ORICA-GreenEDGE put three riders in the top-ten on stage 13 of the Vuelta a España. Cameron Meyer rode another strong race to finish second with Simon Clarke two spots back in fourth place. The duo were part of a seven-rider breakaway that formed after the first hour of racing. Behind, Allan Davis finished second in the bunch kick, good for eighth place on the line.
“Having Cam and Clarkey in the move was fantastic,” said Sports Director Neil Stephens. “It was thanks to the energy of all of their teammates that they were up their to fight for the stage win.”
Ahead of the stage start, ORICA-GreenEDGE discussed the high probability that stage 13 would see an escape group stay away to the finish.
“Today, more than other day, we thought a break would stick,” explained Stephens. “As always, we discussed our options and ideal scenario. If a big move went up the road, we needed to have a couple of guys in the group.”
The stage started off quickly with constant attacks from the gun. The team was well represented in every group that went up the road.
“At one point, we had three riders in a group of 20,” noted Stephens. “When the winning move went away, Simon was in it. Cam later bridged across.”
Juan Antonia Flecha (Sky), Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek), Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), Cummings, Meyer and Clarke formed a formidable group. The seven riders worked well together although they never gained more than four minutes over the chasing field. Argos-Shimano controlled the tempo behind and tired during the final hour of racing.
“Over the last few days, the breakaway has been brought back by the general contenders who want to fight for bonus seconds,” said Stephens. “Today, we knew the chase would be left to the sprinters’ teams. Because [John] Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) has been dominating, we thought most teams would look to them bring back a break. That’s exactly what happened. Argos did a great job but they ran out of numbers at the finish.”
Crosswinds broke up the bunch during the final ten kilometers of racing. Lotto-Belisol came to the front to aid Argos-Shimano in their pursuit of the break.
“It was touch and go there for awhile,” noted Stephens. “I wasn’t convinced that the break would stay away, so we had the rest of the team ready to be up there in case Cam and Clarkey were caught. We would have supported Allan Davis if we needed to sprint.”
Flecha launched the first attack from the break ahead of the sprint line at the five kilometer mark. Clarke jumped across, and the others followed his wheel. Viviani was unable to bridge the gap. Meyer was the final rider to claw his way back to the move.
“Cam has ridden full gas for three days straight,” explained Stephens. “He went hard in the time trial and has now spent yesterday and today in the break. He was distanced from the break after Flecha’s attack and had just gotten back on when Cummings attacked. Cam started to go with Cummings but found himself completely at his limit.”
With Cummings up the road, Flecha picked up Meyer, and the duo traded pulls in an attempt to reel in the Briton.
“They were 20 meters away from Cummings at one stage, and I thought they had him,” said Stephens. “Cummings did a good job to hold them off until the finish.”
Cummings soloed to stage victory with Meyer besting Flecha in a two-up sprint for second. Clarke brought his group of three home across the line, 14 seconds down on Cummings. Forty seconds later, the bunch charged towards the finish with Degenkolb winning the field sprint ahead of Davis.
“We walked away from the finish having given everything we could give,” said Sports Director Neil Stephens. “Some people may rate second place as a missed opportunity. If we had walked away with energy still in our legs and a sense that we could have achieved more, I would agree. That’s not the case. We were beaten by a bloody fantastic bike racer. We’re here to win, of course, but we left it all out there. I rate today as a huge success.”