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Vuelta a España 2015: Stage 16

Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of stage 16 of the 2015 Vuelta a España, which takes the riders across a mountainous 185km route from Luarca to Ermita de Alba. See below our recent coverage from the race.

 

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Good morning/afternoon/evening, depending on where you are in the world. You thought the Andorra stage was the queen stage, didn’t you? Well, apparently it wasn’t. This is. There are no fewer seven categorised climbs on today's route, which culminates with a new and potentially spectacular hors-catégorie summit finish. A big day in store at the Vuelta!

 

Here's the profile of today's stage:

 

 

As you can see from the stage profile, the riders are faced with an early climb. As we pick up the action they are nearing the top, with some early attacks and splits in the bunch. 

 

A group of five riders went clear pretty much as soon as the flag dropped. There was no trouble in them opening up an advantage and they currently have around 6 minutes on the peloton. 

 

They are: Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quick Step), Pierre Rolland (Europcar), Frank Schleck (Trek), and Rodolfo Torres (Team Colombia).

 

On the slopes of that third-category climb four a few riders went clear of the peloton. Four of them formed a group and have now linked up with the five breakaway riders to form a group of nine. The four newcomers are: Moreno Moser (Cannondale-Garmin), Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis), Lawrence Warbasse (IAM Cycling) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo). 

 

Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida) is dangling half a minute back from the lead group, which now has over seven minutes over a peloton where the main favourites are content to take it easy for now. 

 

Fraile is the first man over the Alto de Aristébano, followed by Rolland and then Torres. With seven categorised climbs in total, this is a potentially lucrative day in the fight for the mountains jersey. 

 

Grmay joins up with the leaders and we now have a group of 10 out front with an ever-growing advantage currently standing at 8 minutes. 

 

The weather is warm and dry, with very little wind at the moment. 

 

We may be heading deeper into the Vuelta but we can spare a thought for one of the other Grand Tours. The Giro d'Italia has just unveiled one of its showpiece stages for next year and it looks like a stunner. Read all about it:

 

2016 Giro d'Italia to feature rolling 40km time trial through Chianti vineyards

 

 

The gap between the break and the unconcerned peloton stretches out to over 10 minutes. The closest threat to Aru's red jersey is Schleck, all the way down at over 40 minutes. 

The leaders begin the second climb of the day, the second-category Alto de Piedratecha, having covered 32km in the first hour of racing. They have a lead of over 12 minutes now and it's starting to look pretty good in terms of the stage win. 

 

A reminder that you can listen to/download the Cyclingnews podcast. We will have another episode for you tomorrow, featuring Bradley Wiggins and plenty of Vuelta discussion. Until then, if you haven't listened to the current episode, with an exclusive interview with Dave Brailsford, then you can do so using the link below.

 

The Cyclingnews podcast: Exclusive interview with Team Sky's Dave Brailsford

 

 

147km remaining from 185km

 The escapees' lead continues to grow on the upper slopes of the day's second climb, the category 2 Alto de Piedratecha. They now have 13 minutes in hand over the peloton.

One senses that today's stage will be Nairo Quintana's final opportunity to ignite a general classification challenge from his Vuelta a Espana, as he begins the day in 9th place overall, three minutes behind Fabio Aru. The auguries from Quintana's attack on the Sotres yesterday were not altogether encouraging however, though he remained cautiously optimistic about his prospects of a podium finish in Madrid.

 

140km remaining from 185km

Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros) picks up the maximum five points over the top of the Piedratecha to buttress his lead in the king of the mountains classification still further. The break is now some 16:40 ahead of the main peloton.

 

The relative détente in the main peloton is all the more understandable when one considers that this is not merely the third summit finish in succession, but the ninth out of the Vuelta’s 16 stages to date. By any measure, this has been a brutal edition of the Vuelta, and there’s still a week to Madrid.

 

The break is on the long plateau that follows the  Piedratecha, some 30 kilometres from the category 3 Alto de la Cabruñana, the third of the day's seven climbs.

 

134km remaining from 185km

The advantage of the ten leaders continues to grow and it has now stretched out to 18 minutes over the peloton, where Astana and Katusha have thus far shown little appetite for leading a chase. 

