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La Vuelta | Stage 15

05:56:38

Replay

Adam Yates steals a quarter of a minute

Despite my cynicism, the Ineos Grenadiers rider has managed to gain about 15 seconds on the GC with that attack. Well done him!
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It won't change his position overall, he's still eighth, but it'll give him and his team a bit of hope. He's now within three minutes of Primoz Roglic.

Rafal Majka wins stage 15

An impressive effort from the Polish journeyman. Steven Kruijswijk will be along shortly to take second place.

Flamme rouge!

Majka is into the final 1,000 metres of this epic endeavour. He went solo with 90km of the stage still to race. Grande!
The pace has gone up in the GC group now, which creates at least the air of excitement, if not the potential for anything to actually change.

4km to go – Adam Yates attacks too

He's not going to be allowed to go anywhere. Roglic and Jumbo-Visma are quickly on his case.

6km to go – Attack from David de la Cruz!

The Catalan GC man goes clear with Louis Meintjes in his wheel. We'll see if they're allowed any significant leeway. Meintjes has to mark this because de la Cruz is just 4 seconds behind him on GC.
Majka just crested the day's final climb, securing himself maximum points for the entire stage.

10km to go – Barring calamities...

Majka is going to win this stage, provided he stays on the route and keeps his bicycle rubber side down.
There's also not going to be anything much happening on the GC. The team of Intermarche is leading this in nicely for their leader, with all the other protagonists safely ensconced in the peloton.

25km to go – Just one bump left

As the peloton flows down the descent, that's the last of the serious mountains for today. What remains is one category 3 bump in the road, which Majka will surely skip up – inspired by the fact he's about to add another Grand Tour stage win to his palmares. He still holds 1'35" of advantage on Kruijswijk, and 6'34" on the peloton.
The stage does not end with a climb, so it'll be very difficult for anyone to engineer an opportunity to take time on general classification.

38km to go – Majka crests the climb alone

It seems likelier and likelier that the Pole is going to take a famous victory here. Kruijswijk, who had been steadily gaining, is now ceding a few seconds with every kilometre that passes. There are also fewer and fewer pursuers left in the gap behind – it's 6'19" now to the red jersey group.
Yesterday was very much a non-event in terms of the general classification. I'm hoping that today deviates from that script and we see a 'second race' between the GC men. Otherwise, this stage is effectively already over.

47km to go – Majka has 8km remaining of this mountain

He's pressing on well, but Stevie K is still in hot pursuit. The gap between the two of them is 1'30" now, while the distance back to the peloton is 6'08". Majka should grab the maximum KOM points for the third consecutive climb, flinging him into the mix in the climbers' classification. Bardet is leading that competition with 50 points. Majka's already added 15 to his tally today, with an expected ten more at the top of the Puerto de Mijares.
We're just seeing Tom Pidcock fetching bottles for his teammates at the back of that group. He probably wouldn't have been sent to do that at this stage in such a hilly day if it weren't for the fact Ineos lost Narvaez earlier today.

55km to go – Kruijswijk has taken half a minute back from Majka

And crucially, he's also destroyed the group of pursuers. Majka will be much happier trying to outrun one man than 10, with 17km remaining of this massive category 1 Puerto de Mijares and 55km left of the stage.

60km to go – Jumbo very active throughout the route

The team of Primoz Roglic has come to the front of the peloton to police the gap. As the red jersey-elect, Roglic must take some responsibility for controlling things – despite Odd Christian Eiking of Intermarche being the man actually wearing the maillot rojo today.
Near the front of the race, the team's representative in the breakaway – Steven Kruijswijk – has also started investing some more energy, setting off in chase of our sole leader Rafal Majka.

70km to go – Still solo

The race leader Rafal Majka is still solo in front, with an advantage of 2'36" now which I think he has managed to increase slightly.
That gap is to the chasing group, not the peloton, who are 6'15" back.

80km to go – Majka solo over the top

So he bags a few more KOM points for his trouble, and he must surely be wondering now if he's capable of going all the way to the end alone – or if he'd be better served waiting up for the powerful riders in pursuit.
Meanwhile we have a bit of a corrections corner. Elissonde who I told you had abandoned hasn't. He's clinging limpet-like to the baxk of the peloton. On the other hand, Jonathan Narvaez of Ineos has abandoned the race, the second rider from that team to depart in the space of 24 hours after Richard Carapaz DNFed yesterday's stage.

Puerto de Pedro Bernardo

Aru and Majka are about halfway to the summit of this climb, with Wouter Poels joining that trio we just mentioned in the group behind them. His team, Bahrain, have been extremely aggressive on this stage. Perhaps they sense today will be a good day for their GC leader Jack Haig to have some firepower up the road.
And Aru is being distanced now by Majka. That's not ideal for his hopes of leaving this, his final pro race, with a victory. He'll be swept up by the chasing Storer-Brambilla pack very soon if he can't recover and get back onto Majka's wheel.

90km to go –Brambilla, Storer and Bouchard on the chase

That's a trio of real quality who have broken away from the big chase group. These are exactly the sort of riders that can help a breakaway go all the way to the line. However, Michael Storer is perhaps just a little bit too good.

The chasers

And there's quite a lot of them!
Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R-Citroën), Gorka Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech), Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious), Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Diego Andres Camargo (EF Education Nippo), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Simone Petilli (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Guy Niv (Israel Start-Up Nation), Steff Cras, Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Soudal), Carlos Verona (Movistar Team), Lucas Hamilton, Mikel Nieve (Team BikeExchange), Thymen Arensman, Chris Hamilton, Michael Storer, Martijn Tusveld (Team DSM), Guanluca Brambilla, Juan Pedro Lopez (Trek-Segafredo) and Joe Dombrowski (UAE Team Emirates).

