Jens Keukeleire Claims Another Victory at Vuelta BurgosFri 9 Aug 2013
Jens Keukeleire followed up his first win of the season with victory number two at Vuelta a Burgos. The punchy Belgian sprinter won the uphill dash to line in Ojo Guareña ahead of race leader Anthony Roux (FDJ.fr) and Daniele Ratto (Cannondale).
“This second win is really special,” said Keukeleire. “I’ve never won two races in one tour before. To do it now, and to finish off the work the boys did, is just amazing. I’m really happy at the moment. I hope I can keep this form until the end of the season.”
The third stage of the Spanish tour featured a hillier course than the two previous days, with six category three climbs on the menu. Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural), Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Anthony Ravard (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Zakkari Dempster (NetApp-Endura) escaped the feisty field after 20 km of aggressive racing. The quartet built up a maximum advantage of 3’10 over the FDJ.fr-led field.
“Overall, today was harder than yesterday,” Keukeleire explained. “There was a lot more up and down the whole day, and the stage was longer. There were several places where the road narrowed, so it was quite important to stay in good position all day. The team did a great job keeping me in the first half of the peloton all day.”
Ravard and Dempster lost contact with the break before the first passage of the finish line. Brajkovic and Txurruka maintain a 1’45 gap over the chasing bunch as they hit the finish circuit.
“We passed the finish line once, so I had a good look at it,” said Keukeleire. “It was less hard than I had expected. I was pretty confident I could do something. The boys began to ask how I was feeling, and I confirmed I was up for the sprint.”
Movistar took over for FDJ.fr on the last lap, bringing Brajkovic and Txurruka back to the bunch with 15km left to race. The counter-attacks began almost immediately with Euskadi, Colombia and Cannondale launching significant moves.
“The team was very good when the attacks began,” Keukeleire said. “They kept me in a good position, and everyone stayed calm. I especially want to give a lot of thanks to Mitch [Docker]. He was right in front of me and closed down every gap. Every moment, I thought ‘Ok, now he is going to swing off’ but a kilometre later he would still be there. He did a little lead-out to drop me off at the bottom of the climb to the finish.”
In the final kilometre, FDJ.fr asserted control at the head of the peloton, hoping to get Roux up for the stage victory. Keukeleire was third wheel, behind the FDJ.fr pair, when he opened his sprint.
“Yesterday, there were attacks in the finish, and I was following moves,” said Keukeleire. “Today it was different. There was just one sprint. I was in third position when I stood up to begin my sprint. I was maybe at 300 metres, and I was thinking there was no way I was going to make it.”
“When they didn’t pass me, I realised that everyone was suffering,” Keukeleire added. “They were all suffering maybe more than I was. I was able to finish off the sprint, but it hurt a lot more than yesterday.”
Sport Director Neil Stephens watched the action unfold on Spanish television and was full of praise for the display of teamwork he witnessed.
“The team was calm, cool and collected in the final,” Stephens said. “FDJ did a really good job looking out for their leader, but we played the finish perfectly. Jens hit them hard at 200 metres. He had to fight for it today. It wasn’t like yesterday where they finished off his wheel. It was still a bloody top win for him and the team!”
Keukeleire will withdraw from Vuelta a Burgos tonight. He heads home to Belgium where he will continue his preparation for the Eneco Tour that begins on Monday.
“It was always the plan that I might only race three stages of Burgos,” Keukeleire explained. “I’ll have a little bit of recovery at home before Eneco. The race next week is another important target for me.”