Geniez seals hat-trick of stages in the Vuelta a Espana

Frenchman fends off Van Baarle for breakaway victory

Alexandre Geniez (AG2R La Mondiale) added another breakaway stage win in the Vuelta a España to his already hefty palmares on Thursday during stage 12 - and this on a day he said that he had not expected any kind of long-distance move to stick.

Although Geniez has three top 15 placings in the Giro d’Italia GC, all three of Geniez Grand Tour stage wins to date have come in the Vuelta a España.

This time round, the Frenchman managed to outpace Dylan Van Baarle (Team Sky) in a finale he described as extremely tactical for the 13th win of his career.

After Tony Gallopin’s stage win in Pozo Alcon, this was the second victory of the Vuelta a España for AG2R La Mondiale, on a stage which Geniez said was “not one I thought would end in a breakaway victory.”

But, he recounted, after Quick Step Floors - whose other option would presumably have been to work for a bunch sprint and Elia Viviani - gave the 18-man break their tactic blessing by putting Dries Devenyns in the move, Geniez felt that the move would have a much better chance of staying away. However, he was worried, he said, about the presence of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in the breakaway group..

The Frenchman recounted that despite its size, the break had worked well together, too, until a long, unclassified climb some 40 kilometres from the finish. At that point, he said, with an advantage running into double figures, the attacks started and “it turned into a game of poker, which was never easy to handle, but at least the group got divided and we got rid of Nibali.”

The breakaway group fractured and then reformed on several occasions, until it finally reached the point of there being a lead group of eight and 10 chasers. After a few more kilometres, the front group split neatly in two of four, and then finally Geniez and Van Baarle made it across to the leading quartet in the closing kilometres. As a result, there was a six-rider group that fought for the stage win itself, with the rest of the break crossing the line between 24 seconds and over five minutes behind.

Amongst the front half-dozen-strong group, Geniez led out the sprint, with Van Baarle snapping hard at his heels. Perhaps on a broader finale, the Dutch rider could have given Geniez - whose previous two Vuelta stage wins have been on summit finishes in the Pyrenees and Galicia - an even closer run for his money. As it was, the Frenchman held off Van Baarle for the win.

“It was a very strange sprint, even with 300 metres to go I couldn’t see the finish line, and the road was very narrow. I’m very pleased to get the victory though, it’s been a while since I won,” Geniez recounted. The 30-year-old's last victory was a stage and overall of the Tour de la Provence early this spring.

Asked to explain why his success rate was so high in the Vuelta compared with other Grand Tours, Geniez said, “It’s a different kind of race, one at the end of the season, so some guys are tired, others are losing their motivation. It makes it very special, but very interesting.”

The Frenchman was caught up in a post-stage crash immediately after the line, saying he went down first but that a policeman at the finish line had managed to keep him from falling completely.

“It’s a real pity things like that happen,” Geniez said, "despite all the security measures that are in place and all those police there. I don’t understand why there are so many people in the finish area. If there had been a bunch sprint finish and 100 riders crossing the line at the same time, it could have been a lot more serious.”

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