Nelson Oliveira took the biggest win of his career on stage 13 of the Vuelta a Espana as the Portuguese rider outsmarted a sizeable breakaway to win alone in Tarazona.
The Lampre-Merida man was part of a 24-rider breakaway on a rare transition stage in this year’s race and took advantage of relunctance and confusion in the lead group to sneak away with 27km of the stage remaining.
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With most of those kilometres downhill, Oliveira time-trialled his way to the line to foil the likes of Sylvain Chavanel (IAM), Niki Terpstra (Etixx-Quick Step) and Steve Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka), who crossed the line 60 seconds in arrears.
Former Lithuanian champion Gediminas Bagdonas (Ag2r-La Mondiale) led the peloton over the line 4-48 behind the winner with a bizarre solo move that suggested he thought for a moment that he could win the stage himself.
Fabio Aru (Astana) retained the race leader’s red jersey on a day that saw no significant changes in the general classification. However Nairo Quintana (Movistar) appeared to be in difficulty at times during the stage; the Colombian is reportedly still suffering from illness that saw him lose three minutes to Aru on stage 11.
Stages that favour neither sprinters nor climbers are in short supply these days and it came as no surprise that it took over an hour of breathless racing before the day’s breakaway formed. When it did, between kilometres 50 and 63 in the stage, it contained 24 riders from 15 different teams.
Two Team Sky riders – Sergio Henao and Nicolas Roche – made the cut but crucially Lampre-Merida had three riders present including Valerio Conti and Tour de France stage winner Ruben Plaza Molina.
Only Astana, Trek, LottoNL-Jumbo, Katusha and Colombia missed out, and it was the light blue squad of race leader Fabio Aru who marshalled the pursuing bunch.
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Pawel Poljanski (Tinkoff-Saxo) tried his luck after a brief sortie from Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Oliveira with just under 40km to race. Oliveira then made his decisive move 13km later
By virtue of making the breakaway, the day’s other winners were Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep) who moved up to 10th and 11th overall respectively.
Tomorrow’s 14th stage should see a return to GC hostilities with a 215km stage ending atop the picturesque climb to Fuente del Chivo.
Vuelta a Espana 2015 stage 13: Calatayud > Tarazona (177km)
1. Nelson Oliveira (Por) Lampre-Merida in 4-14-01
2. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis at 1-00
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sky
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM
5. José Joaquín Rojas (Esp) Movistar
6. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r La Mondiale
7. Kevin Reza (Fra) FDJ
8. Mikaël Cherel (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
9. Cameron Meyer (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
10. Maxime Monfort (Bel) Lotto-Soudal all at same time
Overall classification after stage 13
1. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana in 47-14-30
2. Joaquim Rodríguez (Esp) Katusha at 0-27
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin at 0-30
4. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1-28
5. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge at 1-29
6. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar at 1-52
7. Daniel Moreno (Esp) Katusha at 1-54
8. Mikel Nieve (Esp) Sky at 1-58
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 3-07
10. Romain Sicard (Fra) Europcar at 3-51