Climbing began in earnest on the third stage of the Vuelta a España, and the Alto de Arrate summit finish set the scene for a general classification shake-up. Cameron Meyer, tapped as the only ORICA-GreenEDGE rider to focus on the overall, was our top finisher in 73rd place, 3:50 down on stage winner and new race leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
An eight-rider breakaway dominated the early action. Andrey Zeits (Astana), Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM), Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Dominque Rollin (FDJ – BigMat), Sergio Carrasco (Andalucia), Nico Sijmens (Cofidis) and Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) went clear inside the opening kilometers. Movistar, in the interest of overnight race leader Jonathan Castroviejo, kept the gap in check. Nine kilometers from the finish, the remnants of the break were back in the bunch.
ORICA-GreenEDGE stayed safely tucked inside the peloton as they covered the first three of four categorized climbs. Pieter Weening and Daniel Teklehaimanot guided Cameron Meyer towards the front of the field as Arrate loomed.
“In the build up to the climb, everybody looked after Cam,” explained Sports Director Neil Stephens. “Pieter and Daniel did what they could to help Cam get into a good position at the base of the climb. Position here was critical. Everyone wanted to be at the front. Bad position would mean wasted energy passing riders. Unfortunately, Cam’s position wasn’t great at the bottom of the Arrate.”
As Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank – Tinkoff Bank) launched repeated attacks that eventually forced the formation of an elite group of four riders, Meyer paced himself to the finish within a small group that that had formed on the slopes of the climb.
“If he had only lost one or two minutes, we would have considered it a solid day for him,” said Stephens. “Having lost nearly four minutes isn’t ideal. He tried as hard as he could, and it was a great effort. Cam’s ability to be consistent may help him slowly make gains or prevent bigger losses throughout these next three weeks.”
“Overall, I would say the team did a good job today,” Stephens continued. “Not great. Not bad. More than anything, it was about positioning at the base of the final climb – and Cam’s position wasn’t what we had hoped.”
It was another hot day of racing in Spain, and Stephens, like Allan Davis yesterday, called out the staff for their hard work.
“The staff is doing an exception job to make sure the riders stay cool and hydrated,” noted Stephens. “They’re working really hard every day, and the work they do is noticed and appreciated by all of us.”