One of Spain’s longest-standing veterans, Haimar Zubeldia (Trek Factory Racing) made a courageous bid for Vuelta a Espana success on stage 15, but despite expertly calculating his strength, the Basque rider was finally reeled in just 2km from the line.
The 38-year-old, who finished 10th overall in his first-ever Vuelta way back in 2000, proved to be the most tenacious of the nine-rider day long break, edging out of the move roughly a third of the way up the final climb.
His gap held solidly at a minute as he successfully scaled the steep first section of the climb, then time trialled it up the steadier middle segment before tackling the last, most difficult ascent still alone and at the head of the field.
Zubeldia’s solo effort was finally scuppered after Movistar domestique Giovanni Visconti relentlessly upped the pace in the group of favourites and then Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) made good his aim of a stage win with a devastating double final attack.
“I knew it was difficult, but I will try again,” Zubeldia, whose recent Tour de France campaign was hampered with a stomach virus, said afterwards.
“I tried to go up at my own speed, but it was a very good stage for Purito [Joaquim Rodriguez] and in the last two kilometres it was all over.
“It was good to be in the break, and I felt more confident that we could stay away after we managed to increase the gap after the second category climb [of El Tomo, mid-stage] on the main group.”
Zubeldia promised that he could be back in a breakaway, perhaps as soon as Monday, after what is already proving to be a successful Vuelta for Trek Factory Racing. “We’ve had two stage wins with young riders [Danny van Poppel and Jasper Stuyven] now let’s see” - he said with a chuckle - “if an old one can get one, too.”