Overall contenders fight it out for time on final climb; Alberto Contador maintains lead
Przemyslaw Niemiec (Lampre-Merida) won stage 15 of the Vuelta a Espana, thanks to being the sole survivor of the day’s break.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) lost a few seconds to Spanish rivals Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriquez (Katusha) – who finished second and third respectively – but maintains his overall lead.
Chris Froome (Sky) had another yo-yoing off the back of the GC group, but again managed to limit his loses. He finished sixth, 12 seconds behind Valverde and Rodriguez, and seven seconds behind Contador.
After a select group had been formed on the final climb, a pattern quickly emerged – Contador and the Spaniards would accelerate and drop Froome, Froome would gradually pace himself back up to them, before they accelerated again.
Contador himself was the main instigator of these attacks, and never looked troubled, although he has lost some ground by missing out in the bonus seconds at the finish to his GC rivals.
Niemiec was part of a five-man break that got away early in the day, consisting of Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), Kristof Vandewalle (Trek-Factory Racing) and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural) and, somewhat surprisingly, John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). The German’s intentions became more clear however when he claimed maximum points at both intermediate sprints to consolidate his lead in the green jersey competition.
He now looks a strong favourite in that competition, following the abandonment of rival sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ).
Degenkolb was dropped after claiming these points, leaving the other four to contest the stage. Niemiec proved to be comfortably the best climber, and rode away to claim his first ever grand tour stage win.
“Yes, Polish cycling is looking good just now with Majka and Kwiatkowski and I’m happy to be part of it,” said Niemiec, who is one of a few riders at the Vuelta looking to put himself in the shop window.
“I’m happy to be at Lampre as well and I hope this win will help me with my contract negotiations. I know I won here but I’m quite happy working for Michele Scarponi and being the last guy with him on the climbs.”
Vuelta a Espana 2014, stage 15: Oviedo to Lagos de Covadonga, 152.2km
1. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida in 4-11-09
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 5 secs
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at same time
4. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 10 secs
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 17 secs
6. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at same time
7. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 28 secs
8. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano at 44 secs
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 1-00
10. Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Katusha at 1-00
Overall classification after stage 15
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 58-31-35
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 31 secs
3. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-20
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 1-20
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 2-22
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-57
7. Dan Martin (Ire) Garmin-Sharp at 4-55
8. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing at 5-02
9. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 5-11
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Shimano at 6-36