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The Moment The Vuelta Was Won

Fabio Aru has been attacking on the Puerto de la Morcuera and opened up a gap on race leader Tom Dumoulin. Helped by team mate Mikel Landa Aru distances Dumoulin and rides into the race lead on the penultimate day of the race. This was the moment the race was won.

The race began in Marbella with a coastal team time trial that was raced but times did not count towards the overall classification after rider protests about the course. The playa haters found the route too dangerous as it crossed beaches and boardwalks. BMC won the stage and Peter Velits took the race lead, a brief reappearance from a rider once touted as grand tour podium contender.

The race proper got underway and the climb to the Caminito del Rey was instructive, especially with hindsight. Esteban Chaves bridged across to Nairo Quintana and rode away for the stage win, dispatching a surprise Tom Dumoulin. “It’s a short climb and Dumoulin paced himself up that” was the refrain, often chased with “he’ll crack in the high mountains” but watch again as the Dutchman dances on the pedals, accelerates and demonstrates an aggressive, entrepreneurial style. Nicolas Roche was third and would be a regular presence in the race with a stage win later on. Meanwhile Quintana was left looking weaker than expected and the other contenders were scattered down the road. The missing rider was Vincenzo Nibali and he was soon excluded from the race after TV footage of a “sticky bottle” seemingly coated in superglue. The Shark was left floundering with excuses on Facebook and now aiming for one last consolatory win in the Tour of Lombardy.

Chaves helped Orica-Greenedge win the first week again thanks to another stage win and a winning smile. The Aussie team got a World Tour first for Caleb Ewan in Alcalá de Guadaíra. Almost a first too for Peter Sagan as he took a sprint win and finally triumphed in a grand tour stage before he was sent home by the race when a motorbike rode into him and sent him flying generating one of many “buzz” moments in the race which set Twitter alight, Sergio Paulinho’s exit would see Oleg Tinkov thinking aloud about withdrawing his team from the race in pointless protest that would have denied Rafał Majka a podium place.

The first real summit finish came at La Alpujarra and like much of this year’s race we got some close racing from a breakaway and then the overall contenders. Bert-Jan Lindeman won the stage, outsprinting Ilia Koshevoy and a fallen Jerôme Cousin whose accidental crash on the final slopes summed up Europcar’s Vuelta: active but empty-handed. Fabio Aru was the best of the rest with Dumoulin last in the lead group with Chris Froome dropped, on a bad day, and Tejay Van Garderen looking out of contention already.

Kristian Sbaragli got a stage, profiting from Giant-Alpecin’s messy leadout for a surprise win. This proved a common theme with Giant-Alpecin’s leader having to wait for Madrid to win a stage and no sprinter went on a winning stream. Sbaragli justified his MTN-Qhubeka’s invitation in one go although they did more including Louis Meintjes finishing 10th overall. He’s signed with Lampre-Merida, a loss for the African team and perhaps jumping before Mark Cavendish arrives. Among the other wildcard teams Caja Rural thrived and Omar Fraile took the mountains jersey. Cofidis flopped after Nacer Bouhanni crashed out, in past years they’ve managed to salvage something like a stage win by Navarro or Nicolas Edet winning the mountains jersey but it was a blank Vuelta this time. Europcar and Colombia didn’t get a big result either.

Andorra was supposed to bring the “toughest stage ever” and it was a hard day on many counts but didn’t meet the hype. Mikel Landa joined the early break against team orders and won the stage, the squad were celebrating in the evening in case you worried about Astana’s internal cohesion and had more than one reason for the joy given Fabio Aru had just ridden into race lead. The Sardinian got the better of his GC rivals in Andorra with Tom Dumoulin limiting his losses to finish ahead of Nairo Quintana, ill and Alejandro Valverde who faded although he still managed to win the points jersey by Madrid to add to his stage win. A decent haul but below what they wanted. That day Chris Froome crashed and would leave the race after breaking his foot and Nicolas Roche crashed to 22nd overall, ending his GC hopes and having to focus on a stage win instead.

The series above shows the GC standings of the podium finishes plus Tom Dumoulin over the course of the race. As it suggests Majka finishes third and pays for his time loss on the first day while Tom Dumoulin might have been managing his lead in the mountains but this was a gradual defeat, his collapse on Saturday extinguished his chances but time losses prior to this in the mountains probably gave enough confidence to Astana to execute their plan. So if there was a winning moment it of course was part of a chain of events.

Fabio Aru gets his first grand tour win, helped by his team including Nibali’s exit which settled political concerns. What next? He’s just turned 25 delivered plenty already and cohabitation with Nibali seems to be the only cloud on the horizon as the two are not best pals and will have to decide who challenges for the Giro and Tour. Aru probably needs to go to the Giro again armed with more experience and improved time trialling. With his loose, fluid style on the bike he still looks like a junior at times and there’s room to improve. The Vuelta was only his fifth race this year after Paris-Nice (invisible), the Volta a Catalunya (6th), the Giro d’Italia (2nd) and the Tour of Poland (5th) as he prefers to spend time training at altitude, a very selective approach.

