Alexandre Geniez (FDJ.fr) won the queen stage of the Vuelta a Espana, riding alone to the mountaintop finish at Peyragudes in France. He was part of a large group which got away early on the stage, and along the way dropped all his companions.
Second place went to Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), with Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) holding on for third after attacking his GC rivals on the Port de Bales climb.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) again defended his overall lead with apparent ease. Chris Horner (RadioShack Leopard) is still second at 50 seconds, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) third at 1:42.
While Geniez took a well deserved win, the true race was that within the favourites' group. Roche had jumped early in an attempt to make up lost time. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Nibali and Horner all kept close watch on one another, every now and then pulling ahead or chasing to make their mark, with Domenico Pozzovivo dangling at the back. In the end, the all crossed the finish line together, only 15 second behind Roche. Nibali made a point of leading the group into the finish.
It was a breakthrough win for 25-year-old Geniez, whose only previous pro win was a stage at the Tour of Austria in 2011. The crowds at the French ski resort joyously celebrated their homeland winner.
"This was such a good day, it was the best day for me. I was a bit lucky but racing in France made it a special day," Geniez said.
"It was good group of six riders in the break and everyone played the game and cooperated to take the break as far clear as possible. Then on the last climb we all rode at our own speed."
"The bunch came back but I still had some power to stay away. I didn't enjoy the last few kilometres because you never know if you are going to be caught or if you can be happy. Fortunately I can be happy."
Geniez had joined the 28-man strong group which got away about 23 km into the stage. He was one of the first to jump when the group fell apart on the second climb of the day, and a six-rider group formed which held together until the ascent of the third climb. He climbed to the top with Caja Rural's Andre Cardoso, dropping him on the descent and then tackling the final climb alone.
How it unfolded
The day started out dry, with only one rider not starting: Thomas Marczynski of Vacansoleil-DCM who became ill overnight.
The first of the day's four climbs came almost immediately. The Puerto del Canto (category 1) topped out at km 31.4 and featured a 24.4km long climb. Several riders and groups tried to get away on the ascent, but the first efforts were unsuccessful.
After 23km, Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura) took off and soon a 28-man-strong group formed. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) took the mountain points, with Serge Pauwels (OPQS). Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural), Mikael Cherel (AG2R) and Warren Barguil (Argos-Shimano) behind him. However the peloton was not going to let a group get away again and held the escapees to within three minutes.
The rain started up again, although it was notably warmer than the day before. But things were bad enough to start the list of abandons, with Philippe Gilbert (BMC) calling it quits about 60 km into the day. Others followed with nine riders quitting the race during the stage.
The breakaway group was too large to be successful,and on the climb up the second mountain, Puerto de la Bonaigua, the group started coming apart. Barguil, Alexandre Geniez (FDJ) and Francis de Greef (Lotto Belisol) were the first to go on the attack and soon a new group formed as they were joined by Cherel, Cardoso and Edet.
This smaller group was more successful and soon had over two minutes on the chase group and a maximum of 8:03 on the peloton. Edet took the second mountain ranking as well, ahead of Cardoso, Cherel, Barguil and Geniez.
Astana got serious about the chase and that, combined with a long but gradual and easy descent, started bringing the gap down. The abandons continued along the way, with a total of eight by about km 140.
The first intermediate sprint of the day came on that descent, at km 139. De Greef won it, followed by Cardoso and Cherel. At that time the gaps were 2:55 to the large chase group and 5:30 to the peloton. Both of those gaps had dropped slightly by the time they crossed over into France, about 11km later.
Sun and warmer temperatures up to 27°C greeted the riders there, much to their relief. The first climb on French soil was the Col du Port de Bales. The category 1 climb is 19.2km long with an average gradient of 6.2%, but with sections up to 10.5%.
As the six leaders started up this third climb, they had 3:30 on the chasers and 4:40 on the field. The group of chasers had long since started falling apart and was getting smaller all the time. The lead group was also getting smaller. With 35km to go, Geniez and Cardoso were alone in the front, with the peloton at 5:18, with riders sprinkled along the way between.
The two leaders crossed over the top with a gap of 5:05 over their nearest chasers. Nicholas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff), who had lost time and dropped in the GC in the previous stage, attacked out of the peloton in an attempt to work his way back up in the rankings. He crossed the mountain ranking about 20 seconds ahead of the field.
A solo effort
Geniez was the better descender, and the Frenchman took off on his own, with just over 27km to go. Roche was joined by teammate Oliver Zaugg, who dropped back from the break, and they slowly ground out a minute lead over the peloton. That didn't seem to particularly bother race leader Vincenzo Nibali or his Astana team. The Irish rider had come into the stage 4:06 down but it did park a chase by FDJ.fr to limit Pinot's losses.
With some 11 km to go, things perked up in the group of favourites, which by now was down to about 20 riders. Roche's action spurred the others into hopes of making up time, with the result that Astana firmly took control of the group. Nibali kept a close eye on his nearest rival, Horner.
With 10km to go, and on the final climb, Alejandro Valverde dared to move up, and that was too much for Nibali. He wanted to show who was in charge here and took off from the field, closely accompanied by Horner. Having proven himself, he fell back into the group.
Rigoberto Uran was the next go, but didn't get away. Joaquim Rodriguez quickly drew Horner and Nibali to his rear wheel as he moved forward. He wasn't about to give up, and attacked again, but his rivals were quick to mark him. In the meantime, Roche's lead over the group had dropped to half a minute. RadioShack moved to the head of the group, with Robert Kiserlovski leading and Horner on second wheel. Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Leo König (NetApp-Endura) had trouble keeping up.
UP ahead Geniez continued to power on in the sunshine, suffering alone on the 9% gradient sections, but gamely heading on with the goal of a stage win ahead of him. Sanchez recovered from whatever his problem was, and shot past the GC group. The alarm bells went off and the others moved up to rope him in again, and the Basque rider had trouble holding on the the group.
As Geniez passed under the 1km marker, Horner picked up the speed, dragging the rest of the group, now down to five, with him. Nibali moved back to the front, to maintain his mastery.
Geniez was able to happily cruise into the finish, with no rival anywhere in sight. Second place finally went to Lampre's Michele Scarponi about three minutes later, with Roche third at 3:05. The favourites came in together at 3:20.
|1||Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ.fr||6:20:12|
|2||Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||0:03:03|
|3||Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:03:07|
|4||Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:03:20|
|5||Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|6||Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|7||Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|8||Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|9||José Herrada Lopez (Spa) Movistar Team||0:03:23|
|10||David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|11||Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:03:45|
|12||Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:03:56|
|13||Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|14||Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|15||Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:04:55|
|16||Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard||0:05:08|
|17||Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:05:24|
|18||Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team||0:05:46|
|19||Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha||0:06:13|
|20||Amets Txurruka (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:06:35|
|21||Eros Capecchi (Ita) Movistar Team||0:06:39|
|22||Andre Fernando S. Martins Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:07:00|
|23||Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:07:15|
|24||Mikel Landa Meana (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:07:24|
|25||Yoann Bagot (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:08:13|
|26||Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:08:17|
|27||Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team||0:08:28|
|28||Mikael Cherel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||0:08:32|
|29||Francis De Greef (Bel) Lotto Belisol||0:08:55|
|30||Dominik Nerz (Ger) BMC Racing Team||0:09:14|
|31||Benat Intxausti Elorriaga (Spa) Movistar Team||0:10:59|
|32||Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 31 - Cell 2|
|33||Jose Joao Mendes (Por) Team NetApp-Endura||0:11:58|
|34||Georg Preidler (Aut) Team Argos-Shimano||0:12:16|
|35||Sergio Luis Henao Montoya (Col) Sky Procycling||0:12:51|
|36||Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:13:06|
|37||Maciej Paterski (Pol) Cannondale Pro Cycling||0:14:18|
|38||Nico Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:15:07|
|39||Juan Manuel Garate (Spa) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 38 - Cell 2|
|40||Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 39 - Cell 2|
|41||Sylvester Szmyd (Pol) Movistar Team||0:15:16|
|42||Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 41 - Cell 2|
|43||Oliver Zaugg (Swi) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||Row 42 - Cell 2|
|44||Caleb Fairly (USA) Garmin-Sharp||Row 43 - Cell 2|
|45||Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida||Row 44 - Cell 2|
|46||Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Col) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 45 - Cell 2|
|47||Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 46 - Cell 2|
|48||Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha||0:15:20|
|49||Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard||0:15:49|
|50||Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:16:23|
|51||Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team||0:16:26|
|52||Martin Kohler (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 51 - Cell 2|
|53||Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ.fr||0:16:57|
|54||Jerome Coppel (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 53 - Cell 2|
|55||Paul Voss (Ger) Team NetApp-Endura||0:18:16|
|56||Serge Pauwels (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:21:00|
|57||Pieter Serry (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 56 - Cell 2|
|58||Christian Meier (Can) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 57 - Cell 2|
|59||Xabier Zandio Echaide (Spa) Sky Procycling||Row 58 - Cell 2|
|60||Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Katusha||Row 59 - Cell 2|
|61||Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Katusha||0:21:03|
|62||Angel Vicioso Arcos (Spa) Katusha||0:21:07|
|63||Matthew Busche (USA) RadioShack Leopard||0:21:29|
|64||Grégory Rast (Swi) RadioShack Leopard||Row 63 - Cell 2|
|65||Ben Gastauer (Lux) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 64 - Cell 2|
|66||Bartosz Huzarski (Pol) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 65 - Cell 2|
|67||Nicolas Edet (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:23:05|
|68||Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 67 - Cell 2|
|69||Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Sky Procycling||0:23:25|
|70||Grega Bole (Slo) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:24:14|
|71||Vladimir Isaychev (Rus) Katusha||0:25:41|
|72||Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||0:25:45|
|73||Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 72 - Cell 2|
|74||Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard||Row 73 - Cell 2|
|75||Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 74 - Cell 2|
|76||Javier Francisco Aramendia Lorente (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 75 - Cell 2|
|77||Christian Knees (Ger) Sky Procycling||Row 76 - Cell 2|
|78||Cédric Pineau (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 77 - Cell 2|
|79||Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack Leopard||Row 78 - Cell 2|
|80||Tom Stamsnijder (Ned) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 79 - Cell 2|
|81||Iker Camano (Spa) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 80 - Cell 2|
|82||Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team||Row 81 - Cell 2|
|83||Arnaud Courteille (Fra) FDJ.fr||Row 82 - Cell 2|
|84||Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 83 - Cell 2|
|85||Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 84 - Cell 2|
|86||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||0:26:49|
|87||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling||Row 86 - Cell 2|
|88||Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 87 - Cell 2|
|89||Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||Row 88 - Cell 2|
|90||Andrey Zeits (Kaz) Astana Pro Team||0:27:36|
|91||Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack Leopard||Row 90 - Cell 2|
|92||Evgeny Petrov (Rus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||0:30:36|
|93||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||Row 92 - Cell 2|
|94||Javier Moreno Bazan (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 93 - Cell 2|
|95||Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:31:28|
|96||Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team||0:32:37|
|97||Gianni Meersman (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||0:35:09|
|98||Francesco Lasca (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 97 - Cell 2|
|99||Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 98 - Cell 2|
|100||Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 99 - Cell 2|
|101||Dennis Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Belisol||Row 100 - Cell 2|
|102||José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 101 - Cell 2|
|103||Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha||Row 102 - Cell 2|
|104||Johan Vansummeren (Bel) Garmin-Sharp||Row 103 - Cell 2|
|105||Yannick Eijssen (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 104 - Cell 2|
|106||Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 105 - Cell 2|
|107||Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 106 - Cell 2|
|108||Matteo Bono (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 107 - Cell 2|
|109||Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 108 - Cell 2|
|110||Tiziano Dall'Antonia (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 109 - Cell 2|
|111||Ivan Santaromita (Ita) BMC Racing Team||Row 110 - Cell 2|
|112||Alex Howes (USA) Garmin-Sharp||Row 111 - Cell 2|
|113||Fabricio Ferrari Barcelo (Uru) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 112 - Cell 2|
|114||Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Sharp||Row 113 - Cell 2|
|115||Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Sharp||Row 114 - Cell 2|
|116||Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||Row 115 - Cell 2|
|117||Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 116 - Cell 2|
|118||Massimo Graziato (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 117 - Cell 2|
|119||Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 118 - Cell 2|
|120||Dario Cataldo (Ita) Sky Procycling||Row 119 - Cell 2|
|121||Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 120 - Cell 2|
|122||Julien Berard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||Row 121 - Cell 2|
|123||Jan Barta (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 122 - Cell 2|
|124||Simon Clarke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 123 - Cell 2|
|125||Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team||Row 124 - Cell 2|
|126||Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar Team||Row 125 - Cell 2|
|127||Jorge Azanza Soto (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 126 - Cell 2|
|128||Daniele Ratto (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 127 - Cell 2|
|129||Robert Wagner (Ger) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 128 - Cell 2|
|130||Romain Zingle (Bel) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 129 - Cell 2|
|131||Cameron Wurf (Aus) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 130 - Cell 2|
|132||Adrien Petit (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||Row 131 - Cell 2|
|133||Thomas Peterson (USA) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 132 - Cell 2|
|134||Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FDJ.fr||Row 133 - Cell 2|
|135||Antonio Piedra Perez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||Row 134 - Cell 2|
|136||Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Sky Procycling||Row 135 - Cell 2|
|137||Mitchell Docker (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 136 - Cell 2|
|138||Adam Hansen (Aus) Lotto Belisol||Row 137 - Cell 2|
|139||Michael Matthews (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 138 - Cell 2|
|140||Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 139 - Cell 2|
|141||Paolo Longo Borghini (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 140 - Cell 2|
|142||Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano||Row 141 - Cell 2|
|143||Lucas Sebastian Haedo (Arg) Cannondale Pro Cycling||Row 142 - Cell 2|
|144||Pablo Urtasun Perez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||Row 143 - Cell 2|
|145||David Tanner (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 144 - Cell 2|
|146||Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 145 - Cell 2|
|147||Luca Dodi (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 146 - Cell 2|
|148||Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida||Row 147 - Cell 2|
|149||Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo-Tinkoff||Row 148 - Cell 2|
|150||Stéphane Poulhies (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits||0:42:10|
|DNS||Tomasz Marczynski (Pol) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team||Row 150 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Graeme Brown (Aus) Belkin Pro Cycling Team||Row 151 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team||Row 152 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Simone Stortoni (Ita) Lampre-Merida||Row 153 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Daniel Schorn (Aut) Team NetApp-Endura||Row 154 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 155 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 156 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step||Row 157 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Baden Cooke (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge||Row 158 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Luke Rowe (GBr) Sky Procycling||Row 159 - Cell 2|