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by Shane Stokes
September 1, 2014
Making a move in search of the race leader’s red jersey but having to settle for the stage win, Winner Anacona (Lampre-Merida) raced to an excellent victory on the Vuelta a España’s summit finish at Aramón Valdelinares.
The Colombian rider lived up to his name when he proved strongest out of a 31man break which went clear early on. He pushed ahead with Javier Moreno (Movistar) and Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) on the day’s penultimate ascent, the second category Alto de San Rafael (km. 171.5), then dropped the others on the final climb.
He raced in 45 seconds ahead of Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko and 50 up on his own team-mate Damiano Cunego. Moreno held on for fourth, while Caja Rural-Seguros RGA’s Pello Bilbao was fifth.
Anacona had started the day 21st overall, two minutes and 50 seconds off the red jersey of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and his attack was a bid for that race lead. However fast pace-setting by the Sky team brought the general classification riders’ group closer and while Chris Froome was unable to match a surge by Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) inside the final three kilometres, the latter was caught on the line by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Valverde’s team-mate Nairo Quintana.
They finished two minutes and 16 seconds back, putting Quintana into the red jersey. Contador ended the day three seconds behind, while Valverde was eight second back in third and Anacona ended up fourth overall, a mere nine seconds off the leader’s jersey he was chasing.
Froome, who was unable to go with the attacks on the final climb, finished 18th to Contador’s 12th and conceded 23 seconds. This dropped him down one place to fifth overall, although he will hope to improve his position in Tuesday’s time trial.
Anacona was understandably very satisfied by the result. “I have had some great wins but this one is extremely special,” he said at the finish. “This is the first GT victory for me in my life and it feels fantastic. I had tears in my eyes when I crossed the finish line.
“I knew I had a chance to take the lead in the general classification and I am now very well placed overall. I am very happy. Maybe I will tire later in the race but this has been a great day for me, my team and my country. I am going to try to fight for the top ten.”
His attack came from quite a way out. He conceded it was a gamble, but one which paid off. “It was risky, but I felt good and I had the legs. So I managed to keep a good rhythm to get the stage victory and that was important for me. It would have been complicated to go later, and so I attacked.”
Asked if he would try to take the red jersey in the time trial, he played down such thoughts. “The red jersey is not a goal for me [there],” he said, acknowledging that he won’t have the speed to grab it. “Maybe it is better for me not to have it at the moment, but in this race you never know.
“I would prefer to win stages rather than to go for the red jersey.”
After Saturday’s flat, wind-gusted race, the Vuelta a España returned to the mountains on Sunday’s ninth stage. The race from Carboneras De Guadazaon to Aramón Valdelinares lacked any categorised climbs in the first half of the 185 kilometre distance, but shortly after the intermediate sprint in Teruel (km. 101.5) the riders would feature the first of those ascents.
The Puerto de Cabigordo (km. 124) was only a category three climb but, following the day’s second sprint in Cedrillas (km. 132.8), the riders would gradually descend and then begin the second category Alto de San Rafael (km. 171.5). After that a short, sharp descent would follow, then the steep slog up to the finish atop the first category Aramón Valdelinares mountain.
The stage was characterised by large groups going clear. Soon after the drop of the flag a 27 man group got established, but a lack of cooperation saw it hauled back inside the first 20 kilometres. A smaller group then pushed ahead but was itself reeled in.
A more successful attempt was made soon afterwards when 27 riders forged ahead and opened a decent lead. Those present included Garmin-Sharp’s Ryder Hesjedal, already aggressive this week, as well as Lampre-Merida duo Winner Anacona and Damiano Cunego, Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale), Astana’s Alexey Lutsenko, Paul Martens (Belkin Pro Cycling), Dominik Nerz and Danilo Wyss (both BMC Racing Team), Peio Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jerome Coppel and Romain Zingle (Cofidis), Natnael Berhane and Yannick Martinez (Europcar), Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Sharp), Pirmin Lang (IAM Cycling), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Javier Moreno (Movistar), Daniel Teklehaimanot and Jay Robert Thomson (MTN Qhubeka), Tom Boonen and Carlos Verona (Omega Pharma Quick Step), Sam Bewley (Orica GreenEdge), Dario Cataldo (Sky) plus the Trek Factory Racing trio Julian David Arredondo Moreno, Fabio Felline and Bob Jungels.
