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VUELTA’21 Stage 15: Magic Majka Solo to El Barraco

Long range solo for Majka

Vuelta Stage Report: UAE Team Emirates, Rafal Majka, took the win in El Barraco four years after his last Vuelta win in Sierra de la Pandera. The Polish rider went on a long range solo effort on both occasions. Odd Christian Eiking’s Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux team worked hard to keep him in the overall lead going into the last rest day.

The last kilometre

The fifteenth stage of the Vuelta a España was won by Rafal Majka. The experienced Polish climber from UAE Team Emirates won after an impressive solo of almost 90 kilometres in El Barraco. Steven Kruijswijk was well behind in second place. Odd Christian Eiking starts the third week as leader.

Stage 15 Profile

Technical director, Fernando Escartín: “Long stage with four mountains passes, among them two 1st category climbs, which will test the peloton. The climb up to Mijares (1st category), 40 km from the finish-line, and San Juan de Nava (3rd category), 5 km from the finish-line, will reduce the group. A sprint finale is expected among the favourites, who will have to overcome the climbs and the Ávila heat at that time of year.”

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Romain Bardet in the KOM jersey

Another day in red for Eiking

The riders had a long mountain stage to El Barraco on Sunday before the final rest day. In one of the longest stages of this Vuelta, the peloton had two first category climbs (Alto de Centenera and Puerto de Mijares), a second category climb (Puerto de Pedro Bernardo) and not far from the finish, the category three Puerto San Juan de Nava. After a short descent, the riders cross the finish line in El Barraco, the home of Carlos Sastre and his late brother-in-law José María Jiménez.

Very dry in the centre of Spain

The break had to try hard to get away

The start was fast. Many riders wanted to be part of the brake of the day, and after a rapid opening section, a leading group of more than 20 riders emerged. The most notable names were KOM Romain Bardet, stage winners Damiano Caruso and Magnus Cort, Mauri Vansevenant, Matteo Trentin, Thymen Arensman, Pavel Sivakov and Sepp Kuss.

Would the break succeed?

The vegetables seem to be doing well

The presence of Kuss was much to the annoyance of the Movistar team. The American started the day in 9th place on general classification, just under 5 minutes from leader Odd Christian Eiking, and was a danger to the team of Enric Mas and Miguel Ángel López. The Spanish telecom team led the peloton, hoping to catch the leading group and neutralise the danger of Kuss. Caja Rural-Seguros-RGA and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, Eiking’s team, gave Movistar a helping hand.

The peloton wasn’t happy to let them go

A bit of flag waving on a Sunday morning

The front group they were not planning on taking it easy, although the group fell apart. Kuss, Sivakov, Bardet and Caruso let themselves be caught by the peloton. Sivakov, Vansevenant, Cort, Gorka Izagirre, Josef Černý, Jetse Bol, Andreas Kron, Imanol Erviti, Luis Angel Maté and Jesús Antonio Soto continued, but the peloton didn’t let them go. The first race hour was at 52kph, and so this escape attempt was short-lived.

The peloton were not taking it easy

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Eiking hoping to finish in red and hold it to Monday’s rest day

Sivakov and Cort then teamed up to hold off the peloton. The two had a maximum lead of half a minute, but before the foot of the first climb of the day, the Alto de Centenera (15km at 5.5%), everything was back together. Rafal Majka, Fabio Aru and Maxim Van Gils escaped on the climb. Towards the top of the Alto de Centenera, Van Gils was dropped.

Not many flat roads

Fabio Aru tried, but…

Majka and Aru crossed the top of the first climb with a lead of about 2 minutes, with the Polish climber of UAE Team Emirates taking the KOM points. Next there was a large chasing group including Michael Storer, Steven Kruijswijk and Wout Poels. The thinned out peloton, led by Eiking’s team, followed almost 4 minutes later.

Chase group

Not another stage win for Storer today

On the slopes of the Puerto de Pedro Bernardo (9km at 4.2%), with four kilometres to climb, Majka decided to drop Aru, who had been suffering from stomach problems for the past few days and didn’t seem to be in his best form. Majka crossed the top of the Pedro Bernardo first and rode further away from the first chase group. In this group there were several attack attempts, but no one seemed willing to bridge the gap to Majka and Aru. This only played into the hands of the strong Pole.

Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux were keeping it together for Odd Christian Eiking

Everyone needed their climbing legs today

With a lead of more than 2 minutes, Majka started the very long Puerto de Mijares. On this 20 kilometre long climb, the chase group exploded. Kruijswijk turned out to have the best legs among the pursuers and with more than 50 kilometres to go, he went after the solo leader, Majka. The Dutchman from Jumbo-Visma faced a difficult task to close a 2 minute gap on Majka, who still maintained a very good pace to the top of the Mijares.

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Rafal Majka eventually went solo

Initially Kruijswijk managed to eat into his lead, but he got stuck at one and a half minutes. Majka was first at the top of the Mijares and then it was almost two minutes to wait for Kruijswijk, who in turn had a big lead over the other escapees. On the descent of the Mijares, Majka did not take too many risks, knowing that he had a sufficient lead.

Steven Kruijswijk chased after Majka, but couldn’t get near

On the Puerto San Juan (8.6km at 3.8%) Majka powered on. In fact, the 31-year-old climber rode even further away from Kruijswijk and for the win in El Barraco. The Pole won his second stage in the Vuelta a España after a solo of 90 kilometres. Four years ago he won the mountain stage in the Sierra de La Pandera. Kruijswijk crossed the line in second place after a strong stage, 1:27 after Majka. Chris Hamilton of DSM was third.

The favourites for the overall victory stayed quiet for a long time, but on the final climb there were some attacks from Adam Yates. The Briton managed to break away from the group and took 15 seconds on his competitors. Roglič, Enric Mas, Miguel Ángel López and Egan Bernal crossed the line together. Eiking managed to survive the late action and will start the third week as leader on Tuesday.

A well deserved win for Rafal Majka

Stage winner, Rafal Majka (UAE Team Emirates): “It’s special. Sometimes you try, and it’s not easy to go for the break. But today I tried from the start to the end, I din’t wait for anybody today. I wanted to win the stage. Specially, I wanted to do it for my father, who passed away, for my two kids and also for the great team that UAE is. I’m so happy. I had a bad start of the season, and it was not easy for me and for my family.”

The win was dedicated to his father and children

Overall leader and 6th on the stage, Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux): “I was relieved in the end. It was a really hard day, really long, but I have to say my team did a really good race. Without them, I might not have the red jersey today. A huge thanks to them. I know all the riders in my team are very strong, it’s just we’ve never been in this situation before. I see now wee should have many times! I looked at my two closest rivals, Guillaume Martin and [Primoz] Roglic, to not let them go. It was a pretty tough finish, and once we passed the top, I knew I was pretty safe.”

Red till Tuesday for Eiking

# Keep it PEZ for all the rest day news on Monday. #

Vuelta a España Stage 15 Result:
1. Rafal Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates in 4:51:36
2. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 1:27
3. Christopher Hamilton (Aus) DSM at 2:19
4. Adam Yates (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 2:42
5. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 2:57
6. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
7. Felix Großschartner (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe
8. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma
9. David de la Cruz (Spa) UAE Team Emirates
10. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar
11. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar
12. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious
13. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech
14. Primoz Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
15. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers
16. Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious
17. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis
18. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
19. Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 3:03
20. Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis
21. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Qhubeka NextHash at 3:23
22. Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech
23. Jefferson Cepeda Ortiz (Ecu) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
24. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) EF Education-Nippo at 3:57
25. Steff Cras (Bel) Lotto Soudal.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 15:
1. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux in 59:57:50
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis at 0:54
3. Primoz Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma at 1:36
4. Enric Mas Nicolau (Spa) Movistar at 2:11
5. Miguel Angel Lopez Moreno (Col) Movistar at 3:04
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious at 3:35
7. Egan Bernal Gomez (Col) INEOS Grenadiers at 4:21
8. Adam Yates (GB) INEOS Grenadiers at 4:34
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma at 4:59
10. Felix Großschartner (Aut) BORA-hansgrohe at 5:31
11. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus) Astana-Premier Tech at 6:04
12. Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Trek-Segafredo at 6:16
13. Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious at 6:47
14. Louis Meintjes (RSA) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux at 7:07
15. David de la Cruz (Spa) UAE Team Emirates at 7:11
16. Juan Pedro Lopez Perez (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 11:08
17. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 14:46
18. Rafal Majka (Pol) UAE Team Emirates at 26:20
19. Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis at 26:35
20. Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 28:21
21. Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar at 31:12
22. Clément Champoussin (Fra) AG2R Citroën at 37:04
23. Damiano Caruso (Ita) Bahrain Victorious at 38:47
24. Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma at 39:52
25. Steff Cras (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 41:42

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