Cameron Meyer treated fans to another exciting day of racing on stage 12 of the Vuelta a España. Part of a four-rider break that formed towards the end of the second hour of racing, Meyer remained off the front of the field on the lower slopes of the Mirador de Ézaro summit finish, only to be passed by the overall contenders inside the final kilometer.
“There was obviously a lot of interest in bonus seconds from the guys on general classification,” said Sports Director Neil Stephens. “Cam did everything he could to make his move stick. It was another brilliant ride by him where he came just short at the finish. It was a repeat of Andorra [on stage eight] in that way.”
The stage started at a blistering pace before Meyer, Amael Moinard (BMC), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) managed to jump up the road. Katusha took responsibility for the chase after allowing the escape to establish a seven minute advantage within their first ten kilometers off the front.
“I told the team that the only way we had a chance to win the stage today was to be in a breakaway,” explained Stephens. “We said it would be hard, and it had to be the right rider to make the move work. There are only a few on our team here who were suited to the finish. We worked out who should go up the road, and I said to Cam that he should just do what he could to help out his teammates a bit. I expected him to be tired after his big ride yesterday in the time trial. In the end, he was the one who got in the break.”
Thirty kilometers from the finish, Meyer’s group held five minutes over the bunch, and Katusha struggled to maintain control of the gap.
“It’s funny the way the chase turned out,” noted Stephens. “First, Katusha was riding on the front. When they started to tire, Movistar took over. When they started to tire, Sky got on the front. Good for them. Other teams did what they needed to do, but it didn’t go in our favor today.”
As the chase began to find its rhythm, a crash disrupted the bunch.
“Wesley Sulzberger was involved in the incident,” said Stephens. “He didn’t hurt himself but he damaged his front wheel. Fortunately, he was able to continue to ride his bike for another five kilometers, but the tire punctured from rubbing so much. I had to get to him to change his wheel, and he had to chase hard to get back on to the bunch.”
While Suzlberger chased, Meyer powered towards the steep ramp in Dumbria that would set the stage for a battle royale.
“There was a strong headwind in the last 20 kilometers,” explained Meyer. “Without that, we might have made it all the way home. It was a good break. We all shared the conviction that it was possible to stay away.”
The four-rider breakaway hit the base of the final climb with 38 seconds on the field. Astarloza attacked on the lower slopes of the 1.9 kilometer wall to the finish.
“When Astarloza made his move, I knew he couldn’t hold his pace all the way to the finish,” Meyer said. “The climb was too hard for that. When he went, I didn’t attempt to follow. I set my own pace and maintained what rhythm I could. Eventually, I caught and passed Astarloza.”
Meyer found himself in a familiar position as the lone leader of a stage in the closing kilometers of a summit finish with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank –Tinkoff Bank), Chris Froome (Sky Procyclng) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in his pursuit. Rodriguez led the charge past Meyer with Contador on his wheel.
Rodriguez attacked Contador in the final 200 meters to take the stage win and extend his overall lead. Contador finished second on the stage followed by Valderde, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Froome. Meyer came across the line in 28th place, a result that belied the courage and effort on display.