Many stages were tactically simple with late charges but Stage 20 saw Astana put a plan together to get rid of Dumoulin and a textbook example of the “relay” tactic. They sent riders into the early move who were allowed to go up the road. Aru then tried to drop Tom Dumoulin and once he got a gap he was able to use Mikel Landa to drive the pace and then Astana called back Luis Leon Sanchez and Andrey Zeits from the breakaway and they kept the pace up, this numerical superiority ensured Tom Dumoulin could not power his way back on the valley section. But even if Dumoulin had been able to get back to the group he was on the ropes and probably would have been finished on the final climb of the day.

A win for Aru means a win for Astana who still bring controversy. The positive tests on the eponymous Continental team last year mean the World Tour team got tarnished and this was compounded by the UCI President saying Astana should have lost their licence only to later accept they should keep their licence. Of course the team doesn’t help itself either with the clumsy MPCC exit and more, they may win races but often match any good publicity with the negative sort although if anything they’re cast as the pantomime villains at times, people boos and hiss at Astana while Katusha score more scandals but keep their heads down.

Dumoulin’s performance was solid, versatile and entertaining. He might have started the race with the “time trial specialist” label but this wasn’t Wiggins-style where he knocked everyone out in the TT and defended his advantage aided by a strong team. Instead he taking risks, going clear with Chaves on Stage 2 or riding clear for the stage win on Stage 9. He was hanging on every day in the mountains and providing suspense rather than inevitability and the race was all the more interesting for it. Nobody thought Dumoulin could win including his team who sent a sprint train to Marbella to help John Degenkolb but with hindsight there have been signs of his abilities. Take the Tour Down Under where he was third on the stage with the uphill finish to Paracombe, the kind of punchy result time trial specialists aren’t supposed to get and 10th on the Queen Stage of the Tour de Suisse above Sölden where he finished ahead of Rafał Majka and team mate Warren Barguil. This was a stage race with 11 mountain stages and the fact he came close to winning was all the more surprising.

What next? It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in a stage race like Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico where short climbs and time trials work well for him. The Tour de France is good for him too with many long and steady climbs but coming close in the Vuelta doesn’t translate into the same riding in July. He could have done with a better team and it’s late for Giant-Alpecin to go into the market for more help. How the team manages Dumoulin alongside the ambitions of Warren Barguil, John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel will be interesting, until Kittel’s non-selection everything has seemed harmonious.

Close but no cigar: Joaquim Rodriguez finishes second, his fourth grand tour podium and his best finish in the Vuelta. He did lead the race once but didn’t throw the race away. He went into the time trial stage with only one second on Fabio Aru and less than two minutes on Tom Dumoulin, too slender a lead. This was his high water mark and if he’d wanted to win he needed to be stronger earlier in the race. The “Purito” of old could have done it with more stage wins and time bonuses but it wasn’t to happen. He even lost the points jersey on the last day and complained that the ride into Madrid should have been a procession.

Pole position: Rafał Majka finishes third and presents a paradox of a rider who never looked like he could win yet he finished just 1.09 down on Aru having lost 1.04 on the Stage 2. In other words had he not lost this time perhaps he could have been more of a contender? More but his constant deficit did mean others allowed him more room, for example he was allowed to ride away on Stage 20. The plan is a tilt at the Giro now but everything else being equal you can see him struggling to contain Fabio Aru.

The Tour-Vuelta double isn’t over because there’s nothing to lose for a Tour de France rider to try again in the Vuelta. Chris Froome didn’t manage it because of a broken foot and Nairo Quintana said he’s still interested. It can be done. The Giro-Vuelta double looks more possible but will it be reserved for younger riders still building experience? This doesn’t make the racing any worse but the sport is shaped such that winning the Giro and Vuelta in one year is still worth less than landing the Tour.

Put aside talk of doubles to offer a triple salute to Adam Hansen for his 13th consecutive grand tour, a record. Just doing all three races in one year is a big deal but to string 13 together is astonishing given the risk of crashes and illness. He was almost of the Tour de France. As well as collecting this record he’s taken stage wins in the Giro and Vuelta before and helped his sprint leaders.

A few other mentions, first for Trek Factory Racing who took three stages thanks to Jasper Stuyven, Danny Van Poppel and Fränk Schleck cameo appearance in a mountain stage. Kris Boeckmans had a horror crash but is out of a coma now and hopefully back on a bike soon. Alexis Gougeard took a stage win, impressive for its solo style but also because he had the strength to do it in the third week. Lampre-Merida are having a good season and took two stage wins.

The Verdict
Grand tour of the year? Comparisons don’t work well, after all this is not about rating one race against another in the way a magazine might compare three frames or cars because you can only buy one. With luck you get to enjoy many races in the year rather than being forced to pick one. But let’s revive the DVD test: if you had to buy a highlights video you’d probably go for the Vuelta.

Certainly there was action almost every day and a script that race organiser Javier Guillén couldn’t have dreamed of. We started with a stellar cast including the first four from the Tour de France alongside others seeking revenge and redemption. It was only by the fourth Saturday that we knew who would win. The only criticism would be that this was tapas television, instead of a feast that lasted hours you only had to tune in for the last 30 minutes of a stage and often less to enjoy the action and this illustrated a certain tactical caution but fortunately we had variety rather than repeat results.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lanterne Verte Monday, 14 September 2015, 8:00 pm

    many INRNG thanks for enhancing the enjoyment of an already fascinating race. I hope that the excitement Dumoulin’s success added to the unfolding drama inspires future Grand Tour route designers to remain loyal to the tradition of the long time trial. I understand the reservations that many have about the ITT but these can be overcome. GTs should be fought over by a wide range of athletic types and riding styles and not just a climbing fest in my opinion. Vuelta 2015 demonstrated the benefit of resetting the GC late in the race that an ITT can bring.