 

The general classification picture ahead of today's stage, meanwhile, was as follows:

 

1 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 61:53:56
2 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:01
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:24
4 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:25
5 Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:01:34
6 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:08
7 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:02:19
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:25
9 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:00
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:05:07
 

 

120km remaining from 185km

Even with five climbs still to come, it's beginning to feel like a safe bet that the day's winner will come from this leading group of ten. Frank Schleck, Pierre Rolland, Moreno Moser et al now have a lead of 20:50 over the peloton.

 

As the peloton's deficit reaches 21 minutes, the brinksmanship between Astana and Katusha appears to have come to an end. Katusha have begun to set a brisker tempo at the head of the bunch.

 

We have also been wrapping up all the news away from the Vuelta. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot is now a world champion in no fewer than three cycling disciplines. Read what she had to say about her remarkable achievement in our latest edition of news shorts. Also features Nacer Bouhanni's Worlds preparations and riders taking wrong turns at the Tour of Alberta.

 

News Shorts: Ferrand-Prevot lays down Rio 2016 Olympics marker

 

 

 

103km remaining from 185km

The riders are now on the third climb of the day - the third-category Alto de Cabruñana.

 

Fraile is once again the first man over the top of the climb. The Spaniard began the day 28 points ahead in the mountains classification and none of his other breakaway companions are anywhere near him. There are still plenty of points on the road and with the way things are going it only seems likely he'll continue to add to his tally. 

Meanwhile the breakaway's advantage has started to fall for the first time today. Katyusha's appearance on the front of the bunch has knocked a couple of minutes off the gap over that climb and it now stands at 20 minutes.

One man who will have been perfectly happy with the gentle pace in the bunch over the first half of this stage is Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman, who sits fourth on GC, has been losing nuggets of time in the mountains but is limiting is losses far better than anyone could have predicted. If he can get through today without losing too much more, then he could steal back a whole chunk in the time trial on Wednesday. 

 

"I feel pretty good. I'm still up there on GC but today is the hardest of the three consecutive mountain stages, especially with the penultimate climb," he told lavuelta.com this morning. "My objective is to lose as little time as possible. Today is more important than the time trial in Burgos. I need to limit my losses. Quintana seems stronger every day."

 

19:30 is the gap now. We may be in between two categorised climbs but that doesn't mean the road is flat. The road drags up, drops down, then drags up again towards the fourth climb of the day. 

The Mark Cavendish transfer saga (can we call it a saga?) rumbles on. Bradley Wiggins seemed to let slip that the Manxman will definitely be leaving Etixx-QuickStep at the end of the year. Read what he said here:

 

Wiggins suggests that Cavendish will leave Etixx-QuickStep for 2016

 

 

One man who will have been perfectly happy with the gentle pace in the bunch over the first half of this stage is Tom Dumoulin. The Dutchman, who sits fourth on GC, has been losing nuggets of time in the mountains but is limiting is losses far better than anyone could have predicted. If he can get through today without losing too much more, then he could steal back a whole chunk in the time trial on Wednesday. 

 

"I feel pretty good. I'm still up there on GC but today is the hardest of the three consecutive mountain stages, especially with the penultimate climb," he told lavuelta.com this morning. "My objective is to lose as little time as possible. Today is more important than the time trial in Burgos. I need to limit my losses. Quintana seems stronger every day."

 

Joaquim Rodríguez won yesterday and moved to within a second of the red jersey. Katusha DS Jose Azevedo was in no way unsure about what must be achieved today. 

 

"There's no doubt that the strongest rider in this Vuelta is Tom Dumoulin. For Aru, Majka, and Purito the only thing left is to regain time today. We missed out on the red jersey by one second yesterday but wearing it or not in this stage was irrelevant. Everyone must accept their responsibility. The key today will be Movistar - they must not play it safe with the position of their leaders on GC."

 

The gap to the peloton ducks below 19 minutes now on the approach to the Alto de Tenebredo.

 

Rafa Majka put in another strong performance on yesterday's summit finish and he finds himself in third on GC with realistic podium prospects. Here's what his DS Tristan Hoffman had to say this morning.

 

"I don't know if Rafal can win the Vuelta because he's at 1:24. Today he can count on the support of Poljkanski and Jesper Hansen. It's true that Poljanksi was incredible yesterday but we already knew about his quality - he already showed what he is capable of at the Giro."

 

Schleck drops back from the break to the medical car. It's unclear at the moment what the problem is. 

Katusha are still on the front on this climb, dragging things along but the pace isn't too high. 

No prizes for guessing who was first over the top of the Alto del Tenebredo... Omar Fraile is having a great day out there consolidating his lead in the mountains classification. 

 

Up at the Tour of Britain there are riders, like at the Vuelta, with sights firmly set on the World Championships in Richmond later this month. Tyler Farrar is one of them and Cyclingnews' Sadhbh O'Shea caught up with him this morning. 

 

Farrar hoping to use Tour of Britain as springboard for World Championships

 

 

The riders in the peloton are now dragging themselves over the top of this second-category climb. It's a steep drag there, with everyone out of the saddle. Katusha still on the front. 

 

So, just the three climbs to go now. The summit finish looks brutal but the two climbs beforehand will certainly play their part. Our man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham drove the route earlier today and here's what he has to say about the next climb on the agenda - the second-category Alto de Cordal.

 

 

"Cordal is the same climb they use when they go up the Angliru (it precedes it) but they will be tackling it in the opposite direction.

 

"The Cordal is a very steady, narrow, technical climb, not too difficult. However, the descent is really, really dodgy. Narrow, loads of corners, badly surfaced. When I drove down it they were cleaning leaves off it with special vacuum cleaners…"

 

With that gap still up at just under 19 minutes, it is pretty much nailed on that our stage winner will come from the breakaway. 

 

We're four hours in now and the leaders covered 33.8km in that fourth hour. They're onto the lower slopes of the Cordal now. 

 

The tactics, or lack thereof, of Tom Dumoulin - this is what his DS Christian Guiberteau said to lavuelta.com this morning. 

 

"Today there is no tactic that matters - it's going to be a question of how strong everyone is. The legs will do the talking. Tom keeps on surprising people. He's not getting stressed, the plan is the same - to take things day by day. He hasn't actually talked about the time trial yet. It's the moment of truth and Tom knows that he can count on the support of Lawson Craddock, who will be there when needed."

 

Katusha are still on the front of the peloton, with the Astana riders in tow and the Movistar men grouped behind them. The GC contenders have been quite happy to delay hostilities so far and the four categorised climbs have passed by with little incident. Soon, though, they will start thinking about turning up the heat. Will it be on this second-category Alto de Cordal? Will it be on the tricky descent? Or will we have to wait until the penultimate climb? 

Over in Blighty, Petr Vakoc of Etixx-QuickStep has just soloed to victory in Lancashire on stage 2 of the Tour of Britain. 

The 10 breakaway riders are still together as they make their way up this climb but their lead is ebbing away as they do so. It's down at 17:30 now. 

 

Tinkoff-Saxo take it up now, putting an end to Katusha's long monopoly on the front of the bunch. 

 

36km remaining from 185km

Tinkoff-Saxo's presence on the front has really changed proceedings. It has been a fierce injection of pace and the bunch is well and truly strung out here on this climb. The gap to the breakaway has proceeded to plummet, too, and now stands at 14:30, falling all the time. 

Lots of riders struggling to hang onto the back of this single-file bunch now. Two Giant riders fall off and this is having the desired effect as far as Tinkoff are concerned. 

 

The leaders crest the Alto de Cordal (with Omar Fraile taking the points, obviously) and have the briefest moment to take in the spectacular view over the mountains of Asturias before getting their heads back over their bars and throwing themselves down this descent. 

 

Remember, this is a tricky descent. Narrow, lots of corners, dodgy surfaces, and leaves. 

 

Somewhat incongruously, there is an intermediate sprint point on this brutally up-and-down stage. The leaders are passing through it now as they finish the descent of the Cordal. They'll be more preoccupied, though, with the first-category climb that's about to begin. 

 

The peloton crest the Cordal now and thanks to Tinkoff-Saxo they do so just 11 minutes in arrears of the break. 

 

Crash! Leonardo Duque (Colombia) collides with an IAM rider on one of the first corners of the descent and the pair go crashing into the barriers. Duque is up and on his feet but the IAM rider is on the ground and in some pain. 

