In His Own Words: Neil Stephens on Vuelta a España Stage 10

Wed 29 Aug 2012

The second week of the Vuelta a España kicked off with a sprint stage. John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) won stage ten ahead of Nacer Bouhanni (FDF – BigMat) and Daniele Bennati (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek). Allan Davis managed 15th place in the sprint, freelancing in the finale after ORICA-GreenEDGE devoted riders to splitting the field earlier in the race. Sports Director Neil Stephens details the day.

The team responded well to racing after the rest day. There’s always a concern that some riders won’t – that their bodies would prefer to continue racing rather than stop after day nine and start again less than 48 hours later. We have medical staff on hand, and our doctors and physios took care of them. Normally, we would not have the boys ride the home trainers before a road stage. Today, we asked them to get on the trainers. They did – and they said they didn’t feel too bad right from the start.

Two riders went away in the opening kilometers. The field kept them close throughout the race. Argos-Shimano took charge of the field initially. We came up and lent a hand during the second to last hour of racing.

Once the break had been caught, we rode on the front. Yesterday, we trained on this circuit, and there were a few windy areas. We thought we would put pressure on the race when we hit the crosswinds, but the crosswinds we encountered yesterday were not there today. There was only a slight wind, and we weren’t able to take advantage of the situation as we had hoped.

We had used a bit of energy hoping to create a selection, so when it came down for the sprint, we were a bit short on numbers. Clarkey [Simon Clarke] helped Alby [Allan Davis] get in a better position in the bunch finish, but it wasn’t enough. He finished in 15th place, so it wasn’t a great day in terms of results.

I feel a bit guilty having asked the riders to multi-task the way they did. It’s a bit unfair to ask them to break up the bunch in the crosswinds and then do the sprint not much later. I rolled the dice, choosing one way because I thought we would gain the most from splitting the field. In the end, it turned out another way. We should have saved our energy for the sprint.

Tomorrow is the only individual time trial of the Vuelta. It’s an important day for the overall contenders. For us, it’s more like a ‘half rest day’ where our riders can get through the stage conserving energy for our objectives to follow.