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Vuelta’15 St.8: Stuyven King of Chaos

Race Report: A massive crash caused chaos in the bunch, then more crashes dashed hopes of stage winning hopefuls – this day was one OMG moment after another. Trek’s Jasper Suyben won a free for all sprint and Chavez stayed hot in the red leader’s jersey.

On a broiling day which saw favourites Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) go out through crashes; leader Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEDGE) hold the jersey – despite coming down too – and Saxo’s Hulk Sagan attacking motor vehicles after being decked by a service moto, it was Trek’s Jasper Stuyven who was biggest, fastest and strongest at the line in Murcia to win Stage 8 of this dramatic and entertaining Vuelta.

And Stuyven wasn’t spared either, coming down in the big spill but finding the motivation to get back up and WIN.

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Onto The Road
It was just under an hour in when the break of the day was allowed to create daylight with Iljo Keisse (Etixx-Quick Step), Jimmy Engoulvent (Europcar), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), Tom Van Asbroeck (LottoNL-Jumbo), Jasper de Buyst (Lotto-Soudal) and Ángel Madrazo (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) the names in the notebook.

Now, what did I say about this stage in my preview?; “Into Valverde’s home town of Murcia; predominantly downhill early with two ‘spikes’ late in the day, a hard one to predict but Valverde will want it – bad.”

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It’s unlikely then that these six boys will go all the way to the line given those two spikes not to mention Valverde’s appetite for winning – especially on his own doorstep. The two spikes are actually ascents of the same difficulty, the four kilometre Alto de la Cresta del Gallo – with 20 K from the summit after the final ascent to the finish line.

At the 50 K to go mark the break still had just under two minutes when there was a monumental crash with Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) among those coming down hard.

An hour to go; Giant and Saxo lead for Degenkolb – or is it Dumoulin ? – and Sagan, respectively with those caught by the crash having to chase hard through sleepy, hot, dry Spanish towns – oh to be in a bar right now in a town like that, cool beer, the Vuelta on an ancient TV, old guys talking about Bahamontes and maybe some tapas?

I can dream.

But the boys in the break can’t, they know that once the warp drive goes in on the Alto back in the peloton, they’ll be toast. Saxo and Movistar lead the chase and only Howes and Madrazo remain up front, then it’s just Howes as we see Chavez get back – he was held up by the crash too, in fact, he’s been on the tar.

Howes looks full of riding up through big crowds on a very poor surface – the Saxo/Movistar double act aren’t ‘full gas’ yet, they know that Howes can’t survive a rampaging peloton on the flat after the Alto.

Despite the fact that the peloton aren’t nudging the red there are men sliding out of the back; as up front Howes tastes tar on a left hander – not too sore but his lead is demolished along with his confidence and pride.

Breakaway man Madrazo, who just avoided the catch from the peloton, zooms past his former compadre, the demoralised Howes, to take the lead on this tricky drop. Those Caja rural boys, you have to love them.

The Spaniard may be an Angel; but can he fly to the finish? – nooooo!

Word comes in that Van Garderen is out; two miserable Grand Tours on the bounce for the tall American. And Dan Martin is out too – two favourites gone.

Saxo set the pace on the flat, Sagan in green (appropriately for The Hulk) occupies sixth wheel, Chavez is seventh wheel with Valverde lurking as it’s all together for the final ascent.

The ultima Alto – and Sky lead as Terpstra goes for QuickStep, then it’s his team mate Brambilla as behind there’s a plane crash; meanwhile Timo Roosen (Lotto-Jumbo) joins Brambilla up front. Brambilla punishes himself as Roosen cracks, behind Valverde is vigilant as Elissonde (F des J) tries to spin up to Brambilla who’s been joined by a Caja Rural.

Big Tom Dumoulin (Lotto-Jumbo) takes matters into his own hands at the head of the peloton, thumping out a strong man’s rhythm.

Up front Brambilla has more company; a Caja Rural, Elissonde, Henao for Sky, a Movistar as Terpstra tries to bridge. The desperadoes are over the top as the tarmac snakes down between trees; it’s a tricky one – narrow, sinuous, dangerous.

Valverde attacks out of a much diminished peloton as team mate Rojas goes down or rather over the barrier – the same spot as Howes.

They’re off the climb, 12K to go and hard to call because the fast men could yet get back up – with 10 K to go there are three still clear, Elissonde, Goncalves (Caja Rural) and Losada (Katusha).

Sagan goes down; he’s furious, it looks like one of the service motor bikes has taken him out, he’s lashing out at cars, motor bikes; a full Hulk rage – scary! But seriously, scandalous, the motos should know what the hell they’re about.

Seven to go and the three escapees have 15 seconds – can they do it? There’s a lot of poker getting played back there – all to the good for the terrific trio.

Six K and 18 seconds but the counter attacks are coming now as Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) tries to bridge. Inside five K and it’s down to 10 seconds with Saxo riding hard as are Trek – and it’s over for the break.

Three K and a group of maybe 30/40 lead by Trek as Hansen attacks again, he has a gap.

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Inside two K, red kite – Hansen still has a gap, out of the saddle, finish straight, he’s dead, swamped.

It spreads across the road, MTN go but it’s too early, Bilbao goes long for Caja but Jasper Stuyven (Trek) comes late on the right, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s clear, he wins !

You’d have got long odds on that one.

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A surprise winner, two favourites out and The Hulk rampaging – you couldn’t say it was a boring stage !

Vuelta a España 2015 Stage 8 Results
1. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing
2. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
3. Kévin Reza (Fra) FDJ.fr
4. Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Movistar Team
5. Youcef Reguigui (Alg) MTN – Qhubeka
6. Tosh Van Der Sande (Bel) Lotto Soudal
7. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
8. Pieter Serry (Bel) Etixx – Quick-Step
9. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
10. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky

1. Esteban Chaves (Col) Orica GreenEdge 31:12:18
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:00:10
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sky 0:00:36
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:49
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:56
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:57
7. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:57
8. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:18
9. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:01:19
10. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Team Sky 0:01:21

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