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Trek Factory Racing rider Jasper Stuyven won a reduced bunch sprint at the end of a very eventful eighth stage of the Vuelta a España on Saturday, winning the gallop to the line.
The Belgian beat Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Kévin Reza (FDJ.fr), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Youcef Reguigui (MTN – Qhubeka) and others into Cumbre del Sol.
Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who was the favourite of many for the stage after he made it into the selection, crashed after being hit by a race motorbike. He finished behind the front group and was furious at the lost opportunity.
Also rueing misfortune were the victims of an earlier crash, which occurred with just over 50 kilometres to go.
Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing Team), the general classification riders who had started the day third and 16th overall, crashed out, as did French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and the Belgian Kurt Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal).
The latter appeared to be the most badly hurt and was initially motionless. His team subsequently said that he was conscious and stable en route to hospital.
Following the crash the riders tackled two ascents of the third category Alto de la Cresta del Gallo. This thinned out the number of contenders for the stage win, eliminating the chances of riders such as John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).
Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) tried to take advantage of the depleted bunch and fired off a strong attack in the finale. However he was dragged back inside the final kilometre, paving the way for the bunch sprint and Stuyven’s win.
“I didn’t stay clear of the crashes,” said the Belgian, confirming he was one of those affected by the earlier spill. “I was in the big one where Chaves was involved, the one before the fist climb. I hit my wrist pretty bad but I jumped on my bike and chased back again. It was hard with the climb but my sports director Dirk De Mol told me to keep fighting.
“It was really good in the sprint. I didn’t feel a headwind, so I decided to go with 300 metres left. I felt immediately that it was for me today.”
He said that the team lost Fabian Cancellara early in the race and was determined to keep fighting. It had Frank Schleck for the overall standings but the Luxembourg rider was delayed due to the big crash and lost.
Also initially delayed was race leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge), who was fortunately able to chase back on.
“Normally if you look at the race manual, today is an easy day,” the Colombian said. “But it was really hard, really fast, dangerous, a lot of crashes.
“I crashed, I hit my ass and shoulder. The team stayed with me and put me in the peloton. It was really fast, there was a small, dangerous climb, but I arrived at the finish and it was fine. Tomorrow is another day with another fight, another round.”
He wished Boeckmans well and also Sagan. Of the latter, he said that it appeared to be caused by the excessive speed of the race support vehicles.
“Sometimes the motorbikes pass the peloton really fast,” he stated. “At the moment one did Sagan was hit and crashed really bad.”
How it played out:
The eighth stage of this year’s Vuelta began in Puebla de Don Fabrique and covered 182.5 kilometres en route to Murcia. It was largely downhill for the first 110 kilometres, then featured two ascents of the category three Alto de la Cresta del Gallo (kilometre 146.5 and 165.2) prior to a flat sprint to the line.
Inside the first hour six riders clipped away and together Mattia Cattaneo (Lampre-Merida), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick Step) and Ángel Madrazo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) carved out a lead of almost five minutes.
The major crash prior to the first of the two climbs caused chaos behind, interrupting the bunch’s chasing, but it subsequently gave teams impetus to ramp up the pace in order to try to maintain the splits.
This hewed the break’s advantage to under two minutes, prompting concern in the escape. Howes attacked the first time up the climb but fell on a tight left hand curve on the descent, being overtaken by Madrazo. The others in the break were caught and then the Spaniard was reeled in with 30 kilometres to go.
Heading up the lower part of the climb for the second time, Nikki Terpstra (Etixx – Quick-Step) tried to get clear. He was then passed by team-mate Gianluca Brambilla, who was subsequently joined by José Gonçalves (Caja Rural), JJ Rojas, Alberto Losada (Katusha), Sergio Henao (Sky) and Tour of Turkey winner Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida).
Behind, the rider in second overall, Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) was leading the chase, but Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) was able to get clear on the descent. The Spaniard was joined by compatriot Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), race leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde.
Momento del patinazo?? Sin duda lo que mas me duele es quedarme con la sensación que hoy podía ganar. Pero seguiré ?? pic.twitter.com/DUHceENzx0
— jose joaquin rojas (@jjrojillas) August 29, 2015
Rojas crashed on the descent, but was able to get going again quickly. Meanwhile Elissonde and Losada clipped away from the lead group with 12.5 kilometres remaining, only to be rejoined by Gonçalves with ten kilometres to go. Behind, Sagan tried to attack the group but was unable to break the elastic. He was frustrated at that, but was left even more stressed when he was brought down by a race motorbike and lost his chance.
The leaders continued on, riding flat out, but were hauled back with 3.5 kilometers to go. The Trek Factory Racing team were driving at the front to try to keep things together, but were unable to prevent Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) jumping clear with 1.9 kilometres left.
The chase was led by Tinkoff-Saxo, Movistar and Caja Rural, with one rider from each of those teams burning up their matches in eventually bringing him back inside the final kilometre.
Tour de Langkawi winner Youcef Reguigui (MTN – Qhubeka) began his sprint early but faded. Stuyven timed his effort perfectly and thundered home to his first professional win, beating Bilbao and Reza.
Chaves also finished in the same group, preserving his ten second lead over Dumoulin. Nicolas Roche (Sky) remains 36 seconds back but moves up one place due to the withdrawal of his first cousin, Dan Martin.
The race continues Saturday with a 168.3 kilometre race from Torrevieja to Cumbre del Sol. The finish is atop a first category climb and the general classification contenders are certain to fight it out again.