Crosswinds Split Peloton on Vuelta a España Stage 17

Wed 11 Sep 2013

Bauke Mollema attacked out of a reduced bunch in Burgos to claim stage victory on the 17th stage of the Vuelta a España. The Dutchman was part of a 34 rider group that formed when the crosswinds wreaked havoc on the peloton with 28km left to race.

ORICA-GreenEDGE aimed to put Michael Matthews up for the stage win on what had been regarded as a day for the sprinters. To that end, Christian Meier combined forces with Lampre Merida to control the break of the day. Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) and Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) slipped away from the peloton in the opening kilometres, gaining a maximum advantage of 8’10.

“We were hoping a small group would go away, just like it did,” noted Sport Director Matt Wilson. “If it had been a bigger group, obviously we wanted someone in it, but that wasn’t our preferred scenario. We wanted a small group away that we could control and bring back for the finish.”

“From there, our goal was to focus on putting Bling in a really good position for the sprint,” Wilson added. “We knew that would be a bit tricky with only five guys. “

Meier’s chase efforts with Lampre-Merida ate into the duo’s advantage. Approaching the 30km mark, Aramendia and Hansen had only 1’21 on the field. As the peloton hit an exposed section of road, they encountered strong crosswinds. Saxo-Tinkoff, RadioShack-Leopard-Trek and Movistar were well-poised to take advantage of the situation. Forming an echelon at the head of the peloton and increasing the pace, the three teams worked together to force a selection.

“Things went to plan until the race hit the crosswinds,” said Wilson. “Matthews wasn’t at the front at the crucial moment today. “

Three distinct groups took shape in the winds. All five ORICA-GreenEDGE riders had missed the selection and found themselves in the third group. Two of the top ten overall were in the same situation. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot ( were caught out.

“Saxo-Tinkoff took advantage of the cross-winds to split the bunch,” Wilson said. “When they forced the pace, the peloton shattered and three distinct groups came together. We had no one in the first group and no one in the second. Several other teams missed out, too, but most of those teams hadn’t been working all day the way we had.”

“Because of the speed of the bunch it becomes really difficult to close those gaps,” Wilson added.  “The second or third group on the road isn’t chasing a break that’s been away all day. They’re chasing 20-30 guys that are all fresh and highly motivated. It becomes a team time trial between groups. 30” is very hard to bring back in that situation.”

The first group swept up the early breakaway and merged with the second group on the road. The third group split into several smaller groups. Matthews was the top finisher for ORICA-GreenEDGE in what had become the first chase group. He crossed the line in 51st place, 1’31 behind Mollema.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remains in the red leader’s jersey, retaining his 28” advantage over Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard Trek).  Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) jumped up to fifth overall, gaining time on Pozzovivo and Pinot.

“Our next chance for a sprint is in Madrid,” said Wilson. “That’s our best opportunity for a result. Clarkey [Simon Clarke] is going all right and Christian is going really well. If they have opportunities to get in a breakaway, they may do that sometime in the next three days.”