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by Shane Stokes
September 10, 2015
Photography by Cor Vos
Former race leader Tom Dumoulin reclaimed the race lead in the Vuelta a España, dominating the final time trial to finish well clear of the other riders.
The Giant-Alpecin competitor beat Maciej Bodnar (Tinkoff-Saxo) by a one minute and four seconds, with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) third, four seconds further back.
Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Jerome Coppel (IAM Cycling) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) – who, like Valverde, was surprisingly strong in the mainly flat TT – filled out the other places in the top six.
Dumoulin’s dominant performance over the 38.7 kilometre course in Burgos saw him retake the red jersey he lost at the end of stage 11.
“I am very happy with this victory and with taking the red jersey again. My legs were great and I was able to concentrate on my performance,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about the intermediates, just focusing on my own effort to see what it would bring.”
The other general classification contenders had varying success. The race leader Joaquim Rodriguez struggled and finished 30th, three minutes and six seconds behind. The latter’s closest rival prior to the stage, Fabio Aru (Astana) pulled out a very solid tenth place ride, conceding one minute 53 seconds.
As for the other rider who had started the day ahead of Dumoulin, Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), he was 17th, two minutes 38 seconds back.
The rejigged general classification put Dumoulin back on top, but Aru is just three seconds back and is still well within range of the race lead.
Rodriguez, Majka, Quintana, Valverde and Esteban Chaves are all between one minute 15 and three minutes 30 back but the profile of the three remaining mountain stages will make it difficult for them to gain sufficient time over a psyched Dumoulin.
He’ll be wary of them, of course, but Aru is by far the biggest danger at this point.
“I have been feeling better by the day, and even now I am still feeling relatively fresh,” Dumoulin said. “There are still some difficult days to come, though, which will mean a good show for the fans. There are some important competitors close behind me in the GC, and I hope they will attack each other as well.
“The Vuelta is already a success for me and the team with two stage wins. And we will do our best to make it even better.”
The 38.7 kilometre race against the clock was devoid of any categorised climbs, although it did feature some drags along the course. The early leader was Ag2r La Mondiale’s Gediminas Bagdonas, who clocked a time of 49 minutes 22 seconds.
His time was smashed by Bodnar, who was a clear two minutes and 17 seconds quicker by the end of his effort. Tour de France stage winner Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) appeared to be on course to beat that, going quicker at the first check point, but at the finish he was 36 seconds adrift and Bodnar’s place in the hot seat was secure.
Another who also went close was Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka, but he came up 27 seconds short. IAM Cycling’s Jerome Coppel was a further second back, while Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida) also finished relatively close, 34 seconds down.
Dumoulin was the one everyone was watching and he didn’t disappoint, going quickest at the first checkpoint. He was again best at the next split, setting a time of 31 minutes 41 seconds there.
He kept pushing onwards, mashing the big gear around and keeping his head as low as possible.
Valverde was going well and raced in towards the finish to post a decent time, going provisional second. He was just four seconds behind Bodnar’s pace, showing surprising form given his losses in the mountains.
Aru was looking characteristically choppy on the bike but was moving well; at the second intermediate split he was one minute 44 back, but his rate of losses was slowing.
Quintana was next to finish and, like Valverde, he too put in a very good performance. He came in fifth, 29 seconds behind Bodnar’s time. Meanwhile out the road race leader Rodriguez reached the second intermediate checkpoint and was only 39th there, two minutes and 38 seconds behind Dumoulin.
The Dutchman sped in to finish his test, smashing Bodnar’s time by one minute four seconds and making sure of the stage win. He then began a wait to see how far back the other riders would be.
Nieve was next to finish but was three minutes 29 seconds back in 37th place. He was followed home by Majka, who placed a solid 16th but conceded two minutes 38 seconds. Aru was better, one minute 53 seconds back for tenth. He had accelerated after the second time check and kept his general classification hopes alive.
As for Rodriguez, he was the last rider out on the course and sprinted to the line. He placed 30th, three minutes and 6 seconds back, and may well have lost his chance of winning the race.
“I am still three seconds behind,” noted Aru. “There are still four stages. This Vuelta is not finished and I will be saving my best until the end. The TT was difficult but there are still some great days to come.”
The Vuelta a España continues Thursday with a 204 kilometre race between Roa and Riaza. It’s another climbing stage but lacks the severity of the days before, with just three climbs.
These are the category three pairing of the Alto de Santibañez de Ayllón (km. 82.8) and the Alto del Campanario (km. 99.5), plus the first category Puerto de la Quesera (km. 191).
Although the latter is tough enough to shake things up, the summit is located 13 kilomeres from the finish, giving dropped riders the chance to come back before the end.