Colombian rider from Movistar Team -6th, 26" behind Esteban Chaves (OGE)- attacks main GC favourites in Caminito del Rey climb, where he ultimately paid the strong heat. Valverde finishes in 8th, sits in 7th overall
The first hill-top finish of the 2015 Vuelta a España provoked bigger time gaps than expected prior to today's Cat-3 Alto de La Mesa / Caminito del Rey ascent, end of a 158.7km trek that included high temperatures, continuous stress and a big pile-up which, even though fortunately saw no big injuries for the Movistar Team despite some road rash for Giovanni Visconti, did play an impact within the GC contenders, with Vincenzo Nibali (AST) losing almost 2' to the stage winner, Colombian Esteban Chaves (OGE), and later being disqualified due to unsportsmanlike behaviour.
Despite Nairo Quintana being the most courageous of the favourites, into a lead quartet created by the Cómbita-born rider and also featuring Roche (SKY), Dumoulin (TGA) and the day's victor, heat and the early situation of this first climb in the Vuelta made him pay the effort. The Colombian finished alongside Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT) in 6th place, 26" back, while Alejandro Valverde joined Chris Froome (SKY) and Dani Moreno (KAT) into a second gorup in 8th spot, 31" down, with all other GC players behind the Movistar duo.
The riders directed by Arrieta and Chente -really notable all day with Sutherland, Erviti, Ventoso, Moreno or Visconti pushing at the front while Amador and Rojas led the two leaders out just before the climb- will tackle on Monday a theoretically easier stage three, with the Alto del León (Cat-1) far from Málaga's finish (158.4km), yet with some slight slopes in the approach to the Andalusian city.
Nairo Quintana: "We were lucky because we were so close to getting involved into the crash, which was as hard as the entire stage. This is the Vuelta – you get nervous finishes, hard slopes, crashes and things you don't expect. I missed energy in the finale after my attack, but I jumped away because I felt well. I wanted to give it a try, I wished to follow the other moves… but I wasn't able to stick to the front. Heat hurt me much into the final kilometers, but it was still worth as I could put some time on many rivals. Today shows that I'm looking forward to chase the victory here, despite the fact that this is the first time I ride both the Tour and the Vuelta a España."
Giovanni Visconti: “It was a difficult stage, with that big crash also affecting me. Fortunately, I could bridge back to the group and help my team-mates out until the foot of the last climb. I saw Nairo and 'Bala' doing really well, especially the former, who finished second out of the GC favourites. I think we can't ask for anything else in this first day: both of them avoided the crashes, some of our main rivals conceded more time and that's a good sign for us."