    • BarkingOwl Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 3:23 am

      I agree wholeheartedly. The long TTs may not be exciting to watch but they add tactical intrigue to a 3-week race. The mountain climbers are forced to push harder on the mountains and attack from further out to gain more time on the TT specialists. A long TT makes the mountain stages more exciting. This is the formula that made the 2011 Tour so exciting. I also like to see a grand tour won by an all-rounder – somebody who can climb and TT. Aru won because he’s a better time triallist than Purito.

      • Jason Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:19 pm

        The potential problem with TTs is that some the best TTsts are also the best climbers!

        • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:08 pm

          while there is some truth in that statement, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing… it then offers an opportunity for the climbers to differentiate themselves from one another…

          no one will get any argument from me about there “needing” to be a lot of tt km’s in a gt, i think i’ve been pretty clear on that… 🙂 if i had my way, there would be a 50 km flat non-technical and a 25 km hilly and technical tt in EVERY gt…

    • gabriele Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:02 pm

      +1

  • Lanterne Verte Monday, 14 September 2015, 8:14 pm

    oops sorry meant to write *many thanks INRNG!

  • Finn Monday, 14 September 2015, 8:31 pm

    Thanks INRNG for covering all 3 gt’s and writing a daily preview, they are very good to read. Great ride by Aru to win. The GT winners this year only won 1 stage (in the GT they won)

  • Andrew Monday, 14 September 2015, 8:31 pm

    “Playa hater” ! Very funny and creative. Excellent coverage, as usual. Many thanks.

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 4:47 am

      I usually cringe at those but that one was epic!

      • Alex Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 10:10 am

        Agreed! Not normally a fan but that one made me giggle…

  • HWSB Monday, 14 September 2015, 8:34 pm

    Thanks as always INRNG.

    Maybe better to reflect at the end of the year, but I just wanted to add to your mentions above: what a couple of grand tours for Lampre, MTN and AG2R! Stage wins are so vital for this size of team and they really sparked up both the Tour and Vuelta.

    • Tommy B Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 8:28 am

      +1

      Nice to see those teams doing well.

  • Brian H Monday, 14 September 2015, 8:38 pm

    An excellent read and as always, the definitive race summary. “Playa haters” is pure gold.

    • joliver3 Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:49 am

      “Close but no cigar” for the paragraph on Purito was pretty good as well!

      • DJ Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:16 pm

        +1

      • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:57 pm

        both were gems… 🙂 i always look forward to the “pun/play on words”, and inrng never disappoints…

      • Vitus Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:15 pm

        I laughed at “Fränk Schleck cameo appearance”

        • Michael Wednesday, 16 September 2015, 7:38 pm

          Pole position, anyone?

  • Larry T. Monday, 14 September 2015, 9:29 pm

    Nice wrap-up. Well done! Now, before things get going with the World’s and Lombardia, get a DONATE button set up on this site so we can throw a few chunks of money at you to help cover the costs of providing a forum for what is likely the best conversation about pro-cycling in the English language. Or, even easier, set up a Paypal account so Paypal users can use a simple email address to make a contribution?

    • JE Monday, 14 September 2015, 10:47 pm

      +1

    • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:58 pm

      agreed, i’d gladly send some of my money inrng’s way… one of these days i have to buy some socks… 🙂

    • JT Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:16 pm

      +1

  • Special Eyes Monday, 14 September 2015, 10:27 pm

    Tapas + Inrng + Manuel Perez Diaz = One Satisfied Customer
    Many thanks.

    ps A certain someone is already giving thought to a Tour / Vuelta double

    https://twitter.com/olegtinkov?lang=en

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:49 pm

      It also sounds like he’s making overtures toward Aru.

      • Alan T Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 9:05 pm

        Tinkoff. Zero following. Says everything really.

  • Glitch Monday, 14 September 2015, 10:51 pm

    For me the race was won in the ITT. Aru could have lost significant time but he put in a strong showing in his weakest discipline as much as Tom limited his losses in the mountains. If Aru had lost time like Rodriguez did in the ITT I think he would have lost the belief that he could win.
    Great to see a surprise ride from a guy like Tom though, seeing him hanging in there every day was the highlight for me. Sad to see him lose it on the penultimate day but good tactical riding from Astana.

    • Bilmo Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 10:55 am

      +1
      Agree on Aru’s TT.
      I was surprised at the time how little fuss Carlton and Sean made about it on the Eurosport coverage.
      For a ‘non tt specialist’ it was the stand out ride.

      • Anonymous Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:45 pm

        Carlton and Sean were too busy masturbating over Dumoulin’s emergence as a GC threat.

  • Red Hare Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:06 am

    Thanks INRNG, I really enjoyed your coverage, and the Daily Diaz too. Cycling is more fun to watch with your blog around.

    • T-72 Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 9:12 pm

      +1 wholeheartedly agree

  • Joe K. Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 7:09 am

    Already another season nearly over with only the “Tour of the Falling Leaves” to look forward to. Time sure does fly as you get older!

    As you pointed out above, T. Dumoulin, in hindsight, looks awfully close to being on the cusp of a grand tour contender, with the right team, etc., however, it’s still questionable,… and only he’s got the answers. At least it gives us something to look forward to next season.

    • Alan T Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 9:12 pm

      I very much doubt if he’s got any answers to a non-injured Froome. Even Quintana with a fever beat him. He should stick to TTs and has a shot at the Worlds although Martin is no doubt the favourite.

      • T-72 Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 9:16 pm

        Quintana won the Giro with a fever in the first half or so. He seems to be the kind of athlete that always has a little problem, without necessarily reflecting that in the results.

        • gabriele Wednesday, 16 September 2015, 12:30 pm

          I wouldn’t say so. He had less health issues in his however short career than Froome in 2014 or Contador in the last couple of seasons. Besides, he doesn’t look like he’s mangifying his troubles (for strategic reasons, I guess, but it’s sort of the opposite strategy when compared with, say, Contador). And that couple of problems he had clearly had an effect on the results: minor effects in 2014 when they were minor problems, more significant ones in this year’s Vuelta.
          I’d say that, until now (that is, if the prep won’t screw his health up), he’s a rather solid athlete, with the ability to limit damage even when he’s not physically at his best, besides recovering pretty fast. He hasn’t got very often that kind of problems and they were no excuse, they affected him, as you could see quite clearly on the road (for example, during this Vuelta I’m not speaking of Andorra – how do you tell it was health and not lack of form or a bad day? – but of Tarazona… faking that was just nonsense and no healthy athlete would have suffered like that).

  • Erik Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 7:33 am

    You’ve written a nice piece (again), clear and to the point. And for sure, the Vuelta had much more action every day than the Tour or Giro. For us Dutch fans it was a Vuelte like never before……..ok we had to wait at least 25 years for so many stagevictories and a real GC contender who had a change to win.

  • Pierre-Jean Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 8:49 am

    Thank you so very much for your writing. It was excellent, as usual here.
    It was a very good Vuelta, but I thought the Giro was more intense, with more “cracking” by riders. It didn’t have the suspense of the Vuelta final days, but there was excellent drama from the beginning. Very good two stage races, anyway. I have to admit the Tour de France wasn’t on that level, although it wasn’t bad.

    • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 11:06 am

      I completely agree with your opinion on the 3 GT, it is just what I ‘d have written.

    • gabriele Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:22 pm

      Strange may it be to say, this Vuelta was a bit typical-Tour like.
      A couple of great stages, an amazing ITT, a lot of conservative racing, huge breakaways to promote sort of a rest day from time to time for the peloton. The most obvious difference is that the Vuelta switched sprint stages with short-&-steep-hill stages, which aren’t really *that* different. About 5′ of action (including sprint trains or finisseur attacks). Not bad at all, not fabulous either.
      You’d struggle to even produce the DVD with the highlights, if it wasn’t for Saturday’s stage you’d barely arrive at an hour. Not only because the action was short, but because there was indeed little *action* (like, “things happening”) – comparatively speaking.
      Paradoxically enough, if we think in terms of re-viewing, most of the time the Vuelta was better real time than on a possible second view: at least, the first time you’ve got the emotional prompt of waiting for something to happen. When you produce the DVD, you’ve got to show what *actually* happened.
      However, the last week from the ITT included on, plus the albeit-too-hyped Andorra stage, were fine racing, and all in all quite eventful, too. And, ¡vamos!, the first week was at least acceptable, as a first week.
      I’d say that the Tour was more on less on the same level, with a way better course which provided quality entertainment even when no big time difference was made (the pavé stage, the Galibier stage) and three or four really great stages; the racing, without being bad, wasn’t as good, mainly because the depressive negative playing by Movistar and the awful team situation at Astana’s. Contador and Tinkoff did what they could, Froome and Sky wht they had to. Nothing I’d complain about, thinking of other Tours, but the Vuelta had more of a spark, I’d say.

      This year’s Giro has been a class on his own. As it’s not so uncommon with the Giro, it’s not just about highlights. It’s about having *several* DVDs each with the whole couple of hours of racing of some single stages – you’d watch over again.
      One may say that the GC was already decided after the ITT.
      Partly true, but during stages like Finestre’s or Cervinia’s (or Morcuera’s?) minutes can fly away – in fact, Contador lost more than half of his advantage in the emotive 20th stage. Besides, having an in-form Contador racing, you can get great racing like Verbania’s (attacking more than 50 km away from the finish line) although he’s 4 mins up in GC.
      And the ITT was on stage *14th*. The first two weeks were a tight battle, day after day. Played second by second like the Vuelta, but with the action starting also before the last km. Which means you’d have material for fine videoclip-like highlights, too.

      • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 3:07 pm

        We will miss kontador when he retires, that’s for sure. The verbinia’s stage was complete nonsense (and kontador paid for it in the following days I think), but so good to see.
        I also appreciated the route of the Giro, very diversified.

      • STS Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:25 pm

        I agree with that, gabriele. The Giro stood out and was a completely different league of entertainment for cycling fans. Not for the first time, but this year it was absolutely outstanding, an almost unreal battle on nearly every stage.
        With regards to the TdF it probably can never live up to the expectations. But Sky’s dominance on LPSM didn’t help and those GC contenders who would not give in early to Froome – as TvG most prominently does – were not in the shape necessary to turn the race upon its head after LPSM. I’m afraid that this theme will continue in the next years with Sky further improving their GT (or more precisely TdF) team. I can’t remember many stages of the TdF that were entertaining for extended periods of time if you were only interested in the GC battle.
        But if you also care for who’s going to win the stage many stages of each GT are quite entertaining even in the Vuelta. Which had both, as often in recent years. A GC battle which comes down to the latest stage and many thrilling stage finals.

        • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:31 pm

          Quintana can challenge Froome if he rides with a bit more daring – we saw that in the Tour – and others will come along.
          And Contador is still around next year – oh how I wish he’d change his mind about retiring (putting aside the doping issue, he just is the most exciting rider to watch): no need to retire early; doesn’t matter if you don’t stop at the top.
          Sky’s strength does worry, but there’s only so much a team can do – as we saw with Astana v Contador in the Giro.

          • STS Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:40 pm

            Agree on Contador. I will miss him a lot. Q, though so far has always seemed to need to ride himself into top shape during a Grand Tour. For some reason he doesn’t seem to come into a GT super sharp. Maybe it has something to do with the way he trains at home? Just speculating. But if he doesn’t change that – he’s still young and can obviously improve a lot – I don’t see him winning the TdF which will most probably become an even closer and more hectic race in years to come if the current trend to come up with more challenging stages right from the gun continues.

          • STS Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:43 pm

            Or maybe Q doesn’t improve much during a GT but “only” stays closer to his level than the tiring competition?

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 7:12 pm

            Perhaps, as Contador suggests, Froome weakens towards the end of a GT.

          • irungo txuletak Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 7:34 pm

            I think Kontador might be right on Froome. Probably he is the rider that has the best peak, but I am not sure he can make this peak form last for 3 weeks and is then vulnerable.
            On Quintana: I don’t know why, but I see him as a rider piloted by Unzue. I have the feeling he still needs to grow in terms of charachter, of having his own way to move in the race. In any case, in terms of physical abilities, I think he has everything to land a least one tdf.

  • Jonnyd Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 9:16 am

    Thanks inrng. Great vuelta coverage and summary. Cheers!

  • Peter Linsley Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 10:26 am

    Completely agree with the general sentiment of everyone here; cracking Vuelta, and great coverage by INRNG! It’s great to read comment streams where the general tone is positive, as it often is on INRNG.

  • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 10:34 am

    I’d say this ‘the UCI President saying Astana should have lost their licence only to later accept they should keep their licence’ tarnished the UCI President’s reputation more than Astana’s (not to say they’re innocent).

    • Anonymous Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:53 pm

      The UCI President should lose his license.

      • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:15 pm

        heck, the entire uci ahould cease to exist…

  • hahostolze Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 10:38 am
    • gabriele Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 11:35 am

      An issue to be tackled, while at the same time a bit of an excuse. Movistar apparently has a budget way lower than Sky or Astana, which doesn’t prevent them from competing right up there with the best. Quite the contrary when BMC is concerned. Geox, Liquigas, Garmin have been able to win GTs with a reduced budget against the biggest teams in recent years.
      However, it’s true that in the last couple of years the oligopoly has become stronger and more apparent, maybe also because of *political* reasons.
      Too extreme a difference between teams, with too few rich and powerful teams, is something that should be limited, to say the least. How to do that is way more complicated.
      That said, it’s not like Giant doesn’t have any decent support rider. It’s more like they didn’t believe in Dumoulin’s options when managing the long-term programme for the last part of the season. Why so, I wonder, if they knew – as they should – about his climbing improvements and the superior freshness he brought in the Vuelta, whereas the team was all about Degenkolb who clearly wasn’t at his best.
      And, as several other commenters pointed out here, why didn’t they try to send anyone up the road? Astana’s plan wasn’t that creative. Textbook, both in the good and “bad” sense. Besides, there are ways to stop breaks from scratch even if you don’t have a strong support team, especially when the moves form on climbs – entering. Something that a lot of GT top riders use to do, even if we don’t see that on TV. I suspect Dumoulin was (too) confident nobody could drop him – if that was true, Thursday could have been the true display of genius by Astana, though I wouldn’t ever dare to say that it was intended (note that money has a little to do with anything in this last paragraph).

      • STS Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:07 pm

        ” if that was true, Thursday could have been the true display of genius by Astana”

        +1, gabriele. That’s the thought which came to my mind on Thursday watching all those fruitless and somewhat weary attacks by Aru. We’ll probably never know if he was putting on a show to lure Dumoulin into a false sense of security or if he was rather trying to show that he could win the race because he alone was stronger than Dumoulin. For it was clear that when going for it in Saturday’s stage he would definitely need his team. And that turned out to be true on Saturday. Without Landa’s, LLS’ and Seitz’ help he would not have made it.

        But let’s assume for the sake of Martinelli’s glory 🙂 that Thursday’s attacks were a trap where Dumoulin’s team stepped into. Because otherwise it’s hard to understand why they did not send two guys up the road when 39 riders managed to escape the peloton. Giant-Alpecin had still nine guys in the race compared to Astana’s seven.

        What do you mean with the “bad” sense of textbook?

        • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:17 pm

          “Bad” as in obvious. That’s why I was so incredulous when Giant let Astana put two men up the road without sending any of their own. (That’s what’s so good about seeing an entire stage.)
          I think the mountain on Thursday’s stage was just less steep and, crucially, didn’t come after two other mountains. I very much doubt that Astana were trying to lull Giant into a false sense of security.
          And had Giant had riders up the road to help Dumoulin, it’s very unlikely he would have been able to stay with Aru on the final mountain even if he had caught up with him.

          • STS Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:32 pm

            Hmmm …, we could see Dumoulin coming closer to the little group on the descent where only Aru was leading the whole time and Landa was riding at the end of the group. I think Aru was riding full gas then. The psychological effect on both, Aru and Dumoulin, when the latter had reached that group again could have prevented any strong enough attack from Aru. Please remember that Aru was also very tired and already needed Landa’s strong help to make his attack last over the summit of the second to last climb.
            And the final climb wasn’t that steep which would have helped Dumoulin for sure. You could see a hurting Ruben Plaza climb it in the big ring. And while he did an incredible ride on that day I doubt that that last climb had more than maybe 6%.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:41 pm

            Well, we’ll never know, but I think Dumoulin’s legs were gone (he lost a bundle of time on that last climb) – and so did he (although that could be just what he’s telling himself now, because it’s easier to accept than ‘If I’d just made up 10 more seconds…’).

    • Special Eyes Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:22 pm

      Regarding Dutch cycling, are there no very rich benefactors that could sponsor a Dutch team ?
      For such a cycling-mad country, that is prosperous also, I find it slightly surprising that there aren’t ?

      • Vitus Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:23 pm

        If only a Dutch bank like Rabo could step in…..oh wait….

        • PaulG Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 3:12 pm

          …or perhaps a Dutch Lottery….Hang on…..

          • Special Eyes Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 4:40 pm

            Ha, yes very droll 🙂
            I meant a cycling nut with a few hundred million Euros in the bank.
            Is Bessel Kok still involved with Etixx ?
            Giant Alpecin themselves have some Dutch backing, I think.
            But to go so long without a GT winner ?
            Look at the riders that the Dutch have.
            Where will Dumoulin end up otherwise ?

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 4:54 pm

            Where will Dumoulin end up otherwise?
            A non-Dutch team?
            Cycling teams haven’t been based on nationality for a long time – and I hope that continues.
            Otherwise, you get riders who might be better than their team leaders having to be subservient because they’re the wrong nationality.
            Like Landa.
            Or Froome.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 4:54 pm

            And G-A are now German-registered – not that it matters.

          • Special Eyes Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:21 pm

            Hmm, partly true JE.
            But Etixx has a Belgium-core, Sky has a British core, French teams, Orica, etc. Plus they do tend to develop home-based stars.
            Success, and particularly GT success, of a rider does matter to his respective nation’s fans.
            We’ve seen this with the Dutch fans recently.

            The Dutch are a cycling superpower, there’s no doubt about that.
            But their riders are dissipated all over numerous teams.
            OK, they may have concentrated on the Spring season in the past but, I think, it would be great to have a really strong Dutch GT contender on a Dutch-centric team, backed by Dutch finances.
            They’ve got the talent, the knowledge and expertise, the support. Just not a rich evil overlord who wants to rule the world… 🙂

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:30 pm

            I like that this is one of those factors that separates cycling from other sports – like not having a ‘proper league system’. (And it keeps the negativity that this inevitably brings out of cycling, as much as is possible.)
            Unfortunately, it seems to be an increasingly prevalent trend to have some sort of national identity in teams.
            I like my evil overlords to create their teams without a national basis.
            There, I finally said something nice about Tinkov.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:52 pm

            What I hear when British commentators (for those are the ones I have to endure) get terribly nationalistic about Sky:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znmjnEMqHeg

          • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:02 pm

            @j evans… this day has been noted in my calendar… it takes a lot for you to praise oleg… 🙂

            i agree though… i prefer “world domination” evil overlords over those who merely aspire to dominate one country… if you are gonna be an evil overlord, think BIG… 🙂

            all joking aside, i do agree… maybe it is because i live in the usa, where the league-based franchising model dominates at the professional level… and one thing that model ensures is that “assets” (e.g. the players) are valued strictly on their merits, and “nationality” isn’t a “merit”… side note: it was when the first japanese baseball players came over, because those first few were a marketing bonanza for the team that signed them… after the first few though, that went away quick… and it needs to be noted that those first guys were GOOD (and in ichiro’s case GREAT), they weren’t there just for marketing…

            i know you aren’t fond of the league based model, but it does have its positives…

          • Special Eyes Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:21 pm

            You won’t be watching the World Champs then JE ? 😉

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 6:23 pm

            Yes, but I won’t be cheering on any particular nation.

  • Red Hare Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 11:08 am

    That’s some achievement by Adam Hansen. I hope he gets to 20 consecutive GTs. In an age where some riders struggle if they have to ride 2 GTs back to back, a man who can string three in a row year after year deserves the greatest of respect.

    • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:39 pm

      i agree… 13 completed gt’s in a row is mind-boggling…

      i’m glad inrng chose to highlight it in his comments, it is an accomplishment that i personally think gets undersold…

      it also underscores how valuable he is to his team, as they have also CHOSEN to have him ride that many in a row…

      • Andrew Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:23 pm

        Of course, the GT record is good PR for Lotto-Soudal even if he does little else in the race, particularly as he’s a bit of a character in his own right. And you can be sure he’ll go on a breakaway or suicidal late attack to get the jersey on TV.

        • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:34 pm

          true…

          and i’ll admit, i beat this particular drum because he is one of my all time favorite riders, and the way he is “off the bike” plays strongly into that favoritism… i bet a road trip with adam would be one heckuva lot of fun… 🙂

          and yup, he knows how to get the kit on the tube… 🙂

      • Bundle Wednesday, 16 September 2015, 2:22 pm

        It must be said that the record-holder so far, Bernardo Ruiz, did 12 GTs in a row in the 1950s, and managed to stand on the podium once on the way, all of this in much tougher conditions, of course. For those who say this kind of effort could spoil your health in the long term, we must remember Ruiz is still around at 90. I think he made a much more impressive record-holder than brave Hansen.

  • calypso_king Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 11:21 am

    Great stuff inrng! Many thanks.

  • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 11:30 am

    For me, this was the least interesting GT of the season – it’s just not my preference to only have the interesting bits in the last 30 minutes of a stage (that’s why stage 20 was so exciting).
    For the last few years the Vuelta has been like this: people seem to like this style of racing, but I find it shallow and repetitive. Stages with multiple climbs provide – or can provide – much more tactical nuance, rather than riders saving everything up for a blast in the final few km.
    I don’t think Aru’s time trial was all that impressive – considerably slower than Valverde and Quintana – it’s just that Rodriguez’s was particularly poor (Majka’s was also distinctly unimpressive).
    Notably, Aru was the only rider who attacked from any kind of distance, of the GC contenders.

    • Bilmo Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:09 pm

      I would disagree on Aru’s time trial not being impressive.
      Nobody gave him a chance yet he finished in 10th place, only 20 seconds down on Quintana who is consistently quoted as being a good TT’er for a climber. He was also only 13s down on Cummings and 22s down on Kiryienka for example who both were picks for the stage.

      • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:20 pm

        Neither Quintana nor Valverde have shown much TT prowess in the past.

        • Larrick Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:42 pm

          I don’t know. AV was Spanish TT champion in 2014 though Spain isn’t the strongest TT nation but he’s normally good for a top 10 in the GT TT’s and at a similar level to the other GC riders bar the odd exception like Froome or AC at his peak.

        • Vitus Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:27 pm

          This staement is bs on Quintana level a lot. You may have a look in his results

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 4:45 pm

            Like the 2014 Giro?

      • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:31 pm

        We can’t know how motivated Cummings and Kiriyienka really were. Also, Quintana is consistently quoted as being a good TT’er for a climber, but as last year’s Giro TT showed he certainly isn’t a consistently good TT’er (lost over 2.5 min to Uran in 42km). Aru did fine, but it wasn’t spectacular (the difference between himself and Rodriguez in the final classifcation is roughly equal to the difference between them in the TT – and Dani Moreno beat Rodriguez).

        • Anonymous Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:50 pm

          Exactly why the race was won in the ITT and not in the mountains.
          The Dumoulin storyline is a red herring, considering his demise on stage 20. The real time differences are made between Aru & JRod in the time trial, not on the hilly finishes.

          • J Evans Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:15 pm

            Can’t argue with that.

      • gabriele Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 12:39 pm

        +1
        IMHO, Aru’s TT was absolutely “a birdie”, like Tom’s. Movistar’s were both “eagle”, even considering that Quintana isn’t that bad in TT: you must take into account that we’re comparing them with Aru and Dumoulin – who already did great! Eventually, the Dumoulin-Aru gap was right the expected one, but it resulted from a parallel notable performance. Majka did a “bogey”, like Purito (maybe a double one for him), but they looked even worse due to the others’ good performances.
        Movistar made Quintana work on TT practically since when they discovered him, while Aru did a good deal of work in the States last winter (and you could notice it in some other occasion, too, even more so if we think that he wasn’t well during the Giro’s second week, and that Kiry, Luisle and Bertie made a great TT; nor was he bad in Poland).

        • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 1:53 pm

          agreed… and i like the way you used golf terms.. 🙂 definitely a double bogey for purito, but sadly, one that was completely expected…

          the tt from aru is what surprised me, and what won him the race… i posted enough about that the other day, but once he came out of the tt where he did, the end result was a foregone conclusion if astana didn’t completely screw it up…

          as noted after the tt… the major shock would have been if aru DID NOT win the overall race… all astana had to do at that point was execute, and execute they did…

          aru went up a level in my eyes after this event… he was aggressive, he was strong, he survived his jour sans, and he tt’ed better than i thought he could… he is a deserving winner… i still think he will get spanked in the tdf, but now i at least have to consider that he might have more of a chance than i thought…

          • gabriele Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:40 pm

            For what is worth, he (Aru) agrees with you. Tiralongo said that he now should go to the Tour, where he wouldn’t stand a chance for victory, but where a podium may be possible. Aru replied that he feels he needs to *grow* a bit more for that and he’ll see what the team decides.
            About team decisions: this year’s Lombardia has a good course, apt for long-range selection and quite climber-oriented, thus it would be a shame if Aru wasn’t there after his 9th place last year on a less favourable course. But… although when interviewed about the similar Nibali situation last autumn he commented “Vino can say whatever, I’ll start Lombardia”, in a recent Gazzetta interview he’s now saying that “Almaty is so important for the team, I’m not sure I can disappoint them” 🙁

