Vuelta a Andalucia: Lobato scorches to victory on final stage

Juan José Lobato (Movistar) continued his fine start to the new season as he scorched to stage victory on the closing day of the Vuelta a Andalucia, while Chris Froome (Team Sky) safely negotiated the technical finale at Alhaurín de la Torre to seal the overall win, two seconds clear of his great rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

When the lurid yellow jerseys of Tinkoff-Saxo swarmed towards the front of the peloton in the closing kilometres, Contador seemed poised to attempt one of his famous ambushes in a bid to reverse his defeat to Froome atop the Alto de Allanadas the previous day.

In the event, however, Froome seemed as comfortable as it was possible to be in such nervous circumstances and he avoided any late surprises. He kept Contador within sight through the procession of roundabouts and road furniture on the run-in and stayed close, too, when the road kicked upwards in the final 1500 metres. For good measure, he finished the stage three places ahead of Contador in sixth.

The fireworks in the finale were instead provided by the irrepressible Lobato, who landed his second stage win of the race in the most emphatic of fashions by claiming the scalp of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and underscoring his status as a dark horse contender for Milan-San Remo.

With 1200 metres remaining, just as the road began to ramp up towards the line, the young Belgian talent Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) zipped off the front of the peloton with a canny finisseur’s move, and he stoutly defended his advantage deep into the final 500 metres of the stage.

Rather than stand on ceremony, however, Lobato took matters in hand with almost 400 metres remaining, as he ripped clear of the bunch and set off in pursuit of Theuns. He swooped upon the youngster shortly before the crown of the final bend and then swept right by him to open a decisive lead.

Behind, Degenkolb was the only man with the wherewithal to come close to Lobato but he had simply left himself with far too much ground to make up. He finished in second place, but the gap was such that the timekeepers judged he had crossed the line with a deficit of one second to Lobato.

"You can never say you took an easy win, but to be honest, my team-mates made things quite easier for me this team," Lobato said. "Especially since they started to push, as well Javi as José, to keep things calmed down into the bunch and not to let the break go away much, and into the final kilometers, with Gorka keeping me in good position.

"There was some crosswind in the finale and, together with all nerves up and the fight for position... it all made the finish quite difficult. Still, I was telling Gorka to keep going until where he could, to stay calm, because I would look for my distance and give it the final shot."

Sylvain Chavanel – hoping for a better spring in his second year at IAM Cycling – showed encouraging signs by taking third place on the stage, two seconds back, while Grega Bole (CCC Sprandi) beat stage 1 winner Pim Lighthart (Lotto Soudal) to fourth.

The stage had been animated by a seven-man break featuring Johnny Hoogerland (Roompot), Peio Bilbao (Caja Rural-RGA), Songezo Jim, Merhawi Kudus (MTN-Qhuebeka), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), Maciej Paterski (CCC Sprandi) and Victor Martin (Burgos BH), but they were tightly-controlled by a peloton where Movistar and Giant-Alpecin were eager to ensure a bunch finish.

Paterski was the final survivor of that move but despite his late defiance, he was swept up with seven kilometres remaining as Tinkoff-Saxo surged to the front of the peloton. It briefly appeared as though Froome’s red jersey was under threat, but in truth, the terrain and the speed of the bunch were hardly conducive to late attacks.

Froome still needed to be wise to splits in the peloton, however, and he safely navigated the potentially perilous finale – and helped himself to sixth place on the stage in the process – to ensure the overall win by two seconds.

"It wasn't as easy as I'd imagined and the racing was full on today. It was windy, but I'm really happy with how the guys performed out there – they supported me all the way through and I'm delighted to get this win for them," Froome told his team website.

"It couldn't have gone any better for us out here, and this win's special as it's my first race of the season. That said, I still have a lot to build on as we head towards the Tour de France. I want to stay on this path, staying healthy and injury-free, and gradually building my form."

After Contador’s seeming knock-out blow atop the Hazallanas on Friday, Froome responded in kind on the summit finish on Saturday to take the verdict at this Vuelta a Andalucia. But as both men now regroup, they will be keenly aware that this is merely a sparring session in the grand scheme of things. They will renew hostilities at Tirreno-Adriatico in March, the next high-profile weigh-in ahead of the prize fight in France in July.

Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Juan Jose Lobato (Esp) Movistar Team3:48:56
2John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Giant-Alpecin0:00:01
3Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling0:00:02
4Pim Ligthart (Ned) Lotto - SoudalRow 3 - Cell 2
5Grega Bole (Cze) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 4 - Cell 2
6Christopher Froome (GBr) Team SkyRow 5 - Cell 2
7Moreno Hofland (Ned) Team Lotto NL - JumboRow 6 - Cell 2
8Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r La MondialeRow 7 - Cell 2
9Alberto Contador Velasco (Esp) Tinkoff - SaxoRow 8 - Cell 2
10Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions CréditsRow 9 - Cell 2
11Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Wanty – Groupe GobertRow 10 - Cell 2
12Jerome Pineau (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 11 - Cell 2
13Bob Jungels (Lux) Trek Factory RacingRow 12 - Cell 2
14Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La MondialeRow 13 - Cell 2
15Cyril Gautier (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 14 - Cell 2
16Benat Intxausti Elorriagai (Spa) Movistar Team0:00:08
17Luis Miguel Mate (Esp) Cofidis, Solutions CréditsRow 16 - Cell 2
18Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise0:00:10
19Sébastien Reichenbach (Sui) IAM Cycling0:00:12
20Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team SkyRow 19 - Cell 2
21Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Tinkoff - Saxo0:00:14
22Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Team Sky0:00:15
23Yannick Eijssen (Bel) Wanty – Groupe GobertRow 22 - Cell 2
24Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Esp) Team SkyRow 23 - Cell 2
25Serguei Firsanov (Rus) RusVeloRow 24 - Cell 2
26Gorka Izagirre (Esp) Movistar TeamRow 25 - Cell 2
27Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo0:00:18
28Jerome Coppel (Fra) IAM CyclingRow 27 - Cell 2
29Sergio Pardilla Bellon (Esp) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 28 - Cell 2
30Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto - SoudalRow 29 - Cell 2
31Nicholas Roche (Irl) Team Sky0:00:22
32Fabio Silvestre (Por) Trek Factory RacingRow 31 - Cell 2
33Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Colombia0:00:24
34David Arroyo Duran (Esp) Caja Rural-Seguros RGARow 33 - Cell 2
35Edward Fabián Díaz Cárdenas (Col) ColombiaRow 34 - Cell 2
36Christopher Jones (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team0:00:29
37Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN - QhubekaRow 36 - Cell 2
38Andrei Solomennikov (Rus) RusVelo0:00:36
39Oliver Naesen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 38 - Cell 2
40Huub Duyn (Ned) Team RoompotRow 39 - Cell 2
41Alexander Foliforov (Rus) RusVeloRow 40 - Cell 2
42Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto - Soudal0:00:39
43Adrian Honkisz (Pol) CCC Sprandi PolkowiceRow 42 - Cell 2
44Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Team RoompotRow 43 - Cell 2
45Francis De Greef (Bel) Wanty – Groupe GobertRow 44 - Cell 2
46Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ0:00:42
47Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar0:00:45
48Merhawi Kudus (Eri) MTN - QhubekaRow 47 - Cell 2
49Jérémy Roy (Fra) FDJRow 48 - Cell 2
50Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Esp) Trek Factory RacingRow 49 - Cell 2
51Marcel Wyss (Sui) IAM CyclingRow 50 - Cell 2
52Koen De Kort (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin0:00:48
53Juan Pablo Valencia (Col) Colombia0:00:54
54Alex Norberto Cano Ardila (Col) ColombiaRow 53 - Cell 2
55Jay Thomson (Rsa) MTN - Qhubeka0:00:56
56Amaury Capiot (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen - BaloiseRow 55 - Cell 2
57Maxime Mederel (Fra) Team Europcar0:00:57
58Romain Sicard (Fra) Team EuropcarRow 57 - Cell 2
59Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto - Soudal0:00:58
60Ibai Salas (Esp) Burgos-BHRow 59 - Cell 2
61Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Ag2r La MondialeRow 60 - Cell 2
62David Belda Garcia (Esp) Burgos-BHRow 61 - Cell 2
63Daniele Ratto (Ita) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling TeamRow 62 - Cell 2
64Bart De Clercq (Bel) Lotto - SoudalRow 63 - Cell 2
65Brian Van Goethem (Ned) Team Roompot0:01:00
66Sylwester Szmyd (Pol) CCC Sprandi Polkowice0:01:04
67Jesus Del Pino Corrochano (Esp) Burgos-BH0:01:08
68Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) Team RoompotRow 67 - Cell 2
69Jos Van Emden (Ned) Team Lotto NL - Jumbo0:01:12
70Simon Geschke (Ger) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 69 - Cell 2
71Johannes Frohlinger (Ger) Team Giant-AlpecinRow 70 - Cell 2
72Carlos Quintero (Col) ColombiaRow 71 - Cell 2
73Vincent Jerome (Fra) Team Europcar0:01:21
74Marc De Maar (Aho) Team Roompot0:01:24
75Artem Ovechkin (Rus) RusVelo0:01:25
76Reinier Honig (Ned) Team Roompot0:01:28
77Stijn Devolder (Bel) Trek Factory Racing0:01:32
78Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Wanty – Groupe Gobert0:01:37