Team Sky’s determination to continue shining on all fronts in the Vuelta despite losing leader Chris Froome to injury became more than clear on Friday when both Nicolas Roche and Sergio Henao made it into the day long break on stage 13.
Although not able to get the win after Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) soloed away on the descent with 30km to go, Roche nonetheless took a morale-boosting third place in the dash for the line. “I haven’t sprinted in a while like that,” he reflected afterwards. Above all, Roche and Henao made it clear Sky are already re-bounding from the blow of Froome’s abandon.
Roche himself has moved up from 21st to sixteenth overall, whilst thanks to his and Henao’s efforts Sky have hugely bolstered their lead in the the teams classification, too, increasing a previous 3-45 advantage over second-placed Astana to 11-21.
“At this stage in the game we’re looking at everything, we want to show in the Vuelta we are still here,” Roche said to a small group of reporters afterwards.
“We did lose our team captain Froomey and it was a big loss, but we have to show we are one of the best teams in the race. Every race we do, we commit.”
Roche said he had started the day’s racing “on the wrong foot, I punctured and it took a while to get back into the main group. Then as the stage went on, I thought it was important that I go and give a hand and follow the riders in the groups.”
“I committed quite a few times and the team was really looking for it and pushing to get in the breakaway and we were up there, there were three of us [Sky riders] in it at some points.”
“Then the day turned out to be a good breakaway, I tried to give it a go on the climbs with a little bit of pressure there, but at the end Sergio gave me a good leadout there and I tried to go for a sprint. It’s nice - I haven’t sprinted in a while like that.”
Both Henao and Roche have been injured earlier in the race and Roche lost a lot of time on the Andorra stage, but the Irishman pointed out that the team remained ambitious for a good place in the overall classification with other riders. As he said, “[Mikel] Nieve is still up there on GC, and we want to fight for whatever we can.”