          • Anonymous Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:58 pm

            I hope we see Aru and Majka compete for Pink next year, Nibali and Contador at Le Tour

          • ccotenj Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 5:27 pm

            @gabriele… then he not only is a good bike rider, he is smart and mature as well…

            put another year into his legs at the giro/vuelta as the “stated leader” of the team (none of this “we will decide between him and nibali on the road” stuff), and maybe add in a few more races… let froome get a year older and contador retire… then do the “froome prep” (dauphine, etc.) in 2017 and show up at the tdf with a fully committed team…

            that would be what i would do… that being said, it might also be best for him to show up at the tdf next year, take his medicine, and learn… my opinion of him has changed, i don’t believe that “relative failure” will mentally break him…

            i have been wrong many times before though, and it is unlikely that i will stop being wrong in the future… 🙂 so possibly he shows up at the tdf next year and wins it…

            someone has gotta deal with quintana once contador is done after next year and froome continues to age… it might as well be aru… he seems to have quite the personality…

  • Baad-boo-boo Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:31 pm

    So is this confirmed about Cav going to MTN?
    MTN seems to be the home for over the hill sprinters.

  • BenW Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 2:49 pm

    Fantastic coverage as always INRNG, thank you for all you’ve done for the season. Insight and opinion without an agenda or outside influence, which is a wonder these days.

  • stephen Tuesday, 15 September 2015, 3:01 pm

    Best GT of the year, for second year in a row to boot. Second would have to be Giro, and TdF last. Again. I’m really starting to fall off the Quintana train — this guy always seems to light it up after the GT is already settled and until he can present himself as a threat in the first week or two, I’m not going to spend much time wondering whether he can pull secure another GT. Having said that, next year’s TdF should be top billing, as I doubt many riders will attempt the Giro given Contador’s example this year. In addition, I hope and suspect Aru will finally ride there. How will he cope with Nibali? Doubtless Landa will be towing Froome up some hills and Majka/Contador should be on top form. I really hope Tinkov wasn’t serious when he said Majka would race the Giro; Majka himself said he’s absolutely awful in cold races and I don’t want him blowing himself up on the eve of the Tour. How will Porte/TvG get on? I should stop now before I get too excited….

    As always, though, your coverage was superb throughout all three GT’s and I am extremely grateful for the daily posts. Really added flavor and background to each stage, and I love reading comments after the fact. Take a bow, and break!

  • BigSigh Wednesday, 16 September 2015, 12:07 pm

    Thanks Inrng for the brilliant daily blog and the great daily Diaz too.

    All in all a decent GT (although I wouldn’t rate it above the Giro), plenty of pleasing stage winners and an enthralling 3 week narrative. Lampre are normally pretty invisible – to me at least – so their two individual breakaway wins were hugely impressive. Also enjoyed Frank Schleck rolling back the years. And obviously Tom Dumoulin’s challenge – I went in backing Aru but came out (initially) disappointed in his victory, although I’ll add he was a very deserving winner, clearly the best across the three weeks.

    • gabriele Wednesday, 16 September 2015, 12:43 pm

      Lampre won stages in all three the GTs, this year, TdF included (more notably some four stages in the Giro), besides taking home quite memorable stage victories in other big races like Pa-Ni (impressive Cimolai), Dauphinée (Rui Costa in Nibali’s stage) or Tour de Suisse. They won stages and the GC in Oman and Turkey but, okay, that can go unnoticed 🙂
      I get what you mean, since 2012 and 2013 were simply horrible, but you got your timing wrong, they had a great season in terms of visibility, especially being an extremely low budget team, and 2014 was very good, too. They had to face a transition from the era when top-dogs like Cunego, Ballan, Petacchi, Bennati were delievering regular victories, but they’re doing it nice, going more international in every sense and picking young riders or undervalued ones.

  • gabriele Thursday, 17 September 2015, 5:51 pm

    Nibali has just won the Italian semi-classic Bernocchi after being second yesterday in the Agostoni, beaten by Rebellin (he’s got some problem with over-40 rivals?). Let’s see if he goes on and wins the Tre Valli, too. A shiny diamond was usually bestowed upon the best placed rider in the three races 🙂
    The course didn’t suit him at all, especially today; yeah, the field wasn’t the deepest ever, but it’s always complicated to win a one-day race with an easy-controlled course apt for the sprinters.
    What a pity he won’t be at the Giro dell’Emilia. I hope he changes his mind. No comment about Aru being not there, either, nor going to the Lombardia because of Almatour…

    By the way, Quintana won the Emilia in 2012 (have a look to the “Albo d’oro”… what a race! One of the top semi classics around, albeit it’s been declining in the last couple of editions), and Contador, too, had a couple of shots to Classics, although his one (and only, I’m afraid) classics victory was the Milano-Torino (another very fine race). It must be said, however, that in Nairo and Alberto’s case they’re races suited to climbers with an uphill finish – still, a classics remains quite more complicated than a mountain stage for a GC rider to win.