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by Shane Stokes
September 13, 2014
Picking up a superb stage win in what is his tenth consecutive Grand Tour, Adam Hansen soloed into Cangas de Morrazo five seconds clear of a large chase group. The Lotto Belisol rider’s effort came when he jumped clear of a select group with just under five kilometres to go.
The climb of the Alto Monte Faro had thinned things out beforehand and the sole remaining sprinters such as John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) were left short of support riders, this fact stymying the chase.
In contrast, Hansen was fully committed and he reached the line with plenty of time for celebration. His victory is the second Grand Tour stage win of his career, coming after a similarly impressive solo move in last year’s Giro d’Italia.
“I won a Giro stage, now a Vuelta stage. It is coming together and I am very happy,” said Hansen, who said it was one of the best days of his career.
“I wanted to do something, that is for sure. There was a steep climb and a lot of the sprinters were annihilated, which was good for me. I was always active in the final so I was sort of hoping in the very, very end I would do something. They attacked a bit earlier than I wanted to and I sort of went with it.
“I was too far out but I said, ‘okay, I have to give it everything,’ and surprise, surprise.”
Earlier in the stage Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol), Laurent Mangel (FDJ.fr) and Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) successfully formed the day’s break and stayed away until just before the final climb of the Alto Monte Faro.
Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) attacked very early on that ascent and held a solid lead over the top. He continued to ride well afterwards, staving off a solo chase by Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team), but was finally recaptured with 5.3 kilometres to go. That set things up for Hansen’s counter, and a fine victory on the third-last day of this year’s Vuelta.
His efforts earned a big cheer from the crowds, but there was also support for Sky’s Dario Cataldo. He slid out on a bend on the descent off the Alto Monte Faro, skidding across the road on his back and appearing to hit a tree. A passing camera shot appeared to suggest he was unconscious, but he was able to remount and to ride in to the finish.
His team leader Chris Froome and the other GC contenders had a relatively quiet day, with none of them firing off an attack in advance of Saturday’s final mountain stage. The gaps consequently remain the same, setting the scene for a big showdown.
Stage 19 of the Vuelta a España was the final chance for the sprinters, but with two second-category climbs looming on the 180.5 kilometre stretch from Salvaterra do Miño to Cangas do Morrazo, nothing was guaranteed for them.
Most of the first half of the stage was on flat to rolling roads but then, 16 kilometres after the first intermediate sprint at A Guarda (km. 59), the riders would begin climbing. The Alto do Monte da Groba was 12 kilometres in length and topped out at kilometre 87, then after a descent and another flat section, the riders would reach the second intermediate sprint at Vigo (km. 124.7).
From there they had over 35 kilometres of rolling roads until the start of the day’s final climb, the 4.7 kilometre Alto Monte Faro. The summit came 15.5 kilometres from the end and the gradient gave the stronger riders the platform to try to shake off the sprinters before the line.
Trek Factory Racing’s Bob Jungels was a non-starter on the stage, with a saddle sore making it impossible for him to continue.
After ten kilometres of racing Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) had a slight lead. He was joined by Johan Le Bon (FDJ.fr) at kilometre 14, then were reinforced soon afterwards by Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) and Jaco Venter (MTN Qhubeka). The breakaway was however caught at kilometre 17.
Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) then tried to get clear with Guillaume Boivin (Cannondale) and Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r La Mondiale) and while this move was not successful, the former went clear at kilometre 25 with Laurent Mangel (FDJ.fr) and Wout Poels (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). This was given more rope and soon afterwards the gap reached a minute and 20 seconds.
This went up to three minutes by kilometre 44. This increased by a further 15 seconds by the intermediate sprint at A Guarda (km. 59), where Mangel lead Ligthart and Poels across the line.
Poels was first to the top of the Alto do Monte da Groba (km. 87), with Mangel second and Ligthart third. The gap there was down to two minutes 25 seconds and dropped further to one and a half minutes by the second intermediate sprint, that of Vigo (km. 124.7).
Ligthart, Poels and Mangel went across the prime line in that order and continued to work hard. This enabled the gap to go back out to two minutes ten seconds with 50 kilometres remaining, at which point the Orica GreenEdge riders joined Giant-Shimano at the front in their chase.
The combined efforts hacked the gap down to 40 seconds with 30 kilometres to go. Nine kilometres later, Mangel gave up and was caught. Ligthart and Poels tried to persist but were caught very soon afterwards.
As the climb started Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) jumped clear. The peloton immediately exploded on the slopes and many riders went backwards.
The lone leader had an eight second lead with 19.3 kilometres to go, while behind Peter Kennaugh was leading the Sky team, perhaps setting up an attack by Chris Froome.
With 17.5 kilometres Guillaume Levarlet (Cofidis) jumped clear but only stayed away for couple of minutes. Sky reeled him and continued to chase Lutsenko over the summit, where he had a slight six second lead.
Green jersey wearer John Degenkolb (Giant Shimano) had done a great ride on the climb, staying close to the front. He knew if he stayed with the group that he had a good chance at a stage win, but so too did Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) and he also managed to remain in what was left of the bunch.
Samuel Sanchez (BMC Racing Team) attacked on the downhill and used his descending speed to get a gap. Sky’s Dario Cataldo crashed behind, sliding on a bend and appearing to hit a tree. He was left motionless by the roadside, prompting concern. Fortunately after medical checks he was able to remount and to ride in to the finish.
Sanchez was caught with approximately 12 kilometres to go. Lusenko still had a 15 second gap at that point and continued to dig in; behind, Degenkolb’s Giant-Shimano team was chasing. Despite that, the leader still had 14 seconds with ten kilometres to go.
The chase was relentless, though, and his brave move out front finally came to an end on a climb with 5.3 kilometres left. Kennaugh led the bunch over the top, while Degenkolb and Matthews were prominent and poised for the gallop.
Adam Hansen (Lotto Belisol) then attacked inside the final five kilometres and eked out a small lead. He was chased by a Cofidis rider, but the latter was caught with 3.7 kilometres to go. Hansen was moving well and continued to hold a lead heading under the three kilometre to go banner, increasing his advantage to 14 seconds.
The lack of support riders for the sprinters behind meant the chase behind was disorganised and Hansen made full use of this, still retaining a 12 second lead heading under the kite.
He blasted in five seconds clear of Degenkolb, Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Yannick Martinez (Europcar) and Matthews, taking the second Grand Tour stage win of his career in what is his tenth consecutive three week tour.