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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 30, 2021

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2020 Tour de France | 2021 Giro d'Italia

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Vuelta a España stage 15 reports

We posted the race organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Rafal Majka's UAE Team Emirates:

UAE Team Emirates’s Sunday of glory began with Rafal Majka’s winning ride under the sun in the 15th stage of the Vuelta España.

The Polish climber successfully completed a solitary escape that started 90 km from the finish line of the stage between Navalmoral de la Mata to El Barraco (197.5 km with two 1st category GPM, a 2nd category GPM and a 3rd category GPM).

Rafael Majka

Rafal Majka solos across the finish line. Sirotti photo

Majka attacked and went clear in the company of Fabio Aru (Team Qhubeka NextHash), before escaping solo, managing his energy and his resistance to the heat in the best possible way to be able to keep the main chasers at a distance, with the nearest being Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo- Visma), who reached the finish line 1m 27" min behind.

Good performance also for David De La Cruz: the Spaniard completed the race in the group of the main men of the classification, taking home 9th place of the day (+ 2’57" from the winner) and maintaining the 15th position in the general classification (+ 7’11" from the leader Eiking).

Majka: “To go in the break, the important thing is to have good legs but, sometimes, these are not always enough to stay away. Today I tried from the start to attack, with the fixed idea of ​​winning the stage in mind, in order to dedicate the success to my father, my two children and UAE Team Emirates, a really great team.

"I am very happy, it is nice to be able to celebrate after a bad start to the season, and to be able to dedicate it to my dad who passed away just 3 months ago”.

The Vuelta now heads into the second rest day before beginning the final week with the 16th stage, 180 km from Laredo to Santa Cruz de Bezana on a path with a choppy elevation profile.

Here's the report from second-place Steven Kruijswijk's Jumbo-Visma team:

Steven Kruijswijk has finished second in the 15th stage of the Vuelta a España. In the battle for the stage win the rider of Team Jumbo-Visma encountered Rafal Majka, who proved just stronger. Leader Primoz Roglic finished in the reduced peloton and enters the second rest day as the number three of the general classification.

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk finishing second. Sirotti photo

Right from the first kilometre there was a battle for the breakaway. Many riders wanted to be part of it, including Sepp Kuss on behalf of the yellow-and-black brigade. His breakaway, and many others that followed, were smothered by the chasing peloton. Kruijswijk, however, eventually managed to join a new large group. The Dutchman attacked from that group and did everything possible to catch Majka, who had escaped earlier. In the end, he did not succeed.

“It was very difficult to get into the breakaway”, Kruijswijk said. “The cooperation in the chasing group was not good, so at one point I decided to attack myself. I did get a bit closer, but I also had to keep my own pace. I could only hope that Majka would collapse, but that didn’t happen. He was very strong and really put on a show. It was not our intention to go on the attack, but in a big group we always wanted to have someone of us present. That was me today.”

“If it had been necessary, I would have dropped back to work for Primoz. But he had enough support in the peloton. It’s nice that I got the freedom to go for the stage win. I certainly appreciate that. From the start it was crazy. The pace was very high all day. I don’t think anyone had an easy day today. So in that respect, a rest day tomorrow is convenient.”

Here's the report from GC leader Odd Christian Eiking's Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert team:

On the occasion of the fifteenth stage this Sunday, a difficult task waited for the riders from Valerio Piva and Jean-Marc Rossignon, holders of the leader’s jersey in this Tour of Spain (2.WT, 14/08-5/09). Four climbs from which two of the longest in this Vuelta were on the programme, still in temperatures over 30 degrees.

The teammates of Odd Christian Eiking were immediately called into work as numerous breakaway attempts succeeded each other in the beginning of the stage. For more than two hours, Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert controlled the attacks and brought back a dangerous breakaway with Kuss and de la Cruz.

It was not before the Alto de la Centenera (15 km at 5.3%), the first climb of the day after 70 kilometer, that the breakaway was formed.Around ten riders with Simone Petilli joined forces. The rest of the team of the red jersey led the peloton on the second climb of the day, the Puerto de Pedro Bernardo (9.1 km at 5.1%), preserving the gap around 5 minutes.

Dutch rider Wesley Kreder took the lead in the long downhill toward the penultimate climb, the very long Puerto de Mijares (20 km at 5.5%). There, Czech climber Jan Hirt took over and determined the rhythm of the peloton from the first to the last meter of the climb, skimming the red jersey group to around 30 riders. Rein Taaramäe then went down first, with Louis Meintjes and Eiking in his slipstream.

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert caught the riders from the breakaway one by one and was also reunited with Petilli in the valley towards the Puerto San Juan de Nava (8.6 km at 4%), from which the top was situated 4 kilometer before the finish, making the team the best represented squad in the red jersey group.Thanks to the perfect control, Meintjes and Eiking were able to react on the accelerations in the final hectometers of the climb. The Norwegian rider finished the stage in 6th position, within 3 minutes behind stage winner Majka, survivor of the breakaway.

Odd Christian Eiking

Odd Christian Eiking will start stage 16 in red. Sirotti photo

On the eve of the second rest day of this Vuelta, Odd Christian Eiking stays leader of the race, 54 seconds ahead of Guillaume Martin. Louis Meintjes stayed 14th in the provisional classification. Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert will be an eighth day in red this Tuesday, on the occasion of a transition stage towards Cantabria.

"I want to thank the whole team, because their fantastic racing enabled me to keep the red jersey until the end of the second week of the Vuelta. Without the team, I would not have been able to stay in this position at the end of such a demanding stage. We knew the intrinsic value of our collective, and for the first time we had the possibility to show it on this level by controlling a delicate day from the first to the last kilometer. At the end, I only had to watch my main competitors and reach the finish at the end of the downhill. I’m very proud to lead the Tour of Spain after two weeks and I want to thank all people who support us!" - Odd Christian Eiking

"Keeping the leader's jersey of the Tour of Spain until the second rest day is a great achievement for our team, our sponsors and the whole structure. This is why we did a big effort to conclude this stage in red and we're very proud that we succeeded. We could rely on the work of Kévin van Melsen, Riccardo Minali and Wesley Kreder in the beginning before the climbers took over, reinforced by Simone Petilli who was in the front. We were strong tactically, individually and collectively. Defending the red jersey brings us a lot of additional motivation!" - Jan Hirt

And here's the report from third-place Chris Hamilton's Team DSM:

With tomorrow’s rest day ahead of them, the peloton were ready to go racing in the mountains again at the Vuelta, with a testing 197-kilometre long route from Navalmoral de la Mata to El Barraco and several climbs. A fierce pace was set at the beginning of the day with the team well to the fore, where Romain Bardet and Thymen Arensman made the initial breakaway. Although their gap increased to almost 30 seconds, a strong chase from the peloton brought them back.

Another series of attacks followed before eventually a breakaway went clear in pursuit of a leading trio who had already forged clear, with Arensman, Michael Storer, Chris Hamilton and Martijn Tusveld making the split. The trio out front rode a very strong climb and soon became a leading duo, with Majka and Aru pushing on. The team tried to initiate a splinter chase to go off in pursuit but there was a lack of cooperation in the groups and things remained together.

Out front, Majka went solo and would eventually go on to take stage success. Behind, Hamilton rode brilliantly to get clear of the chasers on the penultimate climb, pushing the pedals as the third rider on the road and the start of a 50 kilometre solo effort for him. Despite the chasing peloton breathing down his neck in the finale, Hamilton kept going all the way to the line, not giving up and securing a great third place on the stage.

Chris Hamilton

Chris Hamilton finishing third. Sirotti photo

“That was a tough day at the office,” explained Hamilton at the finish. “Of course going for the win was the ultimate goal and the whole time I was kind of hoping the guys were hurting as much as me. You have to keep chipping away and you never know what can happen. I’m super happy with third. I gave it everything today and the peloton were coming really fast in the finish and if I wasn’t going for the win I wanted to make something from the day: a Grand Tour podium, I can’t be upset with that. It was a bit of a weird day tactics wise because we had four guys in the group so no one else was really happy to work with us, so it was pretty much attacking from that group all day. No one was really working together which is fair enough so at 50 or 60 kilometres to go I went all in to see what happened and that was it.”

Bardet added: “I think we did a good job in beginning of the stage to try and follow the moves. I was in the first move with Thymen. Then when the next group went we really had the numbers in front which was nice. I think it was another good day for the team.”

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