100km to go – Two for the two

Aru and Majka are working well together here, and they have established a gap of two minutes back to the group of 20 pursuers. Further back, the peloton is at 3'50".
The leading pair probably won't want to be joined by all 20 of the chasers, b jkl;'ut equally they don't stand much chance of taking victory in the stage if they go all the way to the finish as a duo.
If there are a handful of stronger pursuers who can break free and get across, that could create the decisive move.

Aru and Majka summit the Centenera

The leading pair go over the top together, although we're not sure in which order. There are as many as 23 riders in the two-minute gap between them and the peloton now! What a chaotic start...

110km to go – Elissonde abandons

And that's a real shame. The Frenchman Kenny Elissonde has climbed off the bike after wearing the red jersey earlier in the month. It hasn't been the easiest of days, what with this rapid start we've had – so not one where you can necessarily hide in the pack and conserve energy. Hopefully he's able to recover quickly.

120km to go – First categorised climb of the day

Its the Alto de la Centenera first up today and there's still nothing you could definitively call a breakaway. This is a category 1 climb, with an average gradient of 5.5% over a prolonged 15km!
We have Fabio Aru up the road at the moment with Rafal Majka, followed by a steady stream of other riders and then the peloton at two minutes back.
Would be magical to see Fabio Aru do something today. He almost withdrew with illness earlier in the race, but battle through. This, of course, is his last professional race before he retires.

133km to go – All change!

Looks like that original 10 have been caught and it's Sivakov and Cort who are the only two attackers currently.
That being said, it's still extremely active in the peloton with no signs of settling down.

145km to go – Tight leash for the escape

The ten up the road have just 30 seconds of advantage. There are still loads of attacks coming out of the peloton, which is what's keeping the pace so high and preventing them from really going clear. Magnus Cort Nielsen and Pavel Sivakov are the latest to try and bridge over.
This isn't done yet!

160km to go – Fire quickly snuffed out

That initial mega-group has split into two and the larger half of it has been subsumed back into the peloton. We now have just 10 riders in the lead, with 28 seconds. And De La Cruz is no longer up the road. This looks a far more likely bunch to stick, led as it is by Gorka Izagirre – 43 minutes down and the best-placed on GC.
These are the ten who stayed away: Vansevenant, Cerny, Izagirre, Bol, Mate, Soto, Sivakov, Cort Nielsen, Erviti and Kron.

167km to go – Your break of the day?

These are the teams and riders up the road right now... and it's quite the starry list!
Jumbo-Visma: Kuss
AG2R-Citroën: Touzé
Astana-Premier Tech: G. Izagirre
Bahrain Victorious: Caruso, Padun
Bora-Hangrohe: Benedetti
Burgos-BH: Bol
Cofidis: Barcelo
Deceuninck-Quick Step: Bagioli, Cerny, Vansevevenant
EF Nippo: Craddock, Cort Nielsen
Euskaltel Euskadi: Mate, Soto
Ineos Grenadiers: Sivakov
Israel Start-Up Nation: Einhorn
Lotto Soudal: Kron
Movistar Team: Erviti
Team BikeEchange: Stannard
Team DSM: Bardet, Arensman
UAE Team Emirates: De la Cuz, Oliveira, Trentin
Let's not start counting any chickens, but David de la Cruz is a mere 7'11" down on GC. He could provide Jumbo Visma with a real headache if he were to stick in this move.

188km to go – 14 riders break free

No names yet, and no guarantee that this'll stick at the first time of asking. It's very flat for the first hour or so... not much terrain the escapees can use to force a gap.
As we wait for more details, have a read of this piece about Jay Vine, whose ride yesterday was one of the toughest, most courageous performances we've seen at this year's Vuelta.
Jay Vine may not have won the most combative award, but he won a lot of hearts

Good morning, and welcome to Stage 15!

It's going to be an action packed stage today, I can feel it in me waters, as Grandma Owen used to say.
It's a long route today, at nearly 200km, so an earlier start than we have been used to at La Vuelta this year. The peloton will be underway and racing in earnest in a few moments time and – inspired by Romain Bardet's sublimely taken breakaway win yesterday – we're expecting there to be hot competition to sneak into the early move.
Relive Bardet's magnificent moment below.

Vuelta a España : Stage 14 highlights as Bardet sweeps to victory

Stage 14 recap - Brilliant Bardet takes Stage 14 with perfectly judged display of climbing power

Romain Bardet timed his effort to perfection to take an impressive Stage 14 victory at the Vuelta a Espana.
The Team DSM rider went clear in the final kilometres of the stage, bringing back a spirited Nicolas Prodhomme (AG2R Citroen) on the slopes of the final climb.
Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) finished second 44 seconds behind Bardet with Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) recovering from a nasty crash with a car to end in third.
Odd Christian Eiking battled admirably to hang on to the red jersey, despite an enterprising attack from Guillaume Martin's Cofidis team late-on. In the end Eiking did lose a handful of seconds to second-placed Martin, but not enough to seriously dent his lead. Martin will have another bite of the apple today when the race continues into the mountains of Castile y Leon.
Jay Vine's crash – which seemed to be caused by a mistake made when taking a bottle from his car – sparked concern, while his subsequent recovery and return to the front of the race saw many on social media calling for him to be awarded the day's most aggressive rider prize. It was somewhat controversial, then, when the award was given to Dani Navarro (Burgos BH). The Australian finished the stage bloodied and with holes in his jersey and his dossards flapping in the wind.
Read the full report here.
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