Vuelta a España: Stybar books place in the day’s escape
Etixx – Quick-Step was again among the protagonists in the Spanish Grand Tour.
Fifth in the team time trial, victorious with Gianni Meersman on Sunday's flat finish, represented in the escape by Pieter Serry during the stage which concluded on the cruel ramps of Mirador de Ezaro and now visible once again at the front with the likes of Zdenek Stybar – that's how Etixx – Quick-Step's Vuelta a España looked so far in the opening week, our team earning plaudits for its aggressive approach and strong results.
Tuesday awaited the riders with another uphill finish, albeit easier than the one tackled on the previous stage, and after a fast first hour in which Movistar controlled all the moves, 21 riders made it into the day-long breakaway. A stage winner at the Tirreno-Adriatico this year, Zdenek Stybar was there, sporting the colors of the team and helping the group extend their advantage to a gap of 5:30. In the final 30 kilometers, when the maximum advantage was reached, several riders tried to get clear, but Zdenek countered every move and kept the group together.
The sizeable escape came at the foot of San Andrés de Teixido together, where the uphill road acted as signal for riders to attack. Stybar tried his luck, but as many others in the front who went for it, he was brought back. It wasn't only until the final 8 kilometers that a rider – Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) – managed to drop everyone else and win the stage. Darwin Atapuma (BMC) finished second and took over the red jersey, while the former Czech champion came in 16th place.
An exhausted Zdenek explained at the arrival how things unfolded on the fourth consecutive day spent by the peloton in Galicia: "It was a big battle from the start to make it into the breakaway and it took more than an hour for one to establish. Once it did, we rode well and worked together. The final climb was a bit too hard for me, but I still wanted to try something, because I didn't want to ride for 5th or 6th place. Sometimes, the best defensive is to go to the attack. Didn't work out today, but there are plenty of stages left."
Helped by Maxime Bouet and David De La Cruz, who rode selflessly on the second-category climb, Gianluca Brambilla finished the stage with the GC contenders and praised his teammates for their hard work, thanks to which he'll start stage 5 in the top 10 overall: "Today I felt better than yesterday. It was a nice climb and I had good sensations. I must thank Maxime, who brought me into a good position, and David, for escorting me in the last part of the ascent. Now all that I hope is to keep the momentum going and get some nice results for the team."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele