Veteran Trek Factory Racing rider Frank Schleck managed to survive the breakaway and take his maiden Vuelta a Espana stage win on Stage 16 of the 2015 Vuelta.
In the General Classification battle Joaquim Rodriguez got the best of the war of attrition up the final slopes of the Alto Ermita de Alba, taking the race lead leading into a rest day and Wednesday’s decisive individual time trial.
1. F. Schleck (Trek)
2. R. Torres (Columbia) +1.10
3. M. Moser (Cannondale-Garmin) +1.48
4. G. Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) +2.42
5. P. Rolland (Europecar) +2.49
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
2. Fabio Aru (Astana) +0.01
3. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff – Saxo) +1’35
4. Tom Dumoulin (Giant – Alpecin) +1’51
5. Mikel Nieve (Team Sky) +2’32
6. Esteben Chavez (Orica GreenEDGE) +2.38
7. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +2.49
8. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +3.11
9. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +3.58
10. Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) +5.22
A brute of a day awaits us on Stage 16 of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana, as the peloton completes the final in a trio of mountain stages before tomorrow’s rest day. Join us on The Roar from 12 midnight for live updates and commentary.
With a profile map that looks like the edge of a particularly rough saw, it’s stages like today’s that have given the Vuelta a slightly sadistic reputation among the peloton.
The 185-kilometre route takes the riders over seven categorised mountains and three non-categorised hills, totalling over 5000 metres of climbing for the day.
The climax of the stage will be the final two climbs – the category 1 Alto de la Cobertoria, and the hors categorie Alto Ermita de Alba, which is the last summit finish for the 2015 race.
At only nine and seven kilometres respectively, both are short but exceedingly steep, spending most of their time in double-digit gradient levels.
The climb up the Ermita de Alba features sections peaking at 14, 15 and a leg-burning 21 per cent!
There will be a whole lot going on today; these kind of stages always give the breakaway a decent chance at grasping a win, and after missing the break yesterday, King of the Mountains leader Omar Fraile will undoubtedly be looking to join them at the head of the race, trying to cement his already impressive lead in the competition.
However for the final two climbs, all eyes will be on the general classification contenders – with so many tough hills, small gaps could quickly turn into very large ones.
Race leader Fabio Aru had a rough day yesterday. At the summit of the final climb the young Italian did not look like a man about to win a Grand Tour, his mouth was wide open and he was all over his bike and the road.
He saved his race lead by one second but looks to be there for the taking. This stage is eerily similar to the stages that saw him come unstuck during this year’s Giro.
Pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana is three minutes behind the race leaders, and this would be the perfect stage for him to take back a big chunk of time. However he is still overcoming a fever which robbed him of time early in the race.
The outside shot, fourth placed Tom Dumoulin, will be hanging on to the main group for grim death on the last climbs and will do well if he only loses another minute before Wednesday’s time trial when he can unleash on the rest of the field.
And that leaves Joaquim Rodríguez, sitting in second and coming off an impressive stage win.
His run at this Vuelta reminds me a lot of Cadel Evans at the 2011 Tour; the veteran is peaking at the right end of the race and could not be better placed to take his long awaited maiden Grand Tour victory.
If the stage goes to the breakaway it could really be anyone’s day. My pick outside the GC guys is Pierre Rolland, he can climb with the best in the world and is due a big win.
If Aru struggles today, then Mikel Landa could leave his Astana leader on the road and go for the win himself.
However I think today will be all about Rodriguez, if he doesn’t take the stage he will at least take the red jersey.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and don’t be sure to join us from 12 midnight for live coverage and race commentary.