Vuelta ’15 St.7: Lindeman Lands Big Win!
Race report: If you’re going to snare a win from a break then doing it on a mountain stage finish in a Grand Tour after a monster day is the ideal scenario. Bert-Jan Lindeman scored the biggest triumph of his career, after season upon season of breakaway attempts. The Dutchman finally killed off the challenge of Lampre-Merida’s Ilia Koshevoy on the Alto de Capileira.
The favorites came out to play in the closing kilometers. While no-one with overall aspirations got shelled, there were slightly troubling signs for Froome and Van Garderen. Fabio Aru (Astana) managed to prise open a little gap – he only jumped inside 800 meters, but it was a little bit of posturing for the next two weeks.
How It Played Out
Another blistering stage raced through the south of Spain – some old-timers are probably still longing for the unpredictable European spring of the Vuelta’s old place on the calendar rather than the skin-melting heat of late summer.
Suffering on a bike never changes much though; depending on how fast you ride, it’s just that the suffering passes more quickly. With an agonising 19-kilometer grind up the Alto de Capileira to round off today’s 191-kilometer stage between Jódar to La Alpujarra, it was old-fashioned suffering in this Vuelta’s first proper summit finish.
Almost inevitably, the attacks started from the gun; the chance of a Grand Tour breakaway being too much to resist for those looking for a result, Movistar, in particular, were slamming the door shut on anything until serial escapees Amets Txurruka from Caja-Rural and the Dutchman Bert-Jan Lindeman went clear. They were joined by Colombia’s Carlos Quintero, Jerome Cousin (Europcar) and Lampre-Merida’s Ilia Koshevoy, a potent enough mix, but one the peloton decided it could handle without slumping over at the bar.
Over the third-category Puerto de los Blancares, Txurruka was first to the summit and the descent took the break out towards a twelve-minute lead at halfway. By the time the race rolled through Granada, the gap was thirteen minutes and change but Astana came forward to up the tempo.
With forty clicks to ride, we were looking at a gap of just under ten minutes as Sky, Movistar, Astana and Cofidis controlled the front of the main field. The fluorescent yellows of Tinkoff-Saxo made up the right flank with Rafal Majka well-protected.
Lindeman took the break through the intermediate sprint, and the erosion of their lead was still fairly glacial. Even with a tough finishing ascent ahead, there was real hope that they could hang on. It was a snip over six minutes with twenty kilometers to race.
Koshevoy, Cousin and Lindeman emptied bidons into their helmets as the road surface glared in the afternoon heat, the real climbing having just kicked off with 18.7 kilometers to go. Behind, Movistar’s forcing had taken half-a-minute off their lead.
With fourteen kilometers to ride, Sky and Movistar had formed rival spearheads in the peloton, but the pace wasn’t totally ferocious as the number of riders dropping off was still a gentle drip-feed rather than a torrent of lost souls.
Ten to go, and it was a medley of Movistar and Astana at the front, as Sky’s Chris Froome sat just behind red jersey leader Esteban Chaves, and Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez. Two kilometers later, and Astana’s forcing had cut the lead to under three minutes, so things were getting very twitchy for the breakaways.
Through Pampaneira, its white walls blast-furnacing the heat onto the riders, saw Txurruka try to inject a bit more pace; Lindeman a nodding donkey pace on the back of the line. But first to seriously blink was Jerome Cousin, driving clear. Txurruka and Lindeman ground up to him, with Koshevoy sneaking through to go clear.
Quintero was toasted as the break started to splinter; behind Luis Leon Sanchez was a fearsome presence on the front of what was a still-large peloton. It was 2’29” with five kilometers left, with Visconti towing Valverde and Quintana for Movistar.
Jerome Cousin managed to claw his way up to the young Belorussian Koshevoy; the lead hovering at a tenuous 2’10” at three kilometers to race. The main field was basically a full kilometer behind the front duo, with the other ex-breakaways trapped in between. Suddenly, Lindeman appeared from around a corner to make it a front three.
Two kilometers left, and the advantage was now 1′ 48” as Cousin powered away; an increasingly knackered-looking Koshevoy looked to Lindeman to close the gap, but the Dutchman simply thundered past.
Jesper Hansen was slashing away on the front of the peloton with Rafal Majka right behind him. Ahead, Cousin clattered the pedals through the steepest part of the climb at 14%. Lindeman and Koshevoy somehow got back to the Frenchman in a desperate lunge for the red kite.
We were still waiting for fireworks and finally Dan Martin jumped, with Fabio Aru jumped away, causing immediate panic from the other contenders.
Inside 300 meters to go, and it was Lindeman versus Koshevoy for the win as Aru closed, closed, closed. It looked like Cousin had either touched a wheel or been clipped by a TV moto, as he suddenly disappeared from view. It was Lindeman who slammed the accelerator down and definitively distances Koshevoy for a brilliant win.
Aru passed Cousin for third, and then the big names came home in a long line – minus Chris Froome and Tejay Van Garderen who lost ground.
For Lindeman, it was a massive day and his biggest career moment; for the favorites, Aru laid down a marker but all the effort gained him only nine seconds over most of the other top names.
Results: Vuelta a Espana 2015 Stage 7
1. Bert-Jan Lindeman (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 5:10:24
2. Ilia Koshevoy (Blr) Lampre-Merida 0:00:09
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana 0:00:29
4. Jerome Cousin (Fra) Europcar 0:00:34
5. Rafal Majka (Pol) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:36
6. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
8. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
9. Louis Meintjes (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka
10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky
Overall After Stage 7
1. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica-GreenEdge 27:06:13
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Alpecin 0:00:10
3. Dan Martin (Irl) Cannondale-Garmin 0:00:33
4. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky 0:00:36
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar 0:00:49
6. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha 0:00:56
7. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar 0:00:57
8. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana
9. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha 0:01:18
10. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R-La Mondiale 0:01:19