Best placed out of the group was Anacona, who had begun the stage 21st overall, two minutes and 50 seconds off the race lead.
They were then joined by four others, namely Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale), Lluis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jerome Cousin (Europcar) and Nikias Arndt (Giant Shimano) and, together, the 31 riders built a lead of six minutes with 68 kilometres covered. This soared to seven and a half minutes when they hit the feedzone, 93 kilometres from the line.
This inched up slightly more by the intermediate sprint in Teruel (km. 101.5), where Martinez took top points ahead of Zingle and Lutsenko. Ten kilometres later the gap was up to eight minutes 14 seconds, putting Anacona into the jersey by almost five and a half minutes.
Cousin was feeling good and beat Bonet plus Cataldo for the points on the category three Puerto de Cabigordo (km. 124). The gap was under eight minutes at that point, the peak having been reached, and this ebbed to approximately seven and a half minutes by the second intermediate sprint at Cedrillas (km. 132.8), where Arndt beat Thomson and Martinez.
Heading into the final 40 kilometres, the gap had dwindled to seven minutes. It still appeared to be more than enough for the break to stay clear and this prompted Boonen to clip away with two others. Vansummeren pulled at the front and hauled them back.
Bewley was concerned about the final climbs and decided to get an early start, jumping clear. He was reeled in by a couple of others, then Anacona surged ahead to try to copper-fasten his ambition of taking over the jersey.
He was reeled in but pushed ahead again with approximately 20 kilometres to go, being joined by Jungels and Moreno. They opened a solid gap on those behind and were over the summit by Moreno. They had 13.5 kilometres to go from this point.
The trio dropped down the descent while behind Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick Step) put the hammer down from the group of GC riders. He pulled team-mate Uran clear and caught Boonen, who had faded from the break. The Belgian did what he could to help before slipping back.
Up ahead, Jungels cracked on the final climb. Moreno and Anacona pushed on but then the latter dropped the former with six kilometres remaining. He had just under four minutes on the peloton at that point and knew he had to give it everything to make sure he was in the red jersey at the end of the stage.
Behind, Froome’s Sky team were driving the pace along, setting things up for a possible attack by their leader near the summit. With three kilometres remaining Anacona still had three minutes 50 seconds and had a minute’s advantage in the virtual general classification.
Mindful that the overall contenders would likely surge closer to the line, he dug in and tried to maintain as much of that as possible.
Sky pushed on and were trailed by Contador, Valverde, Quintana and the other contenders.
Going under the three kilometre to go banner, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) attacked out of the Froome group and got a brief lead. He was hauled back and then the Katusha team hit the front, turning the screw. Froome was at the back of the ever-reducing bunch and, perhaps realising this, Contador attacked.
Anacona went under the kilometre kite but Contador was two minutes 45 back and the Lampre-Merida rider’s chances of getting red was doubtful.
Behind, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) set off in pursuit of Contador. Froome was unable to respond and slipped back.
Anacona pushed on ahead, grabbing a fine stage win. Contador pushed on and still had a gap inside the final 200 metres, but a last-gasp surge by Rodriguez after his team-mate Vorganov pulled at the front saw he and Quintana latch onto the Spaniard’s back wheel right at the line.
The reshuffled general classification saw Quintana take over at the top, with Contador overtaking Valverde and Anacona jumping 17 places to fourth. Froome slipped one place to fifth and Rodriguez remained sixth.
The riders now have the first rest day, but swords will be drawn again in Tuesday’s 37.6 kilometre time trial to Borja.