Etixx - Quick-Step rider Maxime Bouet earned the Most Combative/Most Aggressive Rider Award, after being meters away from going for a stage victory out of the 173km 12th Stage of La Vuelta a España, on Thursday. Bouet, the third Etixx - Quick-Step rider to be honored as "Most Combative," will wear the red bib numbers that represent the award for the following stage.
Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) won the disorganized bunch arrival, as teams were too busy chasing down the breakaway to form cohesive leadout trains. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) finished in 2nd place, and Tosh Van Der Sande (Lotto Soudal) took the final step of the stage podium. Nikolas Maes was close behind in 4th place. Niki Terpstra was 15th, after starting the sprint in the front of the group.
Bouet was part of a five-rider breakaway that formed very early in the stage, and the group worked well together throughout the race. Thanks to a late organization of the chase in the peloton, and good breakaway work distribution, the group still possessed a 16" advantage with 1.7km left in the stage. Jaco Venter (MTN - Qhubeka) decided the gap was enough for him to try his chance solo, and he attacked going into the last kilometer of racing. However, Bouet continued to fight for a possible stage victory, catching Venter, and grasping to a miniscule advantage over the peloton at 400 meters from the finish. Unfortunately, Bouet and Venter couldn't hold off a peloton at full speed preparing for the sprint, and they were caught before the line.
Etixx - Quick-Step looks next to 178km Stage 13, on Friday, from Calatayud to Tarazona. The medium mountain stage is still a challenging parcours, with three categorized climbs, plenty of up-and-down uncategorized climbing, and an uphill before the last kilometer of racing.
"This morning we decided before the stage that we would again enter in the breakaway," Bouet said. "Only Nikolas Maes would wait in preparation of a potential sprint, and of course Gianluca Brambilla would conserve his energy, as he was 13th in the overall classification. Between 10 and 15 kilometers into the stage I encouraged the formation of the breakaway, which was five riders. We went away, but we never had more than five minutes of an advantage, as Astana was pulling at the front of the peloton. They didn't give us much room. In the final, the teams who wanted a sprint moved to the front. But we worked well together in the breakaway. In the last 30 kilometers we really went full gas. When they told us at about 18 kilometers to go that we still had two minutes, I started to believe in it, and how I would play the final. I was for sure one of the fastest guys in the group, but I was a little afraid of Bart-Jan Lindeman, who is in great shape. When Alexis Gougeard attacked I followed him, I knew he was a dangerous guy in a final like that. Then, in the last kilomer, when Venter attacked I let him go a little bit and used him as a point of reference. I caught him and tried to go to the finish in front. I tried to not look back, I had a feeling the peloton was catching us, but I gave everything. In the final few hundred meters or so they caught me. Unfortunately I was a few hundred meters short today. I was a little disappointed because we are putting a lot of effort into this Vuelta to always be a protagonist. We probably deserve a nice result after almost two weeks of fighting. Personally I think I am finding the level I was supposed to have. After Paris-Nice the season was always up-and-down, with small problems. But in the last weeks I felt better. I built a good base before coming here. I'm 23rd in the classification, and I am still entering breakaways, so this means my level is good at this moment. I am the kind of guy who likes to try and attack. However, today it hurts a little bit when it doesn't work out. Let's see what the next stages can bring. The fight is not over. I feel good, so why not? We will try again. We always have a plan every day to try and go into the breakaway and go for good results, while also protecting the placement of Brambilla. We have a good atmosphere in the team, from the riders to the staff. I really hope that we can go for a victory as a team. This is the third time we got the red number. I think from tomorrow on, one of the guys can make it."