Vuelta a España (st. 8)
Spaniard keeps the Movistar Team near the front into 21-man break after team duties for Valverde on Friday; Arndt (SUN) wins finishing sprint as Edet (COF) takes GC lead.
A series of brief drizzle spells, which made the roads from the top of Montserrat (Cat-2) ice-slippery towards the finish in Igualada, didn’t stop German Nikias Arndt (SUN) from winning stage eight of La Vuelta, into a sprint from a 21-man breakaway where Nicolas Edet (COF) profited to take the leader’s jersey.
Jorge Arcas positioned himself into the day’s escapees, a move which had race leader Miguel Ángel López’s Astana squad happy to let go as they built a massive gap, near ten minutes, at the finish, with 14 riders together – but not the Spaniard from the Movistar Team.
Dropped near the top of the climb after enormous efforts to make possible Alejandro Valverde’s victory on Friday, Arcas reached the finish two-and-a-half minutes behind the winner, while his seven team-mates completed the stage into the peloton. The improvement by Edet and Teuns (TBM) in the overall standings sees now Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana sitting in fifth and sixth, respectively.
The La Vuelta bunch will now leave Catalunya behind and enter Andorra on Sunday, with a short, spectacular stage nine that will see the riders tackle five demanding ‘colls’ in just 94km: Ordino (Cat-1), La Gallina (HC), La Comella (Cat-2), Engolàsters (Cat-2) -with a gravel sector after its summit- and Cortals d’Encamp (Cat-1).
Alejandro Valverde: “It wasn’t a slow stage back at the peloton, but we didn’t suffer from the stress from previous stages and we could get through safely, with no major complications. The thing is, it was so hot in the beginning it was also a bit exhausting, but the change to rainy conditions after Montserrat was abrupt, the race suddenly becoming so cold. We took no risks at the descent, avoided any setbacks and got to the finish in one piece, which was the important thing today. It’s going to be so hard tomorrow! So many climbs in such a short stage, and probably the weather conditions will also play a factor. We will just try to do our best and continue to fight for the GC.”
Nairo Quintana: “We got through the day well. The rain isn’t really bad for me, I get used to it. We tried to always stay together with the team and we didn’t have any troubles. Tomrorow’s stage is one that I like. Let’s hope I can find some good legs. We don’t know if it will rain again, it might do, but it shouldn’t be that big of a problem for us. We must give everything tomorrow: you can’t relax, you must not lose focus. It’s going to be short and intense. The more time we’re able to gain on our rivals – if we make up any – the better. We must take advantage if we have a chance. Then there’s the TT on Tuesday, and surely riders like Roglic will do much better than us.”
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto