A day with more than 5,000 metres of climbing, 225 kilometres of racing - and another 20 of neutralised - and four first category ascents could not deter Alexandre Geniez from taking his maiden Grand Tour stage win in stage 15 of the Vuelta a España. At the same time, the 25-year-old FDJ.fr pro said victory in Spain's top race made up for a disappointing Tour de France.
On a day where most of the favourites - with the exception of Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) - chose to wait until the last climb to make their moves, Geniez could hardly have chosen a more ‘French' day to clinch his win, or an earlier start.
Apart from the race's final two climbs in France - the 2013 Vuelta's way of paying homage to the centenary edition of the Tour de France - on top of that Bernard Bourreau, the French national trainer, was following the stage and ASO head honcho Christian Prudhomme was in the race director's car for the stage, too.
Part of a group of 28 riders that broke away on the first climb, the Cantó, the breakaway finally disintegrated on the Port de Bales, less than 50 kilometres from the finish. After Geniez dropped his most persistent pursuer, Caja Rural's Andre Cardoso, at the top of the Bales, ‘all' he had to do was ensure he stayed away.
"It was a good day, we gradually lost more and more riders and things got whittled down even if it was really hard early on for people to work out who was going to do what with so many riders in that early break," Geniez, whose one previous win was a stage in the Tour of Austria, said.
"In some ways it was similar to that win, I got in an early break and it gradually shrank down to fewer and fewer riders.
"Being in France was definitely an extra motivation although I had no idea if I was going to win. I knew that everybody had played their card by then, it was a question of seeing how strong my own legs were."
Geniez said that after a Tour de France which had been less than satisfactory for himself, and a difficult first half of the season because of glandular fever, it was good to be able to bounce back in Spain - albeit on French soil.
"Right at the end of the Tour, where things hadn't gone brilliantly, they asked me if I wanted to the Vuelta because I was tired, but not exhausted like everybody else. I finally saw that was a good choice."
Geniez brushed off questions about his non-selection for the upcoming world championships, saying, "It's not a drama. Whatever happens, it's up to him [the national trainer]. If I'm not there, I'm not there."
And it's true that regardless of what happens at Worlds, Geniez's victory in the Vuelta's toughest single mountain stage, coupled with teammate Thibaut Pinot's excellent battle for the overall - Pinot, again after a difficult Tour, is currently seventh overall - is making FDJ.fr's 2013 Vuelta one of their best in recent history.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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