Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) won an action-packed stage fourteen of the Vuelta a España, as further down the road Nairo Quintana (Movistar) finished alongside Chris Froome (Sky) to retain his lead in the overall classification.
The day will go down as more of a success for Froome, however, as he managed to respond to every one of Quintana’s several attacks on the final climb of the Col d’Aubisque, and thus keep his deficit to the Colombian at 54 seconds – an amount of time he would be confident of taking back in next week’s stage 19 time trial.
In the final 3km Quintana put in several attacks, but every time Froome was able to match them. The accelerations proved too much for Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), who lost 20 seconds after being dropped.
However the slowing of pace in between those accelerations did allow some other riders to escape ahead of them, most notably Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and Leopold König (Sky), who both gained just over 30 seconds
The main winners of the stage in terms of the GC race were Orica-BikeExchange, whose riders Chaves and Simon Yates both gained enough time to move up to third and fourth overall respectively.
Both overtook the main loser of the day, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who was dropped early on the Aubisque and slips all the way down to 19th on the GC.
Orica-BikeExchange hatched an ambitious plan by getting three riders into the break, then sending Jack Haig and Yates up the road on the Col de Marie Blanque, the penultimate climb of the day.
After help from Jens Keukeleire, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Simon Gerrans on the descent of the Marie Blanque and the valley leading towards the Aubisque, Yates held a lead of around 90 seconds ahead of the peloton when he finally struck out alone at the bottom of the day’s final climb.
Riding a steady pace all the way up, he picked up most of the remnants of the day’s break, and put considerable time into all of his rivals.
Yates did not manage to catch Gesink’s lead group, however, who contested a three-man sprint for the stage win. With 300 metres to go the Dutchman started his sprint, and although Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) and Egor Silin (Katusha) – both of whom had only recently caught back up to the Gesink’s wheel – hung in bravely, they eventually lost his wheel, allowing Gesink time to spare and savour his belated first ever Grand Tour stage.
Prior to that, Gesink and LottoNL-Jumbo had looked determined to make this their day. They placed three riders in the day’s huge break of around 40 riders, and did a lion’s share of the pacesetting.
Although the presence of Movistar’s Dani Moreno among them forced Team Sky to set a strong pace in the peloton, they still managed to retain enough of an advantage for Gesink to work with.
Even when a group of six – Elissonde, Silin, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r), Julian Bernard (Trek-Segafredo), George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Bart de Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) – went clear over the peak and descent of the Marie Blanque, Gesink was still able to attack the chasing group on the Aubisque with 9km to go, catch the sextet, and ultimately defeat them all for the stage win.
Earlier in the day, Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) claimed maximum points over the first two category one climbs, but misses out on the polka-dot jersey as Elissonde – who was defeated by the Spaniard on those climbs – gained 25 points on the final two climbs.
Vuelta a Espana 2016 stage fourteen, Urdax-Dantxarinea – Aubisque, 196.1km
1.Robert Gesink (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo in 5-43-24
2.Kenny Elissonde (Fra) FDJ at 7secs
3.Egor Silin (Rus) Katusha at 9secs
4.George Bennet (NZe) at 31secs
5.Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 39secs
6.Haimar Zubeldia (Esp) Trek-Segafredo at 49secs
7.Jan Bakelants (Bel) Ag2r La Mondiale at 1-11
8.Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 1-14
9.Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at same time
10.Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 1-16
12. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 1-47
13. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, st
43. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 10-56
Overall classification after stage fourteen
1.Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 38-37-07
2.Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 54secs
3.Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-BikeExchange at 2-01
4.Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange at 2-17
5.Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky at 2-38
6.Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff at 3-28
7.Samuel Sanchez (Esp) BMC at 3-59
8.Andrew Talansky (USA) Cannondale-Drapac at 4-30
9.Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana both at 5-37
10.Dani Moreno (Esp) Movistar at 5-52