens believes the team has come through the Pyrenees positively and praised their efforts.

“Esteban (Chaves) and Jens Keukeleire were very close to being part of the Contador attack,” said Stephens. “But a crash happened right in front of them at the wrong moment, they got held up and by the time they were round it was too late.”

“We put a lot of effort into the chase, but we obviously couldn’t commit everyone and at the end of the day we wanted to limit the time loss and maintain our positions on the general classification.

“The team fought hard and on balance we have seen a positive outcome from the Pyrenees. We have two guys in the top five, and we have won two stages, we are very happy with that.

“We had the upper hand yesterday and today it was Movistar and Tinkoff’s turn. That’s bike racing at the highest level and I congratulate them on their performances. There’s another week of racing to come and we are certainly going to give it all we can.”

How it happened:

An explosive start to the short but mountainous stage 15 saw the race split in the first kilometres after attacks by Brambilla and then Contador formed the breakaway group.

Many riders were caught out by the suddenness of the attacks and held up by the fragmenting and crashing peloton.

Quintana was not one of these and made it into the front group of 14 alongside teammate Ruben Fernandez, with ORICA-BikeExchange and Froome caught in the second group and losing time.

The race and the chase was on and most of Team Sky were in the third group on the road, leaving Froome with only one teammate and the early work falling squarely on the shoulders of the Australian team.

After 40kilometres of racing and approaching the first climb of the day the Contador/Quintana group had two minutes on the Chaves/Yates group with the third group a further three minutes behind.

Alongside ORICA-BikeExchange, Astana were contributing at the front of the chase group heading into the final 55kilometres with the gap to the leaders at three minutes.

Huge pulls from Jens Keukeleire and Damien Howson saw riders shelled from the group and the gap come down below three minutes with 40kilometres to go and the final climb to Aramon Formigal ahead.

Formigal is the site of the Vuleta’s first ever summit finish back in 1972 and the leaders hit the lower slopes two minutes 15seconds ahead of the now reduced chasing group, with Astana now pulling.

Both groups reduced even further with seven kilometres to go as race leader Quintana set the tempo in the front group and second place Froome now at the head of the chasing group two minutes down.

Only Quintana, Contador and Brambilla were left pushing on at the front with three kilometres to go and the Chaves/Yates group still two minutes down and Froome losing contact.

Chaves produced a strong late acceleration and attacked alone into the final kilometre, salvaging some seconds and eventually finishing in ninth place with Yates further back in 21st.

Brambilla went on to win the stage with Quintana second and strengthening his hold on the race lead.

Stage 16 takes place tomorrow and covers 156kilometres from Alcaniz to Peniscola. Apart from a solitary third category climb followed by a long descent to the Valencian coastline, the stage is mainly flat. After a tough weekend in the mountains the sprinters will be favourites for the finale in Peniscola.

Vuelta a Espana stage 15 results:

1. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) 02:54:30
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 00:00:03
3. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) 00:00:25
9. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:01:53 

General classification after stage 15:

1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 61:36:07
2. Christopher Froome (Team-Sky) 00:03:37
3. Esteban Chaves (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:03:57 
5. Simon Yates (ORICA-BikeExchange) 00:05:07

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