Sylvain Chavanel is the man down. That looked like a nasty one and the Frenchman was sat at the side of the road, head hunched, clearly in some pain. 

 

Meanwhile up the road the lead group is starting to fragment on the slopes of this first-category climb. Lemoine has lost contact and Fraile is in danger of doing the same. 

25km remaining from 185km

The peloton pass through the sprint point at Pola de Lena. They're about to begin the all-important first-category Alto de la Cobertoria. 

 

Here's how this penultimate climb looks:

 

 

Here's what Cyclingnews reporter Alasdair Fotheringham, who drove the route today on his way to the press centre, makes of the final couple of climbs.

 

Cobertoria is a very different story [To Cordal]: longer, but much more straightforward as an ascent and descent, broad, well-surfaced roads. A lot more exposed.

 

They come off it and then there’s virtually no time at all before they’re onto the final climb, which has been compared to the Angliru in steepness if not in length.

 

Schleck is looking pretty strong out front on this climb. He has been setting the pace so far and that has caused the lead group to break up. A group of four now leads the race: Schleck, Torres, Verona, and Bennett.

 

Astana have replaced Tinkoff-Saxo on the front now as the bunch thins out yet further on this climb. 40 or so riders in there now with many starting to drop off the back. 

 

Henao has been dropped from the bunch. Lawson Craddock, who can climb well, is also off the back and that leaves Dumoulin isolated. 

 

Schleck and Torres forge on together, dropping Bennett and Verona from that lead group. 

 

In the peloton four Astana men, including Aru, lead the way. There have been no real attacks but the boys in sky blue are grinding quite a pace on this wide, smooth road. 

 

Mikel Nieve attacks from the bunch. The Spaniard is 7th on GC but with 19km still to go this one may be short-lived. 

 

Schleck and Torres crest the climb and now begins a step, tricky descent. They don't have to take too many risks - they have probably enough time in hand over the peloton for the stage win.

 

14km remaining from 185km

The peloton can no longer really be described as such. This is an elite group of about 20 riders. All the main favourites are in there. 

 

In this group we have Aru and two Astana men, Rodríguez and Moreno for Katusha, Majka and Hansen for Tinkoff, Quintana and Valverde for Movistar, along with Nieve, Dumoulin, Pozzovivo, Chaves, Meintjes, Sicard, and a few others. 

 

Schleck flicks his wrist and beckons Torres through to take a share of the workload. It has been pretty one-sided so far, with Schleck looking really strong and forcing the issue. The final climb now begins for the leading duo. 

 

6km remaining from 185km

Schleck and Torres have a gap of almost 10 minutes over the peloton and they'll be able to hold this to the line. There are still a few riders in between but it looks like the winner may well be one of these two. 

The GC group is currently making its way down the tricky descent of the Alto de la Cobertoria. 

 

Torres just comes through and turns up the pace, briefly putting Schleck in a spot of bother. 

 

Here's what the final climb of the day looks like. 21%!!

 

 

And Tinkoff-Saxo leads the GC group around the corner and onto this final climb. 6.5km to go now for these riders. 

Polanski opened up a gap as he sprinted onto the climb, and he's out of the saddle and forcing a high pace here. 

 

Schleck attacks! The Trek rider strikes out and leaves Torres behind on the steep gradients. 

 

This could well be Schleck’s first victory since he came back from a one-year doping ban relating to a positive test for Xipamide at the 2012 Tour de France. 

 

Back in the GC group Poljanski pulls off and almost grinds to a halt. A great job done to set up teammate Majka. 

Schleck gets a brief spot of respite on a short flat section. There's no official time gap but I think he's a good 30 seconds ahead of Torres. 

 

Flamme rouge for Schleck, as things are yet to ignite in the GC group behind. 

 

Landa is on the front of the bunch here. It's not splitting up really, and Dumoulin is second wheel, looking very comfortable. 

 

Schleck comes up towards the line now - he has this in the bag.

 

Huge crowds at this summit finish. It's steep and narrow, with fans banging the hoardings, and Schleck comes through it into the final 100 metres. 

 

Schleck zips up the jersey, sits up, and savours the moment as he crosses the line to win stage 16 of the Vuelta. 

 

Valverde is dropped from the GC group. 

 

Torres comes through the line now for second place. 

 

Back to the GC group now, and Chaves is struggling to stay in contact too. 

 

2km remaining from 185km

Landa driving this, looking really strong. Pozzovivo is dropped as the group thins to 10.

 

Moreno struggling now, and Dumoulin fading slightly as well. Aru is nearer the back of the group and not on teammate Landa's wheel. 

Dumoulin loses contact but he comes back! Mightily impressive stuff once more from the Dutchman. 

 

1km remaining from 185km

Landa is absolutely bossing this. No one has what it takes to attack at the moment. 

 

Dumoulin's legs go! A really steep ramps there and the legs just stop working briefly. Can he get back on - wouldn't bet against it. 

 

Rodriguez attacks! 

 

Majka is trying to come back but Rodriguez has a gap. Crucially, Dumoulin has been distanced. 

 

Aru comes past Majka and takes it up in pursuit. He's losing his race lead here. 

 

Aru has a gap on Majka 

 

Rodriguez comes across the line, followed 2 seconds later by Aru. 

 

Maja comes through now with Quintana, Landa, Nieve, and Meintjes. 

 

And now Dumoulin comes home! He was distanced but lost less than 30 seconds to Rodriguez. What an effort. 

 

Rodríguez is the new leader of the Vuelta by a solitary second over Aru. Dumoulin is 1:31 back. 

Top-10 on the stage

 

1 Frank Schleck (Lux) Trek Factory Racing 5:49:56
2 Rodolfo Torres (Col) Colombia 0:01:10
3 Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:48
4 George Bennett (NZl) Team LottoNL-Jumbo 0:02:42
5 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:02:49
6 Omar Fraile (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:03:05
7 Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:04:26
8 Larry Warbasse (USA) IAM Cycling 0:06:02
9 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:08:51
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:08:53

 

General classification after stage 16

 

1 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 67:52:44
2 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:01
3 Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:01:35
4 Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:51
5 Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:02:32
6 Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 0:02:38
7 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:02:49
8 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:03:11
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:03:58
10 Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN - Qhubeka 0:05:22

 

Our brief report is already up. We have a full report and photo gallery on the way shortly, and we'll be bringing you all the initial reaction right here.

 

Vuelta a Espana: Schleck wins on Ermita de Alba

 

There's a long 300km transfer after this stage to Burgos, where the all-important time trial will take place after a rest day. Fortunately for the top-10 on GC, who are listed to the right of your screen, they can enjoy the luxury of being taken by helicopter from the top of this mountain, courtesy of the race organisers. 

 

Poor Purito. It's going to happen again, isn't it?

@friebos Mon, 7th Sep 2015 16:37:51

Frank Schleck celebrates his victory

 

 

 

Here's what Tom Dumoulin had to say after the stage:

 

"That was much better than expected. I didn't feel so good on the fist cat climb, it went really fast, but I was never really in trouble and i thought, 'ah we'll give it a go on the last climb'. I had really good legs, to lose 28 seconds is really really good, still everything is open."

 

 

Here is stage winner Schleck on the day's proceedings:

 

"The confidence is what you saw but you didn’t see what I felt. Of course I was very nervous. He [Torres] was tough, I didn’t know him so well. Fortunately the team in the car, they analysed the race, told me what I had to do. We didn’t really know what Torres could do. It was tough to win this stage, but all the work, all the injuries – today it’s all worth it."

 

So, a rest day tomorrow, before what is likely to be the decisive stage of this Vuelta. It's the time trial, and Dumoulin is still in with a shout. It's beautifully poised. 

 

Here's what Fabio Aru, who lost his leader's jersey by a second, made of it all:


"It was difficult. I tried my best on the last climb. Soon we’ll have a very important time trial and one second is neither here nor there. That’s how it is. I have to recover, try and get something back in the legs tomorrow, and then see.

"To be honest in the last kilometres I was just following Purito – he was going very fast, we trued to control him, but we weren’t able to match him today, we offer him a lot of respect. It was a big stage."
 

 

That's about it from our live coverage today. I'll leave you with our full report, results, and photo gallery. Tomorrow is a rest day but we'll be bringing you all the latest from the race, as well as another episode of the podcast. Thanks for joining!

 

Vuelta a Espana: Schleck wins on Ermita de Alba

 

 

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