Etixx - Quick-Step rider Gianluca Brambilla followed the actions of the main peloton, without much problem, through five of six total climbs in the taxing 138km La Vuelta a España 11th Stage, from Andorra la Vella to Cortals d´Encamp, on Wednesday. However, the italian rider lost contact on the final Category 1 climb to the finish of the Queen Stage, as Fabio Aru (Astana) attacked from the reduced peloton. The pace was simply too high as the group, consisting of most GC contenders in the race, split in pursuit of Aru with 7.6km to go.
Mikel Landa (Astana) won the race solo out of the original breakaway group of 16 riders, that eventually became 19 riders along the parcours. The lead group reduced in number with each passing climb, and while it seemed the peloton kept the gap well within control, the profile was difficult enough to give the leaders a chance to decide the stage. Landa went solo from a six-rider breakaway inside 10km to go.
Aru, meanwhile, finished 2nd, 1'22" down from Landa. Initially he was followed by Joaquim Rodriguez and Daniel Moreno of Katusha, but they were unable to stay with his tempo. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) relinquished the race lead to Aru, finishing in a chase group behind. Ian Boswell (Team Sky) finished 3rd as a member of the original breakaway, 1'40" down from Landa.
Brambilla kept his tempo on the last climb and finished 20th in the stage, 5 minutes and 25 seconds behind stage winner Landa. Riders crossed with significant time gaps between each, after completing one of the most difficult stages in the history of La Vuelta. The stage featueed almost 5000m of climbing along the parcours. Brambilla is now 13th overall, 6'42" down from Aru in the overall classification.
Carlos Verona, who started the stage for Etixx - Quick-Step wearing red bib numbers as the "Most Combative/Aggressive" rider from Stage 10 before the first rest day, was part of the original breakaway.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 173km Stage 12 on Thursday. The stage features some up-and-down sections in the early kilometers, as well as a Category 2 ascent. However, the stage descends into the last kilometers. There is also a short descent in the final kilometer that leads into an uphill finish.