Bert Jan Lindeman secured a timely and well calculated victory for Lotto NL-Jumbo on the first major summit finish of the Vuelta a Espana in what is the Dutch team’s first win in a Grand Tour this season.
For Lindeman, too, victory on the Alto de Capileira as he powered away from fellow breakaway Ilia Koshevoy (Lampre-Merida) represented a major breakthrough. As the 26-year-old pointed out, he has never taken a WorldTour win before, with his biggest previous success in the Tour de L’Ain in 2014.
"For me this was unexpected, with all the top GC candidates there and by far the biggest win of my career,” Lindeman said. "It won’t really sink in until tomorrow, I think. I got third in one stage in Romandie this year but this is on another level altogether.
"It’s very important for team morale, too. We have had a lot of bad luck but we got through and we’re still fighting."
In a tactically complex final seven kilometres, France’s Jérome Cousin (Europcar) opened up the hostilities amongst the breakaway group of five riders but then was caught and passed by Koshevoy. The Lampre-Merida rider was then joined by Cousin again, and then by Lindeman as the finish line approached, and the Dutchman had saved just enough fuel in the tank to go clear.
Lindeman said he had worked with breakaway Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) after Cousin and Koshevoy had gone clear. He had eventually dropped the Spanish climber after the two had partly closed the gap. "I was really thinking about doing as little work as possible and reacting to as little as possible so that I could come into the last two kilometres with as much energy as I could. That was just the way it all worked out, in cycling you have to be the smartest as well as the strongest."
Lindeman confirmed that Cousin and Koshevoy had entangled wheels in the last few hundred metres, causing the Frenchman to pull his foot out of his pedal and lose all chance of victory. "Cousin had some kind of difficulty and then the Lampre guy went full gas," he reported - by which point, in any case, he was well en route to victory.
After taking such a prestigious win, for Lindeman - and arguably for his team too - the pressure to get a second victory in the Vuelta will have dropped considerably. As he put it, "we’ll go on fighting, but from now on everything is a bonus."