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Roche drops to 6th in GC despite strong show

Posted 12 September 2010

A decisive split inside the final three kilometres cost Nicholas Roche to drop one place to 6th overall in stage 15 of the Vuelta á Espana despite turning in another superb performance on the tortuously steep Lagos de Covadonga.

The stage win was decided by a six man break from which Carlos Barredo (Quick Step) rode clear on the lower slopes of the 12.5 kilometre finishing climb to take a hard earned victory.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) maintained his race lead but was unable to extend his advantage over his two closest rivals as the stage was played out in appalling weather conditions.

The race favourites arrived at the foothills of the final climb more than five minute behind the break comprising Barredo, Nico Sijmens (Confidis), Pierre Cazaux (Francaise des Jeux), Martin Velits (HTC Columbia) and Omega Pharma Lotto riders Olivier Kaisen and Greg Van Avermaet.

Roche was well placed among the GC riders as the Nibali’s Liquigas-Doimo team set a pace which quickly reduced the front group to thirty riders in less than three kilometres.

That group halved as the climb reached the renowed ‘La Huesera’ section where the Xacobeo Galicia team of Ezequiel Mosquera applied the pressure as the gradient tipped 13% while never dropping below 10% for almost two kilometres.

An attack by Carlos Sastre (Cervelo Test Team) towards the end of the section was quickly shut down by Mosquera while Roman Kreuziger was stretched to pull his team leader Nibali back into contact with Roche in tow.

Sastre’s attack had the negative effect of putting teammate Xavier Tondo into difficulty and the Spaniard was struggling within metres to defend the 50 seconds that lay between him and Nibali in the GC.

Roche continued to impress and to embellish his growing reputation as a Grand Tour rider when Mosquera’s persistence left all but seven riders trailing just 12 seconds behind him.

The group containing Roche and his nearest rivals, Nibali, Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Peter Velits (HTC Columbia), Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank), Tom Danielson (Garmin Transitions) and Sastre were on the limit by the time the gradient relented for a 500 metre stretch.

Poor visibility and heavy surface water almost cost Nibali to lose control as he exited through a right hand corner with the Italian riding through the gutter to stay upright.

He quickly recovered his never to split the group as the road pitched to its steepest point at 15% with the sharp rise just three kilometres from the finish putting Roche into difficulty.

The AG2R La Mondiale man fought to get on terms but his GC position was under threat when Velits, who had started the day just 18 seconds further back, rode clear with Nibali, Rodriguez and Danielson.

Danielson struggled to keep with the pace over the next kilometre and was distanced as Roche did the lions share of the work in the chase behind as he rode with Schleck and Sastre to limit their losses.

Barredo meanwhile rode to a memorable stage win ahead of the remnants of the breakway who were almost caught by Mosquera who finished 2’15” further back.

Nibali, who was also fightinging to limit his losses to Mosquera, came home with Rodriguez and Velits just 11 second further back which was enough to maintain his 4 second overall lead over Rodriguez as Mosquera closed in to 39 seconds.

Roche dug deep over the closing kilometre to lead home his chase group after another 36 seconds and that looked as if it might have been enough to maintain his fifth place overall considering Tondo’s difficulties.

The Spaniard however recovered somewhat over the closing part of the climb and while he dropped 1’04” to Roche the 1’21” cushion with which he had started the stage was enough to relieve the Irishman of fifth place as Velits’s result moved him to fourth in the GC.

Roche placed 12th on the stage and now lies 2’47” behind Nibali as the race continues with a third day in the mountains with the 181 kilometre stage from Gijon to Cotobello presenting another opportunity for him to build on his confidence and to climb back up the GC.

Results:

2010 Vuelta á Espana

Stage 15: Solares – Lagos de Covadonga, 170 kilometres

1. Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step 4 hours, 33 minutes, 09 seconds
2. Nicol Sijmens (Bel) Cofidis, le crédit en ligne 0:01:07
3. Martin Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia 0:01:43
4. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:06
5. Pierre Cazaux (Fra) FDJ 0:02:10
6. Olivier Kaisen (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:02:12
7. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:02:15
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 0:02:26
9. Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia
10. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha

12. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 3 minutes, 2 seconds

General classification after stage 14:

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo 65 hours, 31 minutes, 14 seconds
2. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:04
3. Ezequiel Mosquera (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia 0:00:39
4. Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia 0:02:29
5. Xavier Tondo (Spa) Cervélo Test Team 0:02:30
6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2R-La Mondiale 0:02:47
7. Frank Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:02:48
8. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Transitions 0:03:48
9. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervélo Test Team 0:04:29
10. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha 0:05:27

6. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 2 minutes, 47